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We talked with Alla Ivanchikova to discuss the author’s upcoming book, contemporary cultural production on Afghanistan, and the way this cultural production serves as a litmus test for a producer’s political and geopolitical beliefs.

Ivanchikova’s book, Imagining Afghanistan: Global Fiction and Film of the 9/11 Warsexamines how Afghanistan has been imagined in literary and visual texts that were published after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion.



Q: Could you give a brief description of your book?

Alla Ivanchikova: The two decades of the 9/11 wars have seen a production of thousands of titles on Afghanistan, and the book tries to make sense of what has transpired in this corpus of works. I argue that Afghanistan serves as a mirror upon which contemporary cultural producers project their values and beliefs, as well as their presumptions and biases.


Alla Ivanchikova (photo provided by author)

Q: What are some of the most common ways this projection manifests?

Ivanchikova: The most obvious one is the belief in benevolent humanitarianism. Since the end of the Cold War, humanitarianism has become the only mode through which we were able to imagine relating to distant others and to their suffering. It was a direct consequence of the collapse of the socialist bloc. Humanitarianism replaced the relation of comradeship or solidarity as being on the same side of a common struggle, which defined the era of anticolonial liberation movements, of which many were left-leaning. Afghanistan is a case study in the humanitarian imaginary: the two cultural products that came to stand for Afghanistan are the Afghan Girl from the National Geographic cover and Khaled Hosseini’s bestseller The Kite Runner. Both give us striking, unforgettable images of suffering children on behalf of which we are compelled to intervene. The less obvious way in which this projection manifests is the anticommunist imaginary, still pervasive in the NATO-centric contexts and my book unpacks the distortions and mirages it creates.


Q: In the introduction to the book, you reference Afghanistan being referred to as a “dim object” prior to the 9/11 attacks. More specifically, “it emitted no light, attracted no attention, and the eyes of the world were not on it”. Do you think this absence of a cultural presence made it easier for these post 9/11 cultural producers to project Afghanistan in their own light?

Ivanchikova: Afghanistan’s cultural invisibility between 1989 (Soviet withdrawal) and 2001 reflects how cultural production is tied to geopolitics. The era between 1989-2001 was one when the Afghan state suffered a complete collapse and people’s suffering was the most intense, but hardly any works have been produced during this time period. So it’s not the intensity of suffering that determines the production of humanitarian images, but geopolitics, and humanitarian images and stories are used, again and again, to justify military interventions. You are right, however, in suggesting that after 2001, there was a sense that Afghanistan was somehow “rediscovered,” and was an unmapped territory. This resonated with many writers who were invested in neo-imperial fantasies of “wild” Afghanistan.


Q: What motivated you to take on this subject?

Ivanchikova: The conflict in Afghanistan spans the entire course of my life. I grew up in the USSR during the Soviet-Afghan war. My early adulthood in the US was dominated by the crisis of 9/11 and the foreign wars that followed. In both cases, the true nature of these conflicts has been largely withheld from the public. I wanted to investigate. As a cultural studies scholar, I did my investigation mostly through analyzing cultural texts—fiction, memoirs, graphic novels, and film. I discovered that Afghanistan poses very specific representational difficulties: whoever writes on it, has to struggle with how to articulate various aspects of its past: its socialist history, the invasion by the Soviet Union, the role of the US in the fuming the flames of the “Afghan” jihad, and the failures of the US-led intervention that followed the Taliban ouster. Immediately and inevitably, one finds herself in the domain of not only history, but ideology.


Ivanchikova’s new book “Imagining Afghanistan: Global Fiction and Film of the 9/11 Wars”


Q: So given the nature of Afghanistan, it’s very hard to cover while maintaining the appearance of being ideologically neutral, or without espousing some kind of ideology?

Ivanchikova: Yes, that’s correct. Afghanistan serves as a litmus test of a sort, either revealing your political and geopolitical positioning, or revealing your confusion as to how to position yourself. In my book, I don’t argue for objectivity, however, but insist on the value of having many different stories. Unfortunately, the first wave of writing and screening Afghanistan, between 2001 and 2009, produced texts that told only one type of a story—the story of Afghanistan as a relic of soviet barbarity, to be saved by the West’s helping hand. This was in line with the official US view, as articulated by Donald Rumsfeld, for example. There was particular investment in, and fascination with, the figure of the suffering Afghan woman.


Q: Why is this problematic?

Ivanchikova: It is important to remember that the crisis suffered by Afghan women was a direct consequence of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (a socialist state that championed women’s rights) being defeated by ultra-patriarchal radical Islamist groups supported by the Reagan administration. This is an uncomfortable story to tell in NATO-centric contexts, because instead of making the reader/spectator feel good about liberating Afghan women, it implicates them into the very scene of crisis. So barely anyone wants to tell this story. But these stories needs to be told for any work of transnational reconciliation to begin. The other story that needs to be told is one of the Afghan effort to build socialism. Afghanistan suffers from the same problem that affects the entirely of the former second world: the absence of a language in which to talk about the defeated socialist projects in the aftermath of the Cold War’s end. We need more stories that bring into view the Afghan revolutionary subject—women and men who dreamt of and fought for economic and social equality and fought for the revolution rather than against it. We have tons of books that romanticize anti-statist (patriarchal) insurgency in Afghanistan—men who fought against communists. How many stories do we have that feature Afghan revolutionary women? Almost none. Ultimately, it is this very erasure of Afghan revolutionary history that results in a humanitarian capture of Afghanistan’s present.


