From Start-up to Sustainable

In October 2022, Mary Ann Mavrinac Studio X officially opened. We celebrated the work, the people, and the vision that got us there. There is an excitement mixed with a dash of chaos and exhaustion that comes from opening a new space and program. But opening was never intended to be a finish line; we always considered it the start of something.

Since then, we’ve thought about what we learned, what needs to change, and where we want to go next. Even though we’re working to reset our aspirations, we’ve had some clear—and big—wins this year:

  • We surpassed 1,000 new Extended Reality (XR) users.
  • We added 16 high-end workstations to a first-floor classroom in the Carlson Science & Engineering Library.
  • We hired Liam O’Leary as the full-time XR Developer.
  • We celebrated Meg Moody’s promotion to Assistant Director for Studio X.

Our quantitative data shows we’re making steady progress, but it’s time to stop thinking like a start-up. That’s not us anymore. We have to start thinking long-term. We’re shifting our focus to qualitative factors that will create a more sustainable extended reality (XR) space and program. We’ll build that by building on our strengths:

  • More programs that lower barriers to entry, such as entry-level workshops, reading groups, and guest speakers.
  • Further cultivate a welcoming community and environment through weekly polls and taking the time to get to better know our students and their interests.
  • Empower our students to take on leadership roles that keep us moving forward.
  • Work with faculty and students across the University by helping them incorporate XR in their courses and advance their innovative transdisciplinary research.
Emily wears a Meta Quest Pro headset and looks towards her outstretched hands Emily Sherwood
Director of Digital Scholarship & Studio X

By the numbers

  • 1,034 first-time XR users
  • 16 new high-end workstations
  • 28 departments reached
  • 1,208 equipment reservations
  • 1,767 participants at
    63 events


In our first year, we focused largely on building relationships with programs and centers across the University. We continued to see growth and interest from campus, reaching 28 different departments, programs, and centers with our events, up from 13 in our first year. We saw a pretty balanced mix of participation within that area, but we’ve also spent time building partnerships within the library.

Experiences as a collection

Managing virtual reality (VR) applications—or “experiences” as they are called—is a nightmare. VR experiences can be likened to e-books in library collections, as both mediums offer interactive content in a digital format. The problem is most content is produced by for-profit companies that do not provide educational discounts or models. Plus, because VR experiences are new forms of media, there isn’t a standard practice for their purchasing or cataloging. Nevertheless, we persisted. We developed a system to order, deploy, and make experiences discoverable in the library catalog. Big shout out to our acquisitions and metadata colleagues. This will be much less challenging going forward now that we have a collections budget and have developed a workflow to manage this process.

XR recruits

Studio X supports the entire University community—that’s a big order for a small team. Although we are mighty, we are not superhuman. So, we enlisted humanities, social sciences, and STEM librarians. To give them the ability to spread the Studio X word, we put them through a half-day XR boot camp to facilitate new partnerships and opportunities across campus.

  • Kristen Totleben

    Humanities Librarian

    Teresa Valdez

    Director of the Language Center


    Workshops for center tutors and language faculty.


    Tutors began incorporating VR activities into their conversation hours, such as developing a scavenger hunt in cities around the world. Also, Studio X has provided the center with long-term reservations of VR headsets.

  • Andrea Kingston and
    Eileen Daly-Boas

    Social Science & STEM librarians

    Lisa Starr

    Associate Professor of Psychology


    Kingston and Boas host a Studio X open house for psychology and counseling faculty members and graduate students.


    A demonstration for depression and anxiety seminar students on how VR experiences could be used for exposure therapy.

  • Lara Nicosia

    Humanities Librarian

    Nick Gresens

    Associate Professor of Instruction in Classics


    Every year, Gresens conducts a group reading of Homer’s the Iliad or the Odyssey.


    VR experiences of relevant sites and historical recreations to complement the day-long reading.

We couldn't have done this without...🤝

Sharon Briggs, the head of acquisitions, gave us a collections budget for experiences, and Lydia Auteritano, the library section supervisor for monographs in acquisitions, has been invaluable in helping us acquire experiences despite the many hoops she jumps through every time. Angela Grunzweig, the metadata operations librarian, and Ken Wierzbowski, the discovery services librarian, help us think through the records for the experiences and how they are integrated with DiscoverUR.

Our Xceptional Team

  • Meg pulls on a Meta Quest 2 headset while smiling.


    In early 2023, Meg Moody was promoted to Librarian III and received the new title of Assistant Director for Studio X. The promotion recognized Meg’s leadership and day-to-day management of the space, including supervising the full-time staff.

  • Aleem wears clear futuristic glasses while pointing and smiling.


    Section Supervisor Aleem Griffiths greatly expanded our engagement strategies for both our patrons and student employees. His ingenious polls, staff challenges, and Uno games have helped us foster a playful and inclusive environment.

  • Liam holds a purple plastic light saber.


    We hired former student employee Liam O’Leary ’23 as our XR developer in June. Liam's technical expertise, excellence in teaching, and exceptional mentorship of our students made him the perfect person to round out our team.

Student Leadership

They have been with us from the very beginning, and we wouldn’t be able
to move forward without them. This year, they took Studio X in new directions.

