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Filtering by Category: Scholarship

Rachel Rayburn

Marketing Communications

Turning the Corner

There’s a wealth of research available on what leads people to lose themselves in crime, drug addiction, and homelessness. IPFW Assistant Professor of Public Policy Rachel Rayburn wanted to know what motivates a person to come back.

“I’ve always wondered when you want to change your life, how do you do that? Why and how do people quit?” she asks.

Rayburn was inspired by a project launched in 1991 by Jim Wright of Tulane University in Louisiana. The project created a treatment program for homeless substance abusers.

She became fascinated by the opportunity for a “longitudinal study” of these individuals—to follow up with them over the course of their lives and their treatment.

At first, the task ahead of her seemed impossible. “’There’s no way you’re ever going to find any of them to re-interview them,’” she recalls being told. “They’re homeless, they’re drug and alcohol users, and Hurricane Katrina came and devastated the community and a lot of people left.”

  Rayburn leads a class discussion on assistance for those who need it most.

Rayburn leads a class discussion on assistance for those who need it most.

I said, ‘Just let me try.
— Rachel Rayburn

Confronting the Realities

Rayburn received funding through Purdue University to continue her work in Louisiana, tracking down participants in the 1991–2001 study, learning their stories, and researching rates of desistance and recidivism from crime and deviant behavior.

She was able to hire students from the Department of Public Policy to work as research assistants. They learned how to use the tools and research methods out in the field.

“They’re getting to talk to people. They’re getting to learn all about it,” she says. “It’s been very rewarding.”

Rayburn notes that while the experience and learning opportunities are profound, the lessons don’t always come easy. Many students struggle with confronting the realities of homelessness, poverty, and substance abuse.

“They’ll say, ‘I want to be a lawyer.’ ‘I want to be a police officer.’ ‘I want to work as a U.S. marshal.’ And I say, ‘Have you ever been in a cop car? Have you ever been in a jail? Have you ever been in a homeless shelter?’ And a lot of times the answer is no.”

To which Rayburn responds, “I guess we’re going to juvenile corrections today.”

Positive Impact

I try to take something that angers me or is not satisfactory and I try to do something about it.
— Rachel Rayburn

These confrontations may be difficult, but they can also inspire. Rayburn pushes her students to turn their frustrations with complex social issues and injustices into opportunities for making a positive impact.

“Find something that’s a social problem that angers you,” Rayburn tells her students. “It could be anything you want. You’re going to find a social problem and you’re going to do something to make it better.”


Program Snapshot: Department of Public Policy

Be foundational to a more open, green, and just society. Whether you’re interested in protecting the peace, the planet, or the rule of law, the Department of Public Policy has programs to connect you to your calling. We graduate lawyers, administrators, officers, and more. Our program includes criminal justice, environmental policy, health services, administration, legal studies, and public management. Learn more.


Abe Schwab

Marketing Communications

The Philosophy of Decision Making

How do we know what we know? How can we prove what we know and what we don’t? If we don’t know what we know, how can we possibly make the “right” decision in any given situation?

Associate Professor of Philosophy Abe Schwab wrestles with this philosophical conundrum on a daily basis. 

I’m looking at how people know what they know and what justifies them claiming to know what they know and how that then matches up with the decisions that they make.
— Abe Schwab

The Dilemma Unfolds

Schwab’s primary area of research focuses on the intersection of epistemology—that is, the philosophical theory of knowledge itself—and its application to medical ethics in real-world situations.

His inquiries help inform the decisions made by medical professionals in clinical environments that can seriously affect doctors and healthcare providers, as well as patients and their families.

  Professor Schwab's research has been highly published and publicized.

Professor Schwab's research has been highly published and publicized.

I’m curious how decisions go wrong in medicine, both for the physician and for the patient, and even the policy maker.
— Abe Schwab

By better understanding how our own perceptions of knowledge influence (and potentially limit) our decision-making capabilities, Schwab’s research could provide opportunities for better risk assessment and informed judgment when it matters most.

The Ethics of Research

In addition to his research into the very concept of knowledge itself, Schwab also works with research ethics, asking, “What does it mean to do research in the right kind of way?”

With this research into the nature of research, Schwab hopes to better understand how one does research while respecting the patient or subject while still arriving at robust conclusions that can guide better future medical practices.

 Professor Schwab opens up a classroom lecture to discussion with his students.

Professor Schwab opens up a classroom lecture to discussion with his students.