Q: Where do you feel a person would find the most accurate representation of Afghanistan in contemporary culture?

Ivanchikova: I especially like Nadeem Aslam’s work as he tries to unpack the multiple layers of Afghan history present simultaneously in a landscape, like a palimpsest. In my book, I talk about his two novels: The Wasted Vigil and The Blind Man’s Garden. I also recommend Qais Akbar Omar’s memoir, In a Fort of Nine Towers. It is a very accessible, didactic work by a survivor of the civil war era—precisely the era during which Afghanistan became a dim object. It has particular relevance for the current moment: by describing what it meant to have lived through the destruction of Kabul as it was captured by the warring jihadist groups in 1992, the memoir gives us a glimpse into what it means to have survived the sieges of Fallujah, Mosul, Palmira, Raqqa, or Aleppo in the twenty-first century.



Get 30% off Imagining Afghanistan when you order through our website and use the discount code PURDUE30.

New Career Research Portal

September 10th, 2019

The Career Research Portal contains resources organized to help guide you through the career research process whether you’re browsing job postings, preparing for an important interview, or negotiating a job offer. Resources include career event and career fair information, career planning guides, relocation resources, information on diversity and employment abroad, job/internship boards, interview resources, and employer and company research.

Link: You can access the Career Research Portal at www.career.lib.purdue.edu, or from the CCO’s webpage, under the Students menu.

Tutorial: Watch our tutorial on Getting Started with the Career Research Portal for details on how to use the Career Resource Portal.

Please contact parrlib@purdue.edu with any comments or questions.

Matt Hannah, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Matt Hannah

Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities Matt Hannah has been busily laying the foundation for an ongoing and robust discussion about digital humanities (DH) and to advance digital scholarship overall at Purdue. Since he started at Purdue in March 2018, he has put together and delivered many DH workshops and contributed to many digital scholarship projects and efforts on campus, and is developing a DH Studio in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education (HSSE) Library.

Recently, he also launched the Digital Interest Group at Purdue, which will meet monthly. Group members will discuss key scholarship ideas, projects, and concepts in DH, computational social sciences, Critical Data Studies, science and technology studies, digital history, data science, and more. The first meeting is set for 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11; visit http://bit.ly/dhigpurdue to sign up for the group (location to TBD). According to Hannah (who goes by @TinkeringHuman on Twitter), the group will also tinker with various methodologies and tools, write and share code, and discuss digital projects.

“We imagine this interest group will become a hub for anyone at Purdue interested in digital scholarship broadly conceived,” he noted.

In addition to advancing DH at Purdue, Hannah will advance DH internationally, as he has recently accepted a fellowship as a Fulbright Specialist with a few institutions in Morocco to set up a DH boot camp for digital scholars there.

Below, Hannah shares more about his upcoming fellowship and the DH work he will be doing in Morocco over the next three years.

Q. How did you come to know about this opportunity?

Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities at Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies Matt Hannah works in the programming language R in his office in the DH Studio located in the HSSE Library. In the spring of 2019, offered a text analysis workshop series using R.

Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities at Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies Matt Hannah works in the programming language R in his office in the DH Studio located in the HSSE Library. In the spring of 2019, he offered a text analysis workshop series using R.

Hannah: Because of the work we’ve been doing in Digital Humanities at Purdue, I was contacted by Dr. Stacy Holden, an associate professor of history at Purdue, who specializes in the Middle East. She has been working in Morocco for many years, and she’s currently there on a Fulbright fellowship. She articulated an interest in Digital Humanities among faculty and staff she’s collaborated with in Morocco and suggested I apply for a Fulbright Specialist fellowship to organize intensive Digital Humanities workshops to be conducted over several days. I then worked with Dr. Christopher Lukasic to prepare an application, and, for a time, we weren’t sure whether our idea would be successful.

Q. You mentioned you will work with individuals in institutions in Morocco to set up a Digital Humanities boot camp. Tell me more about this project and/or projects. What will they entail?

Hannah: Fulbright Specialists serve shorter terms, generally around a particular project in which an expert in the field may be paired with an overseas institution to collaborate. Through Dr. Holden’s contacts in Morocco, I’ve been in communication with colleagues at Abdelmalek Essaadi University in Tétouan and Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane to arrange week-long intensive Digital Humanities workshops. These workshops will cover the range of possible tools and methods so participants will gain a wide ranging set of skills in DH by the end of the week. In addition, I will coordinate with faculty and staff to consult on existing projects and initiatives.

