Laura Villers

Associate Director for Community Engaged Learning @ SRU

Job Description: Support community students and the broader SRU community in figuring out how to work with each other to create a better society, citizens, and a more thoughtful and engaged institution.

Hometown: Edinburgh, OH

Hobbies: Organic Gardening, Cooking, Hiking, Bike Riding, Camping, Reading

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How did you end up in Slippery Rock?

So I ended up in Slippery Rock because of Slippery Rock University. In 2016, I graduated from my masters program at Syracuse University. Prior to that, I came from two years of service through AmeriCorps. I was serving at a college campus, and I really fell in love with community engagement. Then through my masters program, I realized I wanted to do that at the college level.

I applied everywhere, and I got an invitation to interview at Slippery Rock for this role, and it was a time that I felt immediately comfortable and welcomed... It wasn’t intentional, but now I’m in Slippery Rock because of choice. I’m choosing to be here, and I’m choosing to make this my community. 

What is your favorite thing about Slippery Rock?

I love the big scale events, I love the Village Fests, the Light Up Nights, etc. However, what I love the most is the Saturdays during the summer. When I get up, I can walk through the borough to the farmer’s market, get fresh food for the week, talk to the farmers and my friends, I can visit the local businesses, I can walk trails easily, etc. I think that there’s this narrative of Slippery Rock that it’s this little nowhere town with nothing to do, and that’s because people haven’t looked to see the special things here. The fun part of Slippery Rock is getting to know the town and its quirks. It’s the little ways that the town and its members work to make it feel meaningful and special.

What does community mean to you?

It’s everything. Even as a very private, introverted individual, I recognized that my life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. My choices have impacts on others, and others’ choices have impacts on me. How can I use my voice and membership in a community to think and improve? I don’t think of myself as a community leader, but I always see myself as a member. At the core of it, humans are social beings.... While you don’t always have control of who is in a given community, you can certainly build really strong relationships with those who share a similar vision for where you can go forward. So community to me means support, love, vulnerability and a shared sense of purpose, but at the same time it requires criticism at times.

Do you have a favorite memory of libraries?

I sure do! Some of my earliest memories are libraries. My mom passed away when I was really young. Before she passed, I have these memories of going to the library with her when I was three, maybe four years old. My mom would walk in, and she was a regular, so all of the librarians knew her. It felt like an event when we would go to get books. It was a place where I could get lost in the stacks of books. When you’re two, maybe three feet tall, the shelves look huge.

After my mom passed, I would still go back to the library, and the librarians still knew me.  It was the first time that I saw people beyond a family unit caring for each other. It was a place where I was always comfortable. For me, that library was a place of safety and potential. 

What is your favorite thing about the SRCL?

My favorite thing about the Slippery Rock Community Library is that they're always looking to innovate and try new things. 

They really want to meet the needs of the community and encourage learning at all levels.  Whether is programming, resources, or presence at community gatherings, you can really see the love that the library has for the Slippery Rock community.

Did you know that the SRCL is funded entirely off of donations? What are your thoughts on this?

I did not know that! Wow. I guess a question for our readers is how can we help support that?

 

Libraries support holidays, people under unemployment, most of my audiobooks, etc. I don’t think that people realize how critical libraries are, or the spaces that they make, because there usually aren’t spaces for certain things.