Here it grows again—the Karp Library Fellows Program welcomes its second cohort.
Author: Matthew Cook
The sun shining through the clocktower

Frequent readers of University of Rochester libraries content are familiar with its references to popular culture, which have recently included Rick Astley, Scrooge McDuck, and Don Henley. We mention this because a film buff might have read the title of this piece and immediately recognized that we replaced “Gremlins” with “Karp Library Fellows.”

Gremlins 2 is the sequel to Gremlins, both of which are comedic horror films about a cute creature (a “mogwai”) that spawns reptilian, terrorizing monsters.

This is not where we try to draw parallels between these movies and the Carol ’74, Pʼ11 and Sarah ’11 Karp Library Fellows Program. We’re not going to try to say that the program is like the mogwai, Gizmo, and the gremlins are the Karp Library Fellows, who instead of doing terrible things, they do amazing things in specialized library spaces. The comparison barely works. We’re also not going to try turning all the mogwai “do nots”—do not feed them after midnight; do not expose them to bright light, and do not get them wet—into positive things that the program does do for the fellows, like offer mentorship and provide opportunities to work on projects and develop the skills that prepare for their professional careers. Talk about a stretch!  

So, instead of forcing you to endure a labored metaphor, we’re going to stick to a simple program update.

Launched under the cloud of the pandemic, the Karp Library Fellows program is about to enjoy the full breadth of its founding vision. One of the biggest pieces that’s been missing: in-person interaction.

“Zoom has its advantages,” says Laquanda M. Fields, program coordinator and administrative assistant to the vice provost and dean of the University libraries. “However, in meeting with students, I’ve noticed there’s a level of closeness you can’t really get in those meetings." 

Fields initially met the first Karp Library Fellows cohort virtually, but has since begun connecting in the real world.

“When I saw Deniz (Cengiz) for the first time in person, there was this excitement,” recalls Fields, who met Cengiz when Rochester re-opened campus last fall. “If it hadn’t happened at that time, I’m sure we would have hugged. I pride myself in the relationship with the fellows. They’re like my extended family.”

University Trustee and program benefactor Carol Karp ʼ74, P’11, who has also only met the fellows virtually, is looking forward to meeting them for the first time in-person during Meliora 2021.

“As the program enters its second year, we continue to be delighted and awestruck by the students,” says Karp. “Each of the new students brings their own unique perspective and experience to the program, which continues to grow and evolve under Laquanda’s inspiring leadership. The program continues to surpass our expectations.”

We’ll introduce you to the newest cohort of Karp Library Fellows virtually, but encourage you to seek them out in their respective library spaces.

Barbara J. Burger iZone

Suzan Hoffman
Suzan Hoffman ʼ21 (E5) | iZone space project fellow

Major: Brain and Cognitive Science
Minor: Computer Science
Notes from the iZone director: Suzan has been one of iZone’s strongest partners since her first year at Rochester, participating in countless programs and competitions. Since the beginning of the Spring semester, Suzan has floored me with her capacity for imagination and action. She is working at a highly sophisticated level to level-up iZone’s space, envisioning how we can continuously improve it to meet the needs of our students and staff. I am dazzled by her commitment, good humor and kindness and can’t wait to see what she does next. —Julia Maddox

I pursued this position because…having participated in iZone’s events and workshops in the past, I gravitated toward the opportunity to work on their initiatives. iZone’s playfully engaging atmosphere and foundation around creative thinking is what I had strived for in a work environment, and the Karp Fellowship made it possible for me to fulfil this! 

The skills and experience I’m bringing to this position…begin with the ability to connect with others in an impactful way. This is something I grew to strongly value through my positions as an engagement ambassador for University of Rochester Advancement and a supervisor for patron services at Rush Rhees Library’s Q&i desk. Those experiences helped me take on leadership positions and understand user experience.

I’m most excited to…explore the process of creating better user experiences in iZone spaces and its culture. Whether it be with students, the River Campus Libraries as a whole, outside the River Campus, my goal is to create programming that bolsters a greater sense of community and creativity. 

When I graduate…I will continue to foster the high-spirited and innovative approach to problem solving. I aim to never stop learning, to meet new experiences with open arms, and to take with me what I have learned from every past opportunity.  

If the Karp Family was here right now, I would say…thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue creating new avenues of impact at the River Campus Libraries. I feel this has been a fundamental part of my experience as a Rochester student.

Casey Ryu
Casey Ryu ʼ21 (E5) | Community engagement specialist

Major: Linguistics
Major: Archaeology, Technology, and Historical Structures
Notes from the iZone director: Casey’s persistent dedication to effective community engagement made her the obvious candidate for this role. Her unique combination of intelligence, creativity, and people skills have equipped her with the tools necessary to take iZone’s community partnerships to the next level. As the winner of the University of Rochester's 2020 COVID-19 Challenge, Casey and her partner designed a sophisticated XR solution that turned an in-person gentrification conference into a virtual experience. We are proud to have Casey join our team! —Julia Maddox

I pursued this position because…of the opportunity to apply my community-engagement skills to strengthen relationships with Rochester organizations and the University of Rochester. Sometimes I feel that students can become caught in the campus bubble and this position seems like a great way to thoughtfully engage and connect community partners and students. 

The skills and experience I’m bringing to this position… are project management, interpersonal communication, event planning, time management, community engagement, and leadership. Most of these were developed during my completion of the Certificate in Community-Engaged Learning run by the Center for Community Engagement and my on-campus jobs at the Greene Center for Career Education & Connections. 

I’m most excited to…I am most excited to help facilitate deeper community partnerships and programs with local Rochester organizations. There are so many incredible leaders and groups in the Rochester community committed to a variety of excellent causes, and I hope that through this fellowship, we can amplify and support their work, while sharing ways students can become more involved as well.