Q. What do you hope to achieve with your boot camps?

Hannah: I am hoping to develop great relationships with Moroccan digital humanists and develop a strong network of international collaboration around the topic of digital scholarship. In addition, I plan to consult with faculty working on DH projects and lend assistance where I can. Finally, I hope to develop an intensive curriculum that I can teach at other universities around the world. I’m grateful to Fulbright for making such international relationships possible.

Q. What is the timeline for your boot camps over the next three years? Any collaborators you want to recognize, share information about?

Hannah: I’d love to visit other universities in Morocco to conduct similar workshops. Often, Digital Humanities gets discussed as though it were only an Anglo-American phenomenon, when we know scholars around the world are doing dynamic and exciting work. I also hope to develop this boot camp series into an offering I can teach at other international universities and colleges, as well as offer to interested parties at Purdue.

Q. Any other information that will be important to include that isn’t touched on the questions above?

Hannah: One key aspect of the Fulbright role is to gain knowledge from my hosts. I’m very much looking forward to discovering what Digital Humanities looks like in the Moroccan context and, through a process of collaboration, to expand my own scholarly horizons through the sustained conversations made possible by the Fulbright program.

For more information about DH at Purdue, contact Hannah at hannah8@purdue.edu.

Every year, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies hosts the Purdue GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Day Conference. During it, Purdue students demonstrate how they have applied GIS in their individual areas of study and research. Nicole Kong, PULSIS associate professor and GIS specialist at Purdue, heads up the conference, along with a team of collaborators from across Purdue, all who are involved in GIS work in some way. This year, the Purdue GIS Day Conference is set for Thursday, Nov. 7 in Stewart Center. (More information about research and project submission deadlines is available at lib.purdue.edu/gis/gisday/gisday_2019_college_program.)

Nicole Kong, associate professor and GIS specialist, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Nicole Kong, associate professor and GIS specialist, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

In addition to planning the Purdue GIS Day Conference and her teaching duties, Kong serves as a principal investigator (PI) or co-PI for various GIS and data-science research projects at Purdue. Recently, she was awarded funding in Purdue’s Integrative Data Science Initiative (IDSI) for the project, “Integrating Geospatial Information Across Disciplines.” In addition, she is co-PI for two more GIS-related projects, both which were recently funded through U.S. government agencies. The projects include:

  • 2019 – 2020: “Leveraging Soil Explorer for Soils and Ecological Training.” USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture), NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service), Soil Science Collaborative Research Proposals Notice of Funding Opportunity (NFO). PI: D. Schulze (agronomy) and co-PI J. Ackerson (agronomy): $52,295.49.
  • 2018 – 2019: “IndianaView Program Development and Operations for the State of Indiana.” AmericaView program, U.S. Geological Survey. Co-PI, with L. Biehl, (ITaP), J. Shan (civil engineering): $23,000.

Kong’s important work on the two government-funded research projects has implications for soil research, conservation efforts, and the training of soil scientists, as well as remotely sensed data collections that contribute to the AmericaView project. Data from this project can help inform national and international economic, environmental, social, health, and geopolitical decisions.

“The AmericaView Consortium is charged with helping each state overcome these difficulties and helps the university, secondary-education, and public sectors in each state identify, develop, and distribute the kinds of applications each state needs most. In light of our nation’s current focus on achieving a secure and stable digital infrastructure, never has this task been more relevant,” Kong explained.

Below, Kong provides more background about both projects and how the research in both contributes to soil mapping across the globe, as well as the mapping, monitoring, and management of natural and environmental resources.

Q. How did the “Leveraging Soil Explorer for Soils and Ecological Training” project come about and how will you and your team use the grant funds?

Kong: This project was developed based upon the success of our previous award of “Integrating Spatial Education Experience (Isee)” funded by NRCS. In the previous award, we successfully collaborated with several other states to develop soil property maps for education purposes.

In this project, we will further develop the soil maps for the conterminous U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories, as well as provide training materials about how to use the new maps to improve soil and ecology training. Part of the funds will be used for Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies to assist in creating and sharing the maps, as well as for GIS server improvement.

Q. Who else is involved with “Leveraging Soil Explorer for Soils and Ecological Training” project?
Kong: This project is led by Dr. Darrell Schulze in the agronomy department. Dr. Jason Ackerson and I are co-PIs on the project.

Q. How will the data you gather be used in the future?
Kong: Detailed soil surveys across U.S. have been conducted and well documented by the Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO). This database contains very rich information about soil properties, but often requires extensive knowledge in related fields to understand. On the other hand, maps are models of our world that allow us to make sense of a space that is too large and too complex for us to comprehend in any other way. Digital maps are inherently scalable and can show both the details and the overview seamlessly. Soil maps can help researchers to understand how soils and soil properties are distributed across landscapes at various scales. They can be critical resources for training scientists in the disciplines of soil science, ecology, agronomy, geology, and other natural sciences. The results of the maps will be delivered via SoilExplorer webpage, as well as the Soil Explorer apps for iOS and Android devices. Learning materials, workshops and webinars will also be delivered to the trainers.

