Student Spotlight: Caroline Henderson

Ever since reading Plato’s Symposium and studying the life and works of Gertrude Stein in undergraduate school, I have been obsessed with the idea of cultivating or participating in my own Greek symposium or French salon, a space for academics to express themselves and their research outside of the confines of traditional academia, a community of artists, scientists, intellectuals, where walls between disciplines and positionalities seem to crumble, a space to break bread together and unabashedly share ideas, and a space in which the resources to cultivate and manifest such ideas are made available.
Throughout my residency in the Shapiro Design Lab, I have reflected on what makes this experience so unique. In this, I keep thinking about how powerful food is in creating space. It can be life changing to share a meal with others, sitting around one table, being present, truly hearing—a tool to connect, bodies and minds nourished alongside one another. Every week the Design Lab residents and staff share at least one meal, from which some of our most genuine collaborations have developed. Though I have spent my entire time in the Design Lab focused on prison design and its impacts on mental health, the modes in which I express the information that I have gathered and processed have greatly evolved due to the anthropological, historical, literary, journalistic, scientific, and musical minds surrounding me.
Beyond sharing regular meals and working on individual, design-related projects, we have also had opportunities to teach one another how to utilize various Design Lab tools available to all University of Michigan students. My fellow residents have taught me how to 3D print, use a letter press, conduct audio/visual recording sessions, program an Arduino UNO, operate the Design Lab sewing machine, and much more. Something about this type of sharing, growing, learning, and nourishing of self and others feels radical. It feels like advocating for a modern vision of education, while simultaneously looking back to earlier notions of the library, rooted in collection and collective access.