It’s hard to imagine that it’s almost half a year since the Tepper Quad officially opened its doors and started a new chapter in Carnegie Mellon University and the Tepper School’s history. With the focus of providing a space for further collaboration and top-tiered business education, the Tepper Quad has certainly been at the center of activity, whether it’s engaging in meaningful discussion about blockchain economy or grabbing a coffee at campus favorite Tazza D’Oro and much more. One thing that I’d like to highlight is the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Culture Room.
Located on the first floor of the Quad just around the corner of the Welcome Center, the Askwith Kenner Room is equipped with several Oculus VR headsets along with other new technologies. Made possible through generous gift from long-time supporter, alumna and emeritus trustee Patricia Askwith Kenner (MM 1966), it is meant to be an immersive, interactive language classroom and learning space for language learning and cultural appreciation.
One of the inaugural classes to be engaging with the room is the 82-284 Multicultural Pittsburgh course taught by Assistant Teaching Professor in Media Creation and Multicultural Studies, Modern Languages Department, Stephan Caspar. And I’ve had the pleasure of being in the class right now and learn more about the room and about Stephan himself. Hailing from the University of Southampton in the UK as Lead for Digital learning before coming to CMU, he is full of passion about media for teaching and learning, and particularly the emergence of immersive technology as a medium for storytelling.
How did you get here in the area of filmmaking/media/VR technology/teaching?
I have a background in film and television, having trained and worked at the BBC before moving into education to teach media and design. Content creators have always looked to new technology to explore different ways to share stories and experiences. At Southampton I worked with educators and researchers to equip them with the tools to talk about their work and engage audiences. I think the more accessible these digital tools become, the more imaginative you can be about their uses. I love how students are using technology to better evidence their learning and becoming content creators.
What drew you to Pittsburgh and CMU? Why “Multicultural Pittsburgh” and the Askwith Kenner room?
I thought this was a fantastic opportunity to explore these ideas further and to be honest I didn’t realize before I took the role how rich and diverse Pittsburgh would be. This city has really captured my heart and I’m learning so much about its people, history, and culture. I wanted to create a course where students could join me on this exploration and use digital media to capture their own experience of discovery.
Multicultural Pittsburgh is a course that asks us to explore the city through the different cultures and identities of its people. As a class we’re creating 360 videos which will be shown in the Kenner room for posterity’s sake.
What’s your thoughts about your time at CMU/Pittsburgh so far?
I’m still settling into life at CMU – the pace is fast and students are hardworking and engaged. We’re very well looked after here, so it’s often a challenge to get out and explore. But it’s very much worth it. There is so much to see and do in Pittsburgh and its surrounding areas. We moved as a family and are enjoying our first year. We’re meeting people, visiting museums/galleries, and joining in local events – being a part of our new community in the South Hills. I catch the bus every day and the view of the city skyline through the tunnel over the bridge knocks me sideways every time.
If there was one thing you would like to change about CMU (based on your observations so far), what would it be and why?
I think it’s probably a bit too early to think about what I would change. Perhaps it needs somewhere that serves Yorkshire tea… I’m missing a few things from home. In all seriousness, I think I’d encourage students to get out and explore Pittsburgh as much as possible and hope that CMU continues to seek ways to make a positive impact on the wider community. I think it’s important that universities are outward facing in terms of understanding the impact of their work.
What’s your favorite cafe and/or restaurant in Pittsburgh so far?
There are some terrific place to eat and drink – there’s great food in Pittsburgh. My personal favorite is ‘Baby Loves Tacos’ over in Lawrenceville. They serve tasty tacos and burritos bursting with flavor (go for the BBQ mushroom burrito with all the toppings). There’s also a friendly bunch there who like to talk about football…no, soccer 😛
So that’s about him. And if you get the chance, the Kenner Room has open hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays after 4pm. Don’t hesitate to drop by and try out the VR!