Q. Any other information important to include about this project?
Kong: Managing, sharing, and leveraging geospatial information generated by Purdue researchers is an essential part of the GIS team’s mission. With the similar research methods, we have also collaborated in soil mapping projects in Kenya and Peru. Using spatial information as a way to teach soil properties has been a success in many classrooms through our studies.

Q. What is the purpose of the “IndianaView Program Development and Operations for the State of Indiana” project and who is involved?
Kong: The purpose of IndianaView is to promote sharing and use of public domain remotely sensed image data for education, research, and outreach across universities, colleges, K-12 educators, and state and local governments in Indiana. It is part of the larger grant, AmericaView, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey. This project is a collaboration among Mr. Larry Biehl (ITaP), Dr. Jie Shan (civil engineering), and me.

Q. What are you hoping to accomplish with the project? How will the data you gather be used in the future?
Kong: Within this project, we will continue to develop the IndianaView Consortium, which currently includes 15 institutions. We will select and support undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, as well as mini-grant opportunities for the consortiums members for research, education, or outreach. In addition, we have also planned activities for K-12 outreach, presenting at local or regional conferences, and teaching in undergraduate and graduate classrooms. (More information is available at www.indianaview.org.)

Q. What is AmericaView and why is it important?
Kong: AmericaView is a nationwide partnership of remote sensing scientists who support the use of Landsat and other public domain remotely sensed data through applied research, K-12, and higher education. The need for AmericaView has been building for more than 30 years. Since the early 1970s, the federal government and private sector have spent billions of dollars on satellite-based earth observing systems and have worked with the research community to identify, develop, and distribute real-world applications for mapping, monitoring, and managing natural and environmental resources. Unfortunately, while the potential uses of the technology have been widely recognized, development and distribution of real-world applications have persistently been tough issues for both the federal government and the academic research community. The AmericaView Consortium is charged with helping each state overcome these difficulties and helps the university, secondary-education, and public sectors in each state identify, develop, and distribute the kinds of applications each state needs most.

More information about GIS resources via the Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies is available at www.lib.purdue.edu/gis.

Margaret Phillips, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Margaret Phillips, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies, teaching at Pusan National University in South Korea, July 2019.

Through the IMPACT (Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation) program and the pronounced presence of the Wilmeth Active Learning Center (WALC) at the heart of campus, it is possible that many students at Purdue University take for granted their courses based on the active learning instructional method. Even though Purdue students may not always recognize their enhanced learning based on this approach, academia does. Last October, The Chronicle of Higher Education published “How Purdue Professors Are Building More Active and Engaged Classrooms,” and the publication’s editorial staff recognized Purdue’s IMPACT program as a 2018 Innovator of encouraging innovation in teaching.

Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies (PULSIS) faculty and staff were driving forces behind the concept of and the development of the WALC, as well as have been integral in IMPACT at Purdue.

It is no surprise, then, that one of our own is taking this instructional method “on the road” (or over the ocean), so to speak, and engaging South Korean mechanical engineering graduate students in ways they have not before experienced. In mid-July, PULSIS Assistant Professor Margaret Phillips co-taught the course “Professional Development and Life-Long Information Strategies for Engineering Research” at Pusan National University (PNU). She was invited by Takashi Hibiki, a Purdue nuclear engineering emeritus faculty member, who originally co-developed and co-taught the course with her at Purdue.

Margaret Phillips, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Mechanical engineering graduate students in the short course “Professional Development and Life-Long Information Strategies for Engineering Research.”

“Many students this summer commented they had not experienced a course like this before and told us they know it’s going to be extremely useful in their future engineering careers,” Phillips noted. “The students were eager to learn the course material, and they were extremely patient as they participated in active learning lessons, a departure from what they are used to, because nearly all of their courses are taught in a direct instruction format,” she added.

Per the course evaluation, 100 percent of students who responded said, “Yes, I would recommend this course to other engineering graduate students.” In addition, the students respondents gave the overall course a median rating of “5-Excellent,” and both instructors (Phillips and Hibiki) received median ratings of “5-Excellent” (N=30; scale – 5-Excellent, 4-Good, 3-Fair, 2-Poor, 1-Very Poor).

As a result, Pusan National University officials invited Phillips to be an adjunct professor of mechanical engineering at PNU.

In the Q&A below, Phillips shares more of the story about her teaching experience in South Korea.

Margaret Phillips, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies

Professor Phillips said the “Professional Development and Life-Long Information Strategies for Engineering Research” course goals related to information literacy include: 1). develop knowledge and skills that sustain lifelong learning, particularly the abilities to discover, access, evaluate, use, and manage information; and 2). present information clearly, effectively, and ethically.

Q: How did this opportunity come about?

