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This article is part of the Inform Purdue 2017 information literacy campaign. Read more about it at blogs.lib.purdue.edu/news/2017/10/12/inform-purdue-2017/.

Amanda Wegener, Purdue UniversityAs part of her coursework since she arrived at Purdue University as a freshman, Amanda Wegener, a junior interior design major, has been learning to apply her information literacy skills.

“As an interior designer, I have a background in basic design, and since my first year here, I’ve been analyzing and critiquing designs. In our courses, we’re taught to think like designers and see the world the way they see it,” Wegener explained.

For her freshman history honors course, her assignment was to analyze the designs of NASA mission patches, which turned out to be a perfect opportunity to apply her information literacy skills and engage with primary research materials in the Purdue University Archives and Special CollectionsBarron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives.

“When I was researching NASA mission patches and the preliminary drafts of the designs and the thought processes behind their designs, I mentally dissected the elements–to see how each of them served a purpose to enhance the purpose of the whole. I also thought about how the psychology of color plays into the color choices and how the shapes played into the design and how the designers used symbolism to represent parts of the mission or the crew,” she added.

Under the mentorship of History Professor Michael G. Smith, Wegner took her research one step further and submitted her work to “Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly,” where her research was published.

Wegener said that learning to use information and interpret and apply it has been integral to her success at Purdue. In a brief Q&A piece below, she talks about information literacy and its importance for her current and future projects and experiences.

Q. What are ways that you are learning to use information at Purdue that will be useful for your future professional (or personal) endeavors?

A. There are a number of ways I’ve been getting experience seeking out and utilizing information over my last couple of years here. I’m an interior designer, and research is critical to our field, both the softer side of understanding clients and determining their needs in a space, but also a more scientific side of a current space, what materials are made of and how that affects a space, or how to figure out how much lighting a space needs. Then all that information, technical or vague, needs to be transformed into multiple languages, one for the client, another for designers, and another for contractors.

One super helpful thing I’ve learned at Purdue is how to communicate with people from vastly different fields with completely different vocabularies. I’ve been able to explore how to use terms they understand to communicate a concept from my world. This is something I started realizing I loved doing in high school—translating one person’s jargon into another so that others can understand. This will be super helpful as a designer, but also in communicating with any and every individual I may come across.

Q. Describe a time when you learned to use information in a new way to help you accomplish something.

A. For so much of many students’ college careers, they are focused on learning the facts so they can regurgitate them on tests. But when doing original research on primary materials, there are so many little details about history that you could never discover in a history book or course. It makes history relevant and fascinating because it makes it real and personal, and people care about that and find it interesting. People keep asking me about my work this summer since I’ve been “on the inside” in a way, but not even really, with the Amelia Earhart story. Since I worked with the Frederick Noonan collection, I learned many details about Earhart’s last flight, and I always had interesting updates for my friends and family, which provided quite a handy topic of conversation that all parties enjoyed.

In other ways, I’ve used my experience as a history research student in research more directly related to my major, such as my research this last spring about sustainable lighting design and also in my work last summer at in the ASC.

Q. Have you learned to use information in a course that you have applied to a different situation?

A. My research with Flight Paths was on the design of NASA mission patches, which information I used recently, when the Archives was contributing to an event at the Gus Grissom Museum. We said we would provide an activity for children, and I designed a worksheet for them to design their own patch with some small description on what flight patches were. I also made a more detailed sheet, which included three NASA insignia and some of the thought process behind those designs, for adults. It was also interesting to go back and forth and see how researching NASA design influenced my design work and how being a designer helped me understand how the NASA insignia were designed—it went both ways.

As for the courses in my major, I have used that information in all kinds of other spheres in my life, especially in my “Interior Materials and Finishes” class from last spring. I’ve been advising a friend and her dad who are replacing the flooring in a small business they own, or helping another friend pick out paint sheen, or giving suggestions to the Residence Life Manager of my apartment building about counter tops. It comes up in all kinds of casual conversations with friends and goes way beyond the classroom.


“Inform Purdue,” Purdue Libraries’ Information Literacy Social Media Campaign, to Launch Oct. 16
Inform Purdue: Purdue Libraries’ Information Literacy Celebration