LLUFs come from all across the college, some starting freshman fall, while others join essentialsLab their senior spring. We set out to explore how LLUFs find the Learning Lab, and, no surprise, we discovered that many came to visit with one of their classes and then stuck around. When we asked them more about that experience, it revealed something powerful about the Learning Lab: no one ever wants to leave.
The lab is definitely a striking visual. Upon walking in, all of the students describe wonder and excitement. Emmy S writes:
“I thought (and still think!) the Learning Lab was the coolest place I had ever been … from the colorful stools to the chalkboard wall to the trusses and live-recording monitors. I just remember thinking this is such a creative space, and I am so happy to be here.”
LLUFs describe the lab as somewhere they want to spend their time, both because of its aesthetics and also because of its staff. Most LLUFs met Marlon, Jordan, or Katie during their workshops and describing them as “cheerful and supportive.” Not only did the space itself feel welcoming and exciting, but the people who filled it helped to cultivate a joyful atmosphere.
Connor R, who visited the Learning Lab in the fall of 2017 with MCB81, describes:
“The thing that stood out the most was the kindness of those who worked there. All staff members were always more than happy to help; this is something I’d never really experienced as a student. You kind of just assume that people don’t have a genuine interest in your work and perhaps even think that your creative ideas are ‘silly.’ Instead, at the Learning Lab, everyone encouraged those ideas and even helped me generate more of them.”
And of course, each of the workshops the LLUFs did with their classes were exciting and engaging and gave them a glimpse into what their work might ultimately look like. LLUFs were asked to use multiple types of media to communicate their ideas, to brainstorm quickly and creatively, and to analyze new kinds of information, all with the help of the Learning Lab staff.
Kylie S visited the lab with Expos 20: Sexism and Politics to make a video podcast and infographic. She remembers:
“The workshop was organized and polished, but I still felt like I had creative freedom. The team gave the perfect amount of directions, so I knew what I was doing, but still felt like I could express myself.”
This tension between organization and creativity is such an important part of the Learning Lab in general. It has become clear to many of the LLUFs as they test assignments that it is crucial to establish just enough structure that individuals can get something meaningful out of an hour and fifteen minute block, while also leaving space for personal touches and autonomy.
Many of the LLUFs decided to apply almost immediately after their workshops, but others had different moments of reckoning, like Emmy S, who visited with her Expos 20 class Journey to Mars, and then later rediscovered the lab at a student job fair and reflected back on her class experience. Regardless of the timing, all of the LLUFs were so excited to apply and reflected that their first impression of the position was that it was designed so that their work would matter, they would learn exciting and important tools, and they could grow as people and students. Working at the Learning Lab felt like more than just a way to make money in college: it was also an opportunity to be creative, to take risks, and to explore new things.
Kai F describes his reasoning:
“Being a LLUF is very project-oriented and collaborative. I knew that I would never get bored of working there and it was very flexible and understanding of the university lifestyle.”
Now, after a least a semester of work for all of the LLUFs, they still feel encouraged and supported in their creative endeavors. Although so many of them were inspired to join the Learning Lab because of the physical space, they have continued working as LLUFs through this period of remote learning because the work they do feels meaningful, creative, and exciting.
As Abby M writes:
“I’m so glad I found the Learning Lab. When I was first hired, I called my mom and told her all about the space. Now, when I tell people about my AMAZING job, I still mention the studio, but more importantly, I tell them about the incredible people I get to work with and the cool things I get to make, all with a drive towards making learning more interesting and engaging.”