Phillips: I was invited by an emeritus faculty member in nuclear engineering, Dr. Takashi Hibiki, to co-develop and co-teach this course. When Takashi was at Purdue, we co-taught a similar nuclear engineering graduate course for two semesters, NUCL 580 (“Essential Communication Skills for Nuclear Engineering”). We used that content, as well as content from a graduate course I co-teach with Dave Zwicky (PULSIS) in ILS 595 (“Information Strategies for Science, Technology, and Engineering Research”) as a basis for the course. Dr. Hibiki has a close relationship with a faculty member in the School of Mechanical Engineering at PNU (Dr. Jae Jun Jeong), who is in charge of the nuclear engineering program (the nuclear engineering program is housed within their school of mechanical engineering). (Dr. Jeong was a visiting scientist at Purdue in the School of Nuclear Engineering in 2006-07.)

Dr. Hibiki described the Purdue course (NUCL 580) we co-taught to Dr. Jeong, and he was very interested in having a shortened version of this course offered at PNU for students in their School of Mechanical Engineering (ME).

Dr. Jeong worked hard to secure approval and funding, and he formally invited us to teach the short course. This was the first time a one-week short course had been offered in their school. Dr. Jeong also promoted the course to graduate students in the School of ME, and he encouraged other faculty members in the school to do so, as well.

This was the first time I had ever taught a shortened version of this course, and it was also the first time I had taught the content to non-Purdue students. This required making the course less “Purdue-centric” and more focused on life-long learning.

Q. Tell me about the course design: How did you design it with your co-instructor? What kinds of information does it have for mechanical engineering students, and what are the learning outcomes for the students in this course?

Phillips: We used the two previous courses mentioned as a basis for the course design. We encouraged Dr. Jeong to review the course schedules for the two courses mentioned and select the topics he felt were most needed and relevant for the students. We then used his selections to develop the course.

Professor Phillips (left) and Hibiki (far right) pose with one of the students who earned a course certificate in the course “Professional Development and Life-Long Information Strategies for Engineering Research” at Pusan National University (PNU) last July.

Professors Phillips (left) and Hibiki (far right) pose with one of the students who earned a course certificate in the short course “Professional Development and Life-Long Information Strategies for Engineering Research” at Pusan National University (PNU) last July.

The course goals related to information literacy include: 1). develop knowledge and skills that sustain lifelong learning, particularly the abilities to discover, access, evaluate, use, and manage information; and 2). present information clearly, effectively, and ethically.

Topics covered included: searching for information, citation management, technical standards, being an engineering scholar, scholarly publishing, copyright, avoiding plagiarism, conducting reviews, making technical presentations, and data-management basics.

Q. How many graduate students were in your course?
Phillips: We had 42 mechanical engineering graduate students enrolled and 35 students earned certificates from their school for taking the course. To earn the certificate, students had to participate in at least 12 of the 15 hours of class. Many of the students were from Korea, but several were international students from various countries (e.g., India, United Arab Emirates, and Italy). All of the students were on summer break, and while they each had the opportunity to earn a certificate, the course was not required and formal course credit was not awarded for their participation.

As an adjunct instructor, how will you contribute to instruction in the mechanical engineering program at PNU?
Phillips: My adjunct instructor appointment is for two years. As part of the plan, the course will be taught in person at Pusan National University at least one more time during that time frame, and my appointment will be considered for renewal at the end of two years. The faculty at Pusan prefer an in-person offering of the course, rather than online.

Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies Assistant Professor Margaret Phillips also serves as an engineering information specialist at Purdue University. Her liaison areas include nuclear engineering, engineering technology, technical standards, and industrial engineering.

Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies Faculty Members - IDSI Funding, Second RoundPurdue Libraries and School of Information Studies Faculty Members - IDSI Funding, Second RoundSeven Purdue University Libraries and School of Information (PULSIS) faculty members are part of three of five research teams to receive funding in Purdue University’s second round of research for the Integrative Data Science Initiative (IDSI).

According to the IDSI website, the vision for the initiative is “to be at the forefront of advancing data science-enabled research and education by tightly coupling theory, discovery, and applications while providing students with an integrated, data science-fluent campus ecosystem.”

The three research projects with PULSIS faculty members are also are led by PULSIS faculty as the principal investigators.

The PULSIS projects and researchers are as follows:

  • IMPACT Data Science Education: Preparing Undergraduates to Lead into the Future, Libraries and School of Information Studies and College of Science
    PI: Clarence Maybee, PULSIS; team members: Guang Lin, mathematics statistics and School of Mechanical Engineering; Wei Zakharov, PULSIS, Chao Cai, PULSIS; and Jason Fitzsimmons, Center for Instructional Excellence.
  • Building a Data Science Education Ecosystem Resource Collection, Libraries and School of Information Studies and College of Science
    PI: Pete Pascuzzi, PULSIS; team members: Gladys Andino, research computing; Mark D. Ward, statistics; and Michael Witt, PULSIS.
  • Integrating Geospatial Information Across Disciplines, Libraries and School of Information Studies
    PI: Nicole Kong, PULSIS; team members: Bryan Pijanowski, forestry and natural resources; Jie Shan, civil engineering; Dharmendra Saraswat, agricultural and biological engineering; Songlin Fei, forestry and natural resources; Brady Hardiman, forestry and natural resources; Ian Lindsay, anthropology; Michael Fosmire, PULSIS; Ephrem Abebe, pharmacy practice; Vetria Byrd, computer graphics technology; Guang Lin, data science consulting service; Preston Smith, IT research computing; and Erica Lott, Center for Instructional Excellence.

