Gerdes wants to foster innovation and is part of the vibrant Rhodes learning community – UofSC News & Events

As the new Faculty Director of the Rhodes 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 leader of the Rhodes Fellows’ vibrant learning community, Gerdes hopes to create a supportive atmosphere that encourages curiosity and encourages creativity in his students.

Gerdes brings years of information technology experience to his new position and aims to help meet the needs and interests of each of his students. Rhodes is a diverse community including 52 majors from across the university. Along with the other Rhodes staff, he offers unique ways of collaborating to broaden their academic horizons in information, design and computing.

“I had a very positive experience as a student, and I strive to pass that on and provide a similar experience to my students,” says Gerdes, who is also an associate professor at the College of Engineering and Computing. “I had faculty that were concerned and interacted with me, so I got to know them. This early experience influenced my entire career. I hope to do the same for my students.”

Rhodes Fellows’ vibrant learning community enables students to adopt their ideas in a pre-professional, creative and collaborative environment. Students experience the benefits of community and belonging that come with a traditional campus life experience. In addition, the program facilitates relationships with faculty members, student services, and undergraduate research while providing grantees with tools, experiences, and personalized guidance that lead to better grades and graduation rates.

The program is “really intended to be a one-stop shop for anyone looking to expand their skills, whether they are political scientists or life scientists, artists or engineers,” says Amelia Quint, Rhodes Deputy Head of Faculty.

Rhodes Scholars have exclusive 24/7 access to the on-site Rhodes Makerspace, a creative home that is “part engineering lab, part art studio”. With its diverse range of facilities and technology, it is one of only a few places of its kind in the country.

The Makerspace is equipped with microcontrollers, 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, video equipment, 360-degree lens image capture, and other technology that will allow students to explore, pursue, and bring their ideas to life—something Gerdes is particularly excited about .

“The possibilities are really endless,” he says. Past grantees have designed and built a full-size arcade unit with over 50 classic games, recorded podcasts, and created a new deck of cards. Fellows also have access to exclusive research grants and undergraduate grants to fund their independent projects.

“We always want to see students shine, and what we can produce in makerspace — whether it’s prototypes for new designs, whether it’s the beginning of new research projects or artistic results — those are the things that really set us apart,” says Quint.

Gerdes looks forward to providing students with opportunities to engage with modern technology that will expand their interests into areas previously unavailable to them. His list of plans includes teaching an introductory technology course, incorporating expert guest speakers from various fields, and leading a technology-focused degree program. But more importantly, Gerdes wants students to know they have the support to achieve their goals.

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

From hosting a tournament to share his love of chess to instituting an open door policy for discussion, Gerdes aims to support and learn with his students’ academic, professional and personal growth.

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Topics: Faculty, Experiential Learning, College of Engineering and Computing

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