October 10, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Students Put Intercultural Communication Skills to Work for Athens MakerSpace

Students in ELIP 1300 visit Athens MakerSpace with instructor Art Oestrike

Students in ELIP 1300 visit Athens MakerSpace with instructor Art Oestrike

By Brice Montgomery

If you have never heard of the Athens MakerSpace, students in the ELIP 1300 Business Relations and Communication Skills class have made it their goal to change that.

One of the core concepts students learn in this class is the idea of being a global citizen, and that starts locally for these undergraduates.

Their final project is to apply the skills they have learned to a local business. This year, that business is the Athens MakerSpace.

“The Athens MakerSpace provides a valuable resource to the community by giving locals access to the tools and equipment necessary to create small-batch specialty products,” says instructor Art Oestrike, local business owner and Ohio University alumnus. “The goal of the ELIP 1300 project is to foster globally minded community engagement by getting students involved beyond campus, and this vision intersects with the purpose of the MakerSpace. We hope that students will develop an awareness of the needs of their local community, and that they will apply their business skills and intercultural competence in creative ways.”

The MakerSpace, a branch of ReUse Industries, features the equipment to exercise any creative impulse, but many locals are unaware of everything the space has to offer.

“We seek to provide the Athens-area community with opportunity to launch and develop businesses, and to learn and hone new skills through the use of our dedicated workspaces, which include a wood shop, a fabric and fiber arts shop, a metal shop, and electronics room. We are excited to collaborate with Art Oestrike’s ELIP 1300 class on ways we can serve the student community, and we look forward to their assistance with social media campaigns, planning on-campus events, and creating student ‘maker’ clubs,” says Erin Hogan, general manager of the Athens MakerSpace, explaining the vision of the organization.

ELIP 1300, which meets the university’s Tier II cross-cultural perspective requirement, attracts a variety of different majors and interests, and, much like the opportunities at MakerSpace, the possibilities are endless. Over the course of the semester, multicultural teams of students will create and implement several different strategies to engage the community. The community-oriented project allows students to pursue their interests and gain new experiences.

Freshman Mckeon Killen is hoping to establish a student club to bridge the gap between campus and community: “It’ll take a lot of responsibility, and it’s definitely a new take on something—I’ve never led an organization before.”

Instructor Oestrike and students brainstorm possible projects at the Athens MakerSpace

Instructor Oestrike and students brainstorm possible projects at the Athens MakerSpace.

Other students have different approaches for giving MakerSpace the boost it needs. Several teams are developing ways to revitalize the organization’s social media presence, while other groups are planning campus events featuring products made by MakerSpace. The latter project is still early in the planning stages, but there are rumors of Giant Jenga playing a key role.

Students appreciate the interdisciplinarity of the course.

Jacob Hain, a third-year specialized studies student, appreciates that “the course focuses on the international aspect in communication—seeing different viewpoints, different cultural perspectives…. There’s really a broad range.”

Oestrike begins each class session with a cultural lesson, which often leads to unexpected conversations and exercises. Students then lead a classroom discussion about a weekly intercultural topic, ranging from global mental health practices to building strong cross-cultural teams in a business setting.

Freshman Bella Thompson suggests that the cross-cultural examples might be in-depth, but the lesson is simple. “I’ve learned not to judge someone, basically to not judge a book by its cover.”

The class is two credit hours and offered every fall and spring.

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