For more information, visit www.purdue.edu/data-science/education/education-proposals.php.

This is a guest post by Jeff Frank, author of Teaching in the Now: John Dewey on the Educational Present.

This commentary offers insights from John Dewey about how to approach the start of the school year so that students are prepared to do the type of work we hope they will do in the future. The meaning of preparation is central to Dewey’s philosophy of education, and this commentary aims to make his thinking available to teaching and teachers.


John Dewey hoped anyone concerned with education would regularly ask what appears to be a simple question. What is the meaning of preparation?

The question appears simple, because we are often told, as students, that we are doing something in order to be prepared for something in the future. Why do we learn addition? So we can do multiplication in the future. Why do we learn multiplication? So we are prepared for upper-level math.

At almost every stage of education, when a student asks why they are learning something, they are told that they are learning that thing so that they are prepared to do some other thing in the future.

In some ways, this way of justifying education makes sense. It is hard to do an advanced skill without the requisite background knowledge, understanding and skill. And yet, Dewey wants us to wonder if there are better ways to think about preparation. He wants us to think about the hidden costs of justifying a student’s present learning in terms of future gain.

One way of seeing Dewey’s point is to think about how teaching works when we are adults. To take a simple example, when we want a friend to like something that we care about, we generally don’t tell them they have to do a lot of preparation work to get there. If we want them to enjoy hiking—for example—we find the easiest hike with the biggest payoff. If we want them to enjoy cooking, we find a recipe they can cook and that will surprise them by its deliciousness.

Dewey wonders if school can approximate this way of teaching, at least some of the time.

As a college professor and former high school English teacher, I work hard to find readings that are immediately interesting to students and that are challenging enough to allow them to do more difficult reading in the future. Instead of seeing the beginning of the semester as merely preparatory for a later point in the semester or a course further along in their college study, I believe—with Dewey—that the best way to prepare a student to do good work in the future is to let them begin doing that work now, in whatever form they can.

This is most certainly not to say that everything a student does in class needs to be fun or easy. Rather, Dewey wants us to be honest, asking ourselves the hard question: Is my classroom, in this very moment, actually preparing my students for more effective and engaged work in the future?

Here is another way of looking at the problem. If a student is so disengaged by their experience learning a subject that they want nothing to do with it again in the future, can we actually claim that they were being prepared in that classroom? Even if a student was successful in terms of getting a good grade in the class, if they aren’t interested in learning more about the subject in the future, can we say that they’ve received a good preparation?

It is easy to dismiss Dewey’s vision of teaching as asking too much of schools and teachers, but before dismissing his thinking on the educational present out of hand, I just want us to think about small changes we can make to invite our students into our subject. If our students were adults who we didn’t have the power of grades and discipline over, how would we teach our subject? If we really want each of our students to keep engaged with our subject into the future, how would we teach?

These are the types of questions Dewey would have us ask, and these are questions that are worth asking again at the start of this school year.

Before the rush of the school year begins, we might take the time to think about the students we see leaving the classroom at the end of the year. What are they passionate about, and what are they empowered to do?

With this vision in mind, think about how to get them there. If Dewey is right, we don’t have engaged confident learners leaving our classrooms if they’ve never experienced engaging learning experiences that give them confidence. And he would encourage us to think about how we can create this type of present for students, from the first day.

Too often the first days of school feel like re-learning what it means to wait until something interesting may happen. We should work to break this habit of waiting and introduce something interesting early. Make the first days an invitation to do meaningful work in the present instead of sending the message that meaningful work must always wait.

“Make the first days an invitation to do meaningful work in the present instead of sending the message that meaningful work must always wait.”

We went into teaching to share our passionate interest in learning with students, and we shouldn’t wait to do this work. Give yourself permission to live in the fullness of the present with your students from the start of the school year, trusting Dewey’s insight that this is also an effective and engaging way to prepare students to live more fully in the future.

School leaders and policymakers are invited to do the same type of thinking. Much of the work that is justified in the name of preparation does not prepare students for a future of deeper engagement with the material they are learning in schools. At the start of the school year, we can do more to create an educational present that prepares students for good work in the future because they are doing good work now.


Jeff Frank is an Associate Professor at St. Lawrence University and author of the book Teaching in the Now: John Dewey on the Educational Present. His work has appeared in the Teachers College Record, Educational Researcher, and several philosophy of education journals.

You can get 30% off Teaching in the Now by entering the discount code PURDUE30 when you order from our website.


