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In-class juggling performance draws crowd

Elizabeth Phelan | Staff Reporter

To increase class participation, Accounting Lecturer Michael McLaughlin treated students in the 2:30 p.m. section of his Principles of Managerial Accounting class to a juggling performance, Nov. 14.

McLaughlin announced the event in an email to his class. After the post went viral on the Washington University’s Barstool Instagram account, McLaughlin invited students not enrolled in the class to attend.

The idea originated after McLaughlin noticed student engagement declining over the past couple of weeks. According to an email sent to his students, he asked the class, “What must I do to get your attention, bring in a team of professional jugglers?” One of the students responded, “Yes.”

“People were getting tired and I was trying to think of something that would be kind of ridiculous, that would put a smile on their face,” McLaughlin said.

The performers, Wash. U. Juggling Club members senior Lucy Muller and junior Adam Litwin were accompanied by music and juggled balls, bowling pins and frisbees.

“They were really good jugglers. They started juggling bowling pins and frisbee discs,” junior Ryan Nordheimer said. “Everyone was cheering and recording them. It was really fun.”

Junior Gigi Garcia enjoyed the positive atmosphere of the performance.

“I thought it was really nice that even though they were amateur jugglers…everyone was really supportive. Even when they messed up, everybody still cheered them on,” Garcia said. “They were really good, really talented.”

“I thought the jugglers were pretty good. I thought they did a really good job, in particular with the pressure,” McLaughlin said. “With so many people watching, I thought they were phenomenal.”

McLaughlin didn’t anticipate that the event would be so popular.

“It was a complete shock when I showed up to teach the class and meet the jugglers, to see that there were so many people there,” McLaughlin said. “I’m teaching five sections of that class, and I thought okay, some of the people from other sections will go to that section that day, but I never envisioned it.”

Part of the event’s popularity was due to its virality on social media. The performance garnered over 800,000 views on a post to the Instagram account, 5thyear.

“It blew up on Instagram, so the word spread around pretty quickly and got outside of B-school… Everyone knew about it. I think there were probably more than a hundred people who showed up,” Nordheimer said. “There were so many people in the room that no one could fit through the doors, and it was flooding out into the hallway.”

In addition to class participation, McLaughlin wanted to improve student morale.

“Students work so hard. There’s always this stuff with the interviews, and grades, and all this, and I just thought it would be something fun and ridiculous,” McLaughlin said. “They participated after that…Every time I asked a question someone raised their hand to answer it. So it was effective.”

McLaughlin said he hoped the event brought joy to the students.

“With all these exams and job stuff and everything, some of these students never have a chance to really have fun and enjoy being a kid,” McLaughlin said. “And I just wanted to give them that.”

He also hinted that there were more events in store for his accounting students, such as a professional magician that will perform in his Wednesday section, Nov. 20.

“I hope I can live up [to that] with the next event,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see anything like that again in my lifetime, but that was pretty cool.”

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