When I graduate…I hope to work within corporate social responsibility, which is when corporations operate to create greater social impact through their work. Most of my previous work experiences have revolved around community-engaged work and assisting community leaders with social initiatives, so this has inspired me to pursue a career that focuses on this same idea but on a larger scale. 

If the Karp Family was here right now, I would say… thank you so much for your immense generosity that enables students to develop skills within the University of Rochester Libraries and for believing in the importance of community partnerships between the University and community members.

Studio X

Ayiana Crabtree
Ayiana Crabtree ʼ22 | Extended reality research fellow

Major: English
Minor: Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Notes from the Studio X director: Ayiana started off researching XR and the humanities, which is important as we think about ways to support XR across campus. She has gathered a range of experiences and use cases for XR, writing a number of blog posts and creating an XR basics workshop, and has helped us work on our social media presence. She has also been central in helping us think through hiring for students to work in Studio X—Emily Sherwood

I pursued this position because… I am extremely passionate about libraries and the opportunities they provide to their communities. Libraries have always provided me an endless source of information, and I hope that by taking this position, I am able to provide help and assist in the spread of information to my fellow students at the University.

The skills and experience I’m bringing to this position… come from volunteering and working at the libraries for about five years. Having already had the opportunity to get a feel for various library spaces has really helped me to find quick solutions to problems and aided my work with blog posts, events, and various presentations. In addition to that, I bring a humanities student’s perspective to Studio X. I believe that the humanities can greatly develop and prosper in the world of XR technology, so I hope I am able to encourage my classmates to engage in this new space.

I’m most excited to… work with librarians in a new library space on campus. Studio X seems like an absolutely amazing space, and I think it will offer a huge range of new experiences and opportunities for students on campus. I am very excited to see what the space looks like when it opens this fall.

When I graduate… I plan to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science. Being a librarian has been a dream of mine for quite some time now, and I can’t wait to have that dream become a reality.

If the Karp Family was here right now, I would say… thank you for the amazing opportunities you have made possible for me and my fellow Karp Library Fellows. Thus far, the experience has more than exceeded my expectations.

Nefle Nesli Oruc
Nefle Nesli Oruc ʼ22 | Public programs coordinator

Major: Data Science
Major: Digital Media Studies
Notes from the Studio X director: Nesli is extremely creative and a talented designer. This past year, she has helped with Studio X outreach efforts to classes and clubs. She is a talented teacher and has used her design skills to teach Blender to her peers. Nesli is thoughtful in her approach to user engagement and has an eye for detail that has helped us take a more holistic approach to Studio X promotion, design, and outreach. —Emily Sherwood

I pursued this position because… I was really excited about all the ways in which XR technologies could be incorporated into academia to help the University community learn, teach, and experience extended reality!

The skills and experience I’m bringing to this position… include graphic design, illustration, computer graphics, 3D modeling, and brand establishment, all of which I have learned through the courses I have taken at the University and technical masterclasses I have completed in my free time. I also work at Rettner Digital Media Lab, where I have the opportunity to try the newest tools for digital media and 3D printing. This also allows me to keep my software knowledge up to date as I offer guidance to my peers.

I’m most excited to… be involved in the Studio X project right from the start. This is an area I truly believe in, and I’m looking forward to shaping its future at the University. I, and the rest of the Studio X team, have had the opportunity to add personal touches in every aspect of the space and program, including the brand. It was great to have that artistic freedom.

When I graduate… I would like to work as a technical artist, with a focus on computer graphics, hopefully at an animation or video game studio.

If the Karp Family was here right now, I would say… This fellowship program has shaped my University experience profoundly. Not only was I able to explore how I could professionally use my skills in a way that I love, working for a cause that I am passionate about, but it also gave me a community of people who inspire and support me on a daily basis. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you!

Muhammed El-Sayed
Muhammed El-Sayed ʼ22 | Immersive technologies developer

Major: Computer Engineering
Minor: History
Notes from the Studio X director: Muhammed came to us with a background in both computer science and history, which makes him ideal for thinking through some of the cross-disciplinary challenges of XR. He’s an excellent teacher and is constantly coming up with creative ways to get his peers excited about XR. He’s played a central role in getting the word out about Studio X and is currently developing a Unity workshop series to provide more in-depth training. —Emily Sherwood

I pursued this position because… of the unique combined opportunity of working with Unity, an engine I've been working with for three years, along with the pursuit of educating my peers on XR technologies (which are super cool, by the way).

The skills and experience I’m bringing to this position… include my experience with Unity, but that is far from my most vital contribution. I understand the necessity for technical skills in a developer position, but all skills can be taught or acquired. You also need passion. That is what I bring to our technical projects and educational pursuits. I live for adding new tools to my XR belt and am excited to guide others through the same process.

I’m most excited to… work in the new space! There was definitely excitement reserved for the technical part, but like everyone, there is some natural anxiety about how well you're actually going to do. Thus, the main thing I really looked forward to is the new space. Being surrounded by people making cool things with cool technology—and being able to provide support—is something I really look forward to.

When I graduate… I’ll look for a new collaborative opportunity. I despise unhealthy, competitive environments, so I don't aspire to work for a big-name Silicon Valley company. Generally, I think I'll get into something like video game development or multimedia application development with a focus on XR technologies.

If the Karp Family was here right now, I would say… *Wiping away tears* Thank you for the opportunity you have given my peers and me. Studio X is a perfect example of a fantastic work environment. I am given the freedom to pursue my own interests; I’m given guidance when needed;  and I am surrounded by like-minded people who are all just as passionate and dedicated to our mission as I am, as we all explore these technologies and their role in our current society. Thank you, if not for me, for the fellows who follow me.

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