Students gather in the Create Space to make spirit wea

Creativity, Innovation, Community: What We Make in the create[space]

Since its start two years ago, create[space] has quickly become a hub of creativity and innovation on the St. Paul campus. The partnership between the Division of Student Affairs, Opus College of Business and the School of Engineering has become the go-to place for students to make anything, from spirit wear to pajama pants to rice buddies.

The location on the first floor of Anderson Student Center typically is staffed by a student creator and Manuela Hill-Muñoz, program manager of the create[space] and changemaking director for student engagement under the Center for the Common Good.

Hill-Muñoz's energy is contagious and has led to a culture of active learning.

"create[space] allows students to flex their creative muscles differently," she said. "When you're in a space that looks like this – that encourages play – it allows [creativity] to percolate on our campus."

One of the signature events in create[space] is Make It Monday, which takes place two Monday evenings per month during the academic year. Each Make It Monday typically is focused on a sewing project that students can create from beginning to end. Past Make It Mondays have centered on reusable lunch bags, ugly dolls, infinity scarves and more. (See some examples of create[space] on its Instagram page.)

"One of the things that has been the most beautiful for me – specifically around Make It Mondays – is that, the minute you teach one person, they can look to their neighbor and say, 'Oh, I know how to do that. I'll help you.' Each person will help each other out," Hill-Muñoz said. "It's a creation of a community and a way of having community life that we didn't have before."

create[space] is equipped with numerous pieces of equipment, including five sewing machines, a vinyl cutter and a Glowforge 3-D laser printer.

Beyond the products created, create[space] has fostered collaboration between groups. For instance, to promote Africa Night, create[space] purchased African fabrics and collaborated with the African Nations Student Association to have a Make It Monday focused on African tote bags. create[space] also collaborated with the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship to host three events during Women Entrepreneurship Week, including a popular women maker fair.

"We also have had a really nice partnership with the Wellness Center," Hill-Muñoz said. "We've done quite a bit around things like sleep, and encouraging sleep and healthy behaviors."

create[space] also has served as a unique meeting location. Noteworthy events have included the Board of Trustees experimenting with virtual reality, a talk by Sportsdigita Founder+CEO Angelina Lawton during Women Entrepreneurship Week, an event with Fowler Business Concept Challenge namesake Ron Fowler and a president's cabinet meeting. A recent event involved members of the College of Arts and Sciences' SOLV Initiative working on the Urban Art, Landscape and St. Paul Community Stories project. For that open house, STELAR was involved, as well, to showcase 360 degree images from the project in virtual reality. The open house also had interactive stations highlighting what was learned in the research for the project.

create[space] even served as the shoot location for an episode of the PBS KIDS TV series "SciGirls."

Hill-Muñoz's biggest priority for create[space] is to continue to engage with students, listening to what they want offered.

"My number one priority is that this space remains a staple of our community ... that is an area where students feel welcome and that they feel that they never are going to be turned away and that we try our best to meet their need."