John Gerdes sits in makerspace.

Gerdes looking to foster innovation, belonging in Rhodos living learning community

As the new faculty principal of the Rhodos Fellows Living Learning Community, John Gerdes is expanding students’ horizons in information, design and computing.

Innovative technology and design, academic advancement and his students are things John Gerdes is passionate about. As the new faculty principal of the Rhodos Fellows living learning community, Gerdes hopes to build a supportive atmosphere that encourages curiosity and supports the creativity of his students.

Gerdes brings years of expertise in information technology to his new position and wants to help meet the needs and interests of each of his students. Rhodos is a diverse community, including 52 majors from across the university. Together with the other Rhodos staff, he provides unique avenues to collaborate to expand their academic horizons in information, design and computing.

“I had a very positive experience as an undergrad, and I am anxious to pay that forward, giving my students a similar experience,” says Gerdes, who is also an associate professor in the College of Engineering and Computing. “I had faculty that were concerned and would interact with me, so I got to know them. That early experience impacted my whole career. I’m hoping to do the same for my students.”

The program is “really meant to be the one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to grow their skills, whether they're political scientists or biological scientists, artists or engineers.”

- Amelia Quint, Rhodos Assistant Faculty Principal

The Rhodos Fellows living learning community allows students to take ownership of their ideas in a pre-professional, creative and collaboration environment. Students experience the benefits of community and belonging that comes with a traditional on-campus living experience. Additionally, the program facilitates relationships with faculty members, student services and undergraduate research, and provides fellows with tools, experiences and personalized guidance that lead to better grades and graduation rates.

The program is “really meant to be the one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to grow their skills, whether they're political scientists or biological scientists, artists or engineers,” says Rhodos Assistant Faculty Principal Amelia Quint.

Rhodos fellows have exclusive 24/7 access to the on-site Rhodos Makerspace, a creative home that is “one part engineering lab, one part art studio.” With its diverse array of equipment and technology, it is one of a handful of places of its kind in the country.

The makerspace is equipped with microcontrollers, 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, video equipment, 360 lens image capture and other technologies for students to investigate, pursue and bring their ideas to life – something Gerdes is particularly excited to see come to fruition.

“The opportunities are really unlimited,” he says. Past fellows have designed and built a full-size arcade unit with over 50 classic games, recorded podcasts and created a new card game. Fellows also have access to exclusive undergraduate research grants and scholarships to fund their independent projects.

“We always want to see students shine, and what we are able to produce in the makerspace — be it prototypes for new designs, be it the beginnings of new research projects, or artistic output — those are the kinds of things that really set us apart,” Quint says.

Gerdes is excited to introduce opportunities for students to get involved with modern technology that expands their interests into areas that weren’t open to them before. Teaching an introductory technology course, bringing in expert guest speakers from different fields, and leading a technology-focused study away program are on his list of plans. But more importantly, Gerdes wants students to know they have the support to achieve their goals.

“He’s very passionate about serving students and is very much looking forward to getting to know them and building a strong relationship with our student body that will grow over time,” Quint says.

From hosting a tournament to share his love of chess to instating an open-door policy for discussion, Gerdes wants to support his students’ academic, professional and personal growth, and learn with them along the way.

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