Bringing us to the people

When our student employees noticed that many of their peers were unfamiliar with our services, they took to social media. started creating content for Instagram and TikTok and found a strong collaborator in , the inaugural brand ambassador and Karp Library Fellow, who starred in creative videos including an 80’s-style commercial and a Vogue-style 20 questions interview. Koshala’s success became the foundation for Studio X’s marketing team. For the annual Beat Saber Battle (a VR rhythm and dancing game) competition, the marketing team developed a creative hype video and explainer that helped net 65 participants. In the spring, led by , the team organized an Instagram follow-a-thon to attract new account followers, featuring a benchmarking video of Director Emily Sherwood dying her hair.
By the way, remember to... Follow us on Instagram!
Instagram post featuring a thermometer showing different levels for the follow-a-thon goal.

Student Showcase

We ended the 2022–2023 academic year with a fantastic student showcase. Student presenters from across disciplines shared their experiences, insights, and outcomes of their work through lightning talks and tech demos.

A large audience sitting in chairs in Studio X listens to presentations. Fin, Sarah, and Liz present on the marketing team's work at the Student Showcase. Liz, Libby, Sam, and Mila present on the Aurum project at the Student Showcase. Mila helps Dean Garewal with the Meta Quest 2. Students and staff try on Meta Quest 2 headsets and talk to each other during the Student Showcase event. Sam helps a student with the Meta Quest 2 headset while another student uses a headset in the background. Waleed talks to Kristana Textor while other students, faculty, and staff talk in the background.

Studio Xplorer

Imagine opening one of the doors to one of Studio X’s collaboration rooms and finding a dragon. Karp Library Fellow Liam O’Leary ’23 made this a (virtual) reality. Liam, an XR developer, used an architectural floor plan to create a digital twin of Studio X, allowing users to explore Studio X and learn how to use the headset and controllers through a playful escape room experience. Partnering with a new generation of Karp Library Fellows, Liam is creating another virtual world that includes a DJ booth and dance floor.

Aurum, a VR alchemical library

Led by (project manager), (modeling), (coding), and (story), significant progress has been made on Aurum. Progress includes completing a full-recipe for creating purple dye, a liquid system for potions, a heating mechanism, and a glass-shattering effect. The team presented their work at RIT’s annual Frameless XR Symposium.

Student Success 🚀

Studio X helps prepare students for a wide range of roles including jobs, internships, and graduate studies. We're thrilled our students have gone on to exciting positions at:

Aesthetician Labs logo Bank of America logo Google logo iRobot logo Lyft logo Optmum logo Salesforce logo Smithbucklin logo Solu Technology Partners logo S&P Global logo Morgan Stanley logo University at Buffalo logo University of Washignton logo University of Rochester logo

Space Challenges

Humility is a classroom

Planning breeds confidence. And we went into the summer of 2022 very confident. We were set to run our first pre-college program, in which we would introduce students from all over the country to XR. We did not anticipate that only one student would have a laptop capable of running the requisite software.

Shame on us—mainly because it wasn’t the first time we had encountered the problem. It turns out access to the technology is a significant issue. (Stick a pin in that.) So, we pulled every workstation from every corner of our space into the Learning Hub and immediately blew a fuse. Our solution to this was to do things the fire marshal wouldn’t approve of, which he didn’t when he happened to stop by.

We managed to finish the pre-college program, but more importantly, we learned a lot about the difference between planning and experience. Until you’re running workshops, holding classes, and addressing user needs as they arise, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Headset wall with three rows for hanging headsets and controllers and two rows with long power strips for charging.
In your face, Marie Kondo! 📦

We also learned we needed a classroom and a lot more power. We made a case there was enough need beyond our own to outfit an adjacent space. Thanks to a generous gift and the support of Dean Kevin Garewal, we got our classroom.

Needless to say, we crushed pre-college 2023. But not ones to rest on our laurels—or fall victim to the sins of our past—we continue to improve all of Studio X’s spaces by upgrading the electrical and updating our storage space to accommodate our growing library of technology—including an impressive headset wall.

Tamuda runs a design thinking workshop for pre-college students. Miles teaches Unity to a room full of students working on computers. Tamuda helps a student with their 3D model in Blender. Miles and a pre-college student look at a computer monitor. Liam helps a student with their project. Liam points at a students 3D model created in Blender. Tamuda points at a 3D model a student created in Blender. A student works on creating 3D model of a squirrel in Blender. Pre-College students pose in front of the Studio X sign to celebrate their projects being named 'best in class' by their peers. Liam helps a student troubleshoot an issue with the project. Aleem helps a student with their project. Meg works with a student on their project.

What's Next

Curriculum Development

We’ve made progress integrating XR into a range of courses across disciplines, but our long-term goal has always been a certificate or cluster in XR. We’re starting to think about how we can sustainably build more course integrations that keep us moving toward that goal.

Research Support

We’re also currently piloting different research support models and hope to roll out a formal “tiers of support” system in the coming year. On a related note, we’re working to develop more connections and relationships across our campuses, including the Medical Center.

We have several lofty goals in mind—some of them noted above—but we need your help to get there. We’re conducting stakeholder interviews to further understand what’s worked and what hasn’t.

As Emily said in her letter, “we’re collaborators at heart” so let us know what you would like to see next📣!
Let’s figure out how we use XR to make the world ever better.