In preparation for his forthcoming title Teaching in the Now: John Dewey on the Educational Present, we briefly talked to author Jeff Frank about the book, what motivated him to write it, and the reason for advocating for John Dewey’s work in the modern educational landscape.



Q: Could you briefly explain your book, for those who are not familiar?

Jeff Frank: I wrote this book out of appreciation for John Dewey’s thinking on how to create a meaningful educational present for students. Too often, we treat the present as mere preparation to do something rewarding or interesting in the future. When we do this, we lose student interest and engagement. Dewey argues that the best preparation for a meaningful future is learning to live meaningfully in the present.


Q: What prompted you to write Teaching in the Now, and what do you hope to accomplish with the book?

Frank: I wrote this book for two main reasons. First, I worry that we don’t do enough to value the present moment. Schooling can be tremendously interesting, but it loses its interest when we defer meaningful work to the future. Second, I wrote this book for students new to Dewey’s work in the hopes of showing them why they should take him seriously. Though his work may initially appear difficult, I wrote this book in the hopes that it might make it easier to stick with Dewey.

Jeff Frank


Q: What is it that motivates you to advocate for Dewey’s work in such a purposeful way?

Frank: A major motivation for this project is a sense of hope. John Dewey believed that each one of us harbor deep potential, and he also believed that activating that potential was one way to ensure the future of a strong democracy in the United States. My belief, one I share with Dewey, is that we need to do everything we can to make each moment in the classroom as engaging and rewarding as possible for students. Doing this is not only good for students, it is also good for our democracy. By helping students realize their potential in the present moment, we are helping to bring about a better future. My book is meant to aid teachers as they create these types of experiences for their students.


Q: You mention some treating the present as “mere preparation to do something rewarding or interesting in the future”. How do you feel this mentality come about? How have you seen it manifest?

Frank: In many ways, this is the key point. Dewey believes in the importance of thinking about how we acquire habits and what these habits make possible or foreclose. When it comes to “mere preparation,” Dewey might think about the habit many of us get into where we think things like: Once I have X job I will be happy, or Once I have X amount of money I will be happy, or Once I have tenure, or my own classroom I will begin doing the things I truly want to do. For Dewey, we should begin living the life we aspire to, as much as possible, in the present moment. For a teacher, this means trying to create the most engaging environment for students we can, in the present moment, not deferring until ideal conditions are met.

This brings up a related point. Someone may wonder: But aren’t there just some things we just have to learn? To this, I have two responses. First, I coached three sports in addition to teaching high school English, and there are indeed things one must learn before doing more advanced work. For example, if you don’t know how to spin correctly in the discus circle, there is no way to throw as effectively as possible. But there are ways to make the learning how to spin more or less engaging. The same holds true in the classroom Robert Frost, an excellent teacher himself, noted that explaining a joke doesn’t make it funny. The same is true with a poem. Spending time explaining why a poem is interesting in preparation for helping a student enjoy a poem is often counterproductive. A teacher should look for poems that are appropriately challenging and that they think students will actually find interesting, thereby giving students the most meaningful experience of learning in the present.

My second point is this. When we are learning how to do things outside of a school setting, how do we learn best? How do we prepare to cook or ski or develop a passion for music or movies? While some people may spend hours reading about skiing or testing skis out off of the slopes, more often than not we try things out. This experimenting allows us to see what we need to learn in order to improve, and this leads us to develop a passion for figuring things out so that we can make progress.  Or to ask another question, when you want to share your passion with a friend, how do you do it? Do you make them do a lot of preparatory work, or do you try to use your pedagogical creativity so that the first experience your friend has with what you are passionate about makes them want to learn more and engage more deeply with that passion? Dewey would argue that we can approach teaching this way, seeing the goal of teaching as creating the type of present that makes students want to learn more. Far from leaving students unprepared, these are the experiences that instill habits of thinking and acting that make students more able to engage more deeply with their learning in the future.


Q: How would you explain the importance of your book, and your field as a whole, to a lay audience?

Frank: This book is important because it helps teachers and future teachers think about how to create an engaging and educative present for their students. It also makes Dewey’s work more accessible. Anyone who teaches Dewey’s Experience and Education or anyone reading Dewey’s educational philosophy for the first time will—I hope—find something of interest in my book.



Get 30% off your own copy of Teaching in the Now by ordering it from our website with the discount code PURDUE30.

Purdue University Press is proud to publish books that highlight the numerous important relationships between humans and animals.

Published in collaboration with Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and series editors Alan Beck and Maggie O’Haire, our New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond series, seeks to expand our knowledge of the human-animal bond. The series welcomes submissions covering all aspects of human-animal interaction and welfare, including therapy applications, public policy, and the application of humane ethics in managing our living resources.

You can access the series in its entirety on our website. Below is a selection of some of our recent titles.