A Catch-22

In particular, Schwab is interested in the idea of conflicts of interest, especially those that appear unavoidable for one reason or another. He explains that—particularly in fields like healthcare—professionals will sometimes arrive at a conundrum where the “right” answer is not obvious.

Given the complexity of the field, it may not be practical—or even possible—to avoid these conflicts of interest entirely.

So now we have these unavoidable conflicts of interests … How should we handle those?
— Abe Schwab

Schwab has written extensively on this very subject, and while a definitive answer remains elusive, his thought-provoking research has thrown the door wide open for discussion and debate among philosophers, researchers, and healthcare providers.

Inviting Students to the Discussion

During his classes, Schwab often takes a seat to invite and encourage an open environment for intellectual debate. And while his students sometimes struggle with the difficult, provocative questions he poses—categorizing them as “unanswerable”—Schwab is quick to point out that the conclusion isn’t always the point.

The key difference is that I’m asking you unanswerable questions, but you assumed you knew the answer. Right?
— Abe Schwab

Schwab insists that the whole point of his ethics classes is to encourage his students to think critically about what they’ve always assumed. He presses his students to be good thinkers, to sort through information and recognize what’s important while discarding what is not.

In every situation, Schwab says, he wants his students to think about the decisions they make, and the how those decisions come with a question of ethics.


Program Snapshot: Department of Philosophy

Follow your curiosity. The Department of Philosophy offers courses in ethics and religious studies, in addition to both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions to deepen your understanding of the human experience. We graduate thinkers, lawyers, scientists, and more. Our program includes philosophy, ethics, and religious studies. Learn more.


Denise Jordan

Marketing Communications

Better Living through Better Knowledge

Health is proactive.

A healthier and more vital community starts with education, so that each individual is empowered to make better choices, recognize signs of distress, and understand how health impacts their everyday life.

The key is to put the necessary tools in the hands of those who need them.

IPFW Clinical Assistant Professor Denise Jordan is at the forefront of this push to educate citizens of northeast Indiana on how to take charge of their healthcare, and she’s training a new generation of nurses to keep up the good fight.

  Jordan speaks with a patient during an examination.

Jordan speaks with a patient during an examination.

Empowering Those in Need

We focus on health promotion and disease prevention through education.
— Denise Jordan

Like any other discipline, education for Jordan’s students begins in the classroom.

But to accomplish their goal of empowering those in need, she and her students move beyond the classroom walls and into the community, where their expertise is needed most.

This direct interaction with citizens—from individuals with preexisting health conditions to those who simply want to make better, more informed decisions about their healthcare—is a real opportunity to put clinical theory into practice.

A Different Perspective on Healthcare

“When they come to Community Public Health Nursing, they’re using to being in a hospital at the bedside where they’re doing tasks,” explains Jordan.

Nursing students who are used to strictly clinical environments, or the classrooms where they are trained, may have too narrow of a perspective on what it means to be a healthcare provider. They expect hanging ID tags, distributing medication, and changing dressings to be the vast majority of their work in patient care.

  Jordan speaks to volunteers during Focus on Health.

Jordan speaks to volunteers during Focus on Health.

All of which are important. But to Jordan and her students, these tasks are only part of the job description.

“It’s kind of a paradigm shift when I get them in the community to realize, well you know, education is our thing,” she says. “We can heal, and save, and we can do a lot more with preventative health than you can ever do on the opposite end.”

A More Proactive Education

They begin to think about how to provide health prevention strategies for a large number of people. They begin to think about the greater good.
— Denise Jordan

Jordan impresses upon her students the need to be well rounded, well informed, and able to adapt to the tasks at hand.

In addition to clinical knowledge and a push for community empowerment, she encourages her nurses-in-training to understand the less-obvious facets of their careers in healthcare. This might include how to organize a community health fair or other community events focused on promoting better health practices.

“I tell them that, at the senior level, you don’t just walk into an event and just walk out. It is important that you know what happened, what transpired to create this community health event, because as graduate, you may be asked to do this,” she says.

With this philosophy in mind, along with the education ideals outlined in IPFW’s baccalaureate framework, Jordan prepares her students for life after Commencement.

She trains her students on how to become better communicators—not only with their patients, but prospective employers as well.

Her students come away from her courses prepared not only to excel at the bedside or a public health information session, but also in a job interview.

“We say that when our students graduate from IPFW, they can walk into the boardroom at Parkview, at BAE, or wherever,” she explains.

