The Robert E. Kennedy Library is now accepting applications for its second annual Open Science Café. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Savannah Sperry
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One could do a lot with $3,000.

That’s exactly the amount of money students who participate in the Open Science Café receive to administer their own public program on the Cal Poly campus.

The Robert E. Kennedy Library is now accepting applications for its second annual Open Science Café, held in spring 2015. The event was launched last year and provides an opportunity for students to prepare and host a public program centered around a guest speaker.

After being selected, the winning student is mentored by communications and public programs coordinator Karen Lauritsen and her team.

“Public programs are popular ways for museums and libraries to build community engagement, and this really puts the leadership opportunity in students’ hands,” Lauritsen said.

The idea is to invite a researcher, thought leader or someone the student views as inspirational to speak at their event in the Robert E. Kennedy Library. The guest may be someone working in the professional industry the student hopes to explore post-graduation.

In its inaugural year, the Open Science Café received a dozen proposals with at least one from each of the six academic colleges.

“This year, we’re hoping to get even more proposals, and then a panel of judges will review those proposals and meet with a few finalists to select the winning idea,” Lauritsen said.

Applications are due Dec. 1, and selections will be made late January. Once a student is selected, he or she will work diligently alongside Lauritsen.

“I then work closely with that student as a mentor in helping them plan the program, working with the researcher, providing a budget and sort of leading them through that project management experience from start to finish,” Lauritsen said.

About 150 attended the workshop last spring.

Last year’s winner was art and design senior Ali Albiani, who has since graduated from Cal Poly.

“She brought Steve Duenes from The New York Times,” Lauritsen said. “He’s the graphic director for the paper, and he did a presentation on how to use data and design to tell stories. He made it very interactive.”

Along with planning the event, Albiani produced a video featuring an interview with Duenes and created a blog about her experience.

“We also worked very closely with faculty at Cal Poly,” Lauritsen said.

The faculty included art and design professor Charmaine Martinez, a friend of Duenes, and journalism department chair Mary Glick.

“It was already planned by the time I had been made aware of it,” Glick said, “But because of the speaker’s background, he works for The New York Times in an area of data journalism and visualization of data that’s incredibly important to our students; we made sure our students knew about it.”

Glick reflected positively on the experience.

“I think, all in all, it was a great experience to see what they do at The Times,” Glick said. “They have so many resources that other newspapers just don’t have, and they also have talent, money and the will to do new things. So seeing people push the envelope is exciting for students, and to give them a glimpse of new ways of story telling I think is inspiring and leads to more creativity.”

Lauritsen enjoyed seeing students succeed in the program.

“It’s the most rewarding part of work to see a student shine,” Lauritsen said.

Applications for the Open Science Café can be found on the Robert E. Kennedy Library website.

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