Transforming Trauma: Resilience and Healing Through Our Connections with Animals


Edited by Philip Tedeschi and Molly Anne Jenkins


International experts in the fields of trauma and human-animal connection examine how our relationships with animals can help build resiliency and foster healing to transform trauma. A myriad of animal species and roles, including companion, therapy, and service animals are discussed.

“Tedeschi and Jenkins have produced the go-to sourcebook on the role of animal-assisted interventions for children and adults coping with the debilitating effects of psychological trauma. With diverse and engaging contributions from international experts in the field, Transforming Trauma fills an important gap in the AAI/anthrozoology literature, and it does so with considerable insight and compassion, not only for the human victims of trauma, but also for the animals who help them on the road to recovery.”

— James A Serpell, Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine


Check out a free preview of the book.


A Reason to Live: HIV and Animal Companions


by Vicki Hutton


A Reason to Live explores the human-animal relationship through the narratives of eleven people living with HIV and their animal companions. The narratives, based on a series of interviews with HIV-positive individuals and their animal companions in Australia, span the entirety of the HIV epidemic, from public awareness and discrimination in the 1980s and 1990s to survival and hope in the twenty-first century.

“Vicki Hutton captures the healing power of human-animal bond through personal stories of survivors of the AIDS pandemic. During a time of stigma and self-hatred, and before effective therapies, animal companionship was the most powerful medicine available and is still effective today. Furry, feathered and scaled creatures saved many lives and brought a positive face to the pandemic. The author captures the historical threads of a darker time and brings light to the importance of animals in our lives.”

— Ken Gorczyca, DVM, Founding Veterinarian of Pets Are Wonderful Support, San Francisco


Check out a free preview of the book and an interview with the author.



That Sheep May Safely Graze: Rebuilding Animal Health Care in War-Torn Afghanistan


by David Sherman


Author David Sherman details a determined effort, in the midst of war, to bring essential veterinary services to an agrarian society that depends day in and day out on the well-being and productivity of its animals, but which, because of decades of war and the disintegration of civil society, had no reliable access to even the most basic animal health care.

“There are literally billions of animals (cows, sheep, goats, etc.) that often represent the only assets extremely poor rural families depend on for income, nutrition, status, power, fiber, fertilizer, fuel, and more. One of the major challenges facing these farmers and herders is the health of their animals. Paraveterinary (extension and clinical service) networks are often discussed but rarely well-established on any kind of sustainable and self-reliant basis. That Sheep May Safely Graze is an extraordinary story of success in building community-led, community-supported, and accountable networks of paravets who are protecting and enhancing the value of the livestock in Afghanistan. Their lessons learned are relevant to all of us engaged in livestock management, and it makes for a captivating and engrossing book on how things can get done when it matters to people.”

— Pierre Ferrari, President and Chief Executive Officer, Heifer International


Check out a free preview of the book and an interview with the author.



Animal-Assisted Interventions in Health Care Settings: A Best Practices
Manual for Establishing New Programs


by Sandra B. Barker, Rebecca A. Vokes, and Randolph T. Barker


Animal-Assisted Interventions in Health Care Settings: A Best Practices Manual for Establishing New Programs succinctly outlines how best to develop, implement, run, and evaluate AAI programs. The text explores benefits from a variety of perspectives, including how AAI can improve patient experience, provide additional career development for staff, and contribute favorably to organizational culture as well as to the reputation of the facility in the surrounding community.

“Barker, Vokes, and Barker’s book is a true gem! As a leading researcher and practitioner in the field of AAI, Barker and her colleagues have assembled a book that is rich in theory and practice. The pages are filled with best practice advice from seasoned practitioners who are not only aware of how to develop reliable and safe AA interventions for patients, but also strategies to preserve animal welfare. This is a must-read book for all professionals working in health care settings!”

— Aubrey H. Fine, Professor Emeritus- California Polytechnic University, and author of Afternoons with Puppy and the Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy

Check out a free preview of the book.


Other Recent Titles:

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Use discount code PURDUE30 to get 30% any book in this series on our website.


The Aviation Technology (AvTech) Library will be closed during the 2019 fall semester for renovations. During this time, the AvTech collection will not be accessible. Other library services will be available as follows:

  • Book returns: A book return drop-box is located in the lobby of the Niswonger Aviation Technology Building.
  • Requests: Even though the Aviation Technology Library collection will not be available during the fall semester, patrons may make requests for books, articles, etc., through Interlibrary Loan (www.lib.purdue.edu/services/interlibrary-loan). When notified, patrons can pick up items at the Library of Engineering and Science information desk (Wilmeth Active Learning Center, second floor).
  • Reserves: Course reserves can be accessed at the Library of Engineering & Science reference desk (WALC, second floor) . Some faculty members have made alternate arrangements for reserves, which they will communicate to their students.

We apologize for this temporary inconvenience and thank you for your understanding and patience while we renovate the AvTech Library. When the library reopens on January 2, 2020, there will be more space available and an improved atmosphere in which to study and utilize library services.

For more information, contact Operations Manager Craig Leavell at cleavell@purdue.edu.