Student Spotlight: Carolyn Gearig

When I think about my time in the design lab, I am struck by all that I have learned about the resources and fields of study at this University. I’m a School of Information undergraduate senior, and the network I am surrounded by at the Lab is the most academically diverse I have encountered in college. Every week, I meet and work with librarians, PhD students, master’s students and undergraduates in an environment where we are all equals who learn from one another.

The best way I would describe our projects is that they are academic but go beyond typical academic work in their creation, scope and presentation. My fellow residents are designing interactive exhibits to deepen one’s understanding of prison spaces and mental health, creating podcasts about the future of education, exploring how digitization of historical books can transmit features you only get with a physical copy, and more. Working with these people has given me a much deeper insight into what’s possible in the University’s graduate school programs. Academic work can take you much farther than the traditional thesis, research paper or group project, and this work is actively encouraged in the Lab.

For my Design Lab project, I am interviewing people across the state of Michigan about how they use journalism, something I hope to continue past graduation in April. Previously, I was Managing Design Editor and Special Projects Manager at The Michigan Daily, as well as a photographer and reporter. Through my work at the Daily, in my studies in user experience design and research and as an intern at two local NPR stations, I became interested in work that bridges gaps between people and journalism. I think that journalism often has a problem with how it relates to the public. Too often, it seems that there is little public participation or input into journalism. While there has never been more accessibility to news, it has also never been more difficult to find what’s important. Likewise, there are more journalists than ever in New York and Washington, D.C. but local journalism continues to cut budgets and reporters, weakening the trust many have in journalism. The Design Lab has been the perfect place for me to explore an interest that began somewhat vague but now has morphed into a much more solid project.

Something else I have loved about the lab are the things we have learned together. In weekly co-learning sessions in the fall, we each taught a session on something we have expertise on, be it reporting on the go, using a letterpress or using Arduinos, tiny interactive computers. We have learned about copyright laws, made benches for a Detroit-based non-profit and learned how to use audio and video recording equipment in the Lab’s studio. I’m thankful for this community that reminds me that there is always more to learn and create.