Mark is one of the co-founders of Laneway Learning. Edit (January 2017): after organising classes for Laneway Learning in Melbourne for a long time, Mark now sits on the board of directors as secretary.
How did you get involved with Laneway Learning?
I met Tom Ding when we were both playing rugby for Melbourne University.
One night, just before Christmas 2011, we met up for a beer at the Corkman in Carlton. Tom was telling me about the Brooklyn Brainery, in New York where he used to live. We talked about how awesome community-based education is, how there was a lack of it in Melbourne and that maybe we should start something.
I came back to Melbourne, after Christmas in the UK, to an email from Tom saying, ‘so I’ve made us a logo and a website…’ and that’s when I knew it was happening. We started running classes in March and you know the rest.
What is it about Laneway Learning that appeals to you?
I feel like everybody has something to share – a passion, a hobby, a skill – and that everybody can be a teacher. I also think that everybody should have the opportunity to learn something new. I’m always very grateful for opportunities in my own life so providing opportunity to others brings me a lot of happiness and satisfaction.
What is your professional background?
I moved to Australia in September 2010 to commence a PhD in chemistry after spending four years studying chemistry at the University of Leeds, including one year working in medicinal chemistry in North Carolina.
Laneway Learning was an awesome procrastination project from the mundane duties of lab work. Since completing my PhD in 2014 Laneway Learning has become a bigger part of my working week, although I still have a hand in chemistry too.
What other things are you involved in?
I play rugby with the Melbourne University Rugby Football Club. I also play drums and percussion, mostly recently playing with Alex Watts and the Foreign Tongue and with a new musical project on the horizon. I grew up in a musical family of brass players but I rebelled and decided to hit stuff instead!
I volunteer when I can at 350 (three fifty) – a grass-roots, climate-focussed organisations – and have recently started volunteering in the kitchen at Tamil Feasts – a social enterprise supporting recently settled asylum seekers through the celebration of food and culture at CERES Community Environment Park.
Oh, and I often get very carried away scheming adventurous things for the Adventure Gang.
What do you think of the Australian approach and attitude to education?
I think that Melburnians are pretty keen on having a crack at tomething new. They are thirsty for knowledge, which is great. You can get caught in the trap of thinking that when you’re finished with school or university that you’re done with learning. But Melburnians are keen to keep pushing forward and are committed to lifelong learning.
Is there something you wish you knew?
Probably general skills and knowledge for building stuff; a house, a brick wall… structured things. Then you could fix huts, build a houseshed, anything!
Have you ever failed at something at first, but eventually excelled after perseverance?
Riding a bike! I got a bicycle when I was about ten years old but I didn’t quite get the hang of it and gave up. Many years later I moved to Melbourne and realised that having a bike in this city is a pretty sweet – it’s the best way to get around! I picked up a cheap second hand bike and Lucie taught me to ride it in the garage of my apartment. Now I ride everywhere!
The featured image is borrowed and edited, with thanks, from Ivan Krpan and the photo of Mark in the kitchen is borrowed and edited, with thanks, from Alana McCrossin. The other two images belong to Mark Gregory.