This is Jordan’s philosophy of teaching: that with a better education comes empowerment—and with it, a healthier, better life.


Program Snapshot: Department of Nursing

Follow your calling to help others. IPFW nursing students enjoy access to the booming regional healthcare industry, professional expertise, and hands-on experiential learning opportunities. We graduate nurses, technicians, healthcare advocates, and more. Our program includes maternity nursing, transcultural healthcare, leadership in nursing, and medical ethics. Learn more. 


Curtis Crisler

Marketing Communications

The Liars and the Truth-tellers

IPFW Associate Professor of English Curtis Crisler is interested in the truth—and the lies we use to tell it. 

Seeing poetry as a reflection of who we are as individuals, Crisler writes and teaches in pursuit of our most fundamental truths. He’s quick to suggest that “poets are the most truthful of liars,” and his workshops are designed to help his students find their own truths through creative expression.

Tracing Migrations

Crisler, an accomplished author of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, has researched and written extensively on what he calls “Urban Midwestern Sensibility” and its origins in historical Southern migrations.

He often finds himself writing about the people who packed up their belongings—and their stories—and migrated north in search of prosperity, tolerance, freedom, and opportunity. 

He hopes to capture the voices of those intra-continental migrants who kept records of their journeys, their lives, their deaths, and how they lived and moved.

  Crisler looks on as his students take up performance poetry in the classroom.

Crisler looks on as his students take up performance poetry in the classroom.

Beyond Genre

One of his best-known works, Tough Boy Sonatas, blurs nonfiction, poetry, and young adult fiction. Taking the lessons he learned from writing Sonatas during his MFA years, Crisler now encourages his students to bend genre and blur the distinction between poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

When it comes to the truth, such distinctions aren’t always useful.

We’re addressing how to perform poetry as well as how to find poetry.
— Curtis Crisler

He encourages his students to write creatively, but also read creatively—to go out in search of contemporary poets, poets of color, and those whose work lives beyond the conventions of traditional genre.

Interdisciplinary Poetry

Crisler treats poetry—performance poetry in particular—as an opportunity for interdisciplinary examination on the part of his students. In fact, finding in-roads and connections between poetry and their academic discipline is a major component of his undergraduate classes.

“Even if I’m in computers, or electronics, or engineering, at the end of the degree, you have to do an assignment, and then write a proposal,” he explains. “And they have your teachers, your peers, and people from the community come and see you.”

By learning to read, interpret, and perform poetry publicly, Crisler’s students learn important skills for public communication—how to hold an audience’s attention, how to speak from a place of confidence, and how to embody the topic at hand.

  Professor Crisler has published a variety of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and mixed genre works.

Professor Crisler has published a variety of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and mixed genre works.

The Tools of the Poet

“I always have people come to me from math and biology telling me how the techniques that I use in poetry helped them in their other genres of learning,” Crisler says.

Crisler likens the lessons his students learn in his workshops to the tools in a toolbox. If they lack a skill needed to accomplish something, they must go out and find it first. 

Poetry is like that, he suggests. It can be learned, manipulated, and adapted to other situations—personal, academic, and professional.

In Pursuit of Voice

They have to have a voice.
— Curtis Crisler

One of the first goals for his students is helping them find their voice—to help them understand how to say what they have to say, and why they need to say it.

“The reason that you like whoever it is that you like and read, it’s because of their voice,” he says. “When they connect with their voices, they begin to see how to address that in any writing.”

Students who know their voice can go on to perform better in persuasive essays, grant proposals, job applications, and in any context where speaking with confidence and purpose is essential. 

The poetry of the self thus becomes a lifelong skill.


Program Snapshot: Department of English and Linguistics

Thoreau. Plath. Dostoevsky. You. Discover the works of literary giants, find your own voice, and research the scientific origins of language in the Department of English and Linguistics. We graduate authors, teachers, linguists, and more. Our program includes communication media, language, literature, writing, and teacher certification. Learn more. 


Damian Fleming

Marketing Communications

Meeting the Medievalist

The past still thrums in Associate Professor of English Damian Fleming’s office.

Styling himself as a medievalist, Fleming scrutinizes the looping serifs of Old English imprinted on yellowed parchment encased between leather-bound sleeves. Translation is a meticulous process, and every year the bygone days of ancient England slip further into the fog of antiquity.

But ancestries still echo in the brown ink, and Fleming’s pursuit is relentless.

The Cascades of Language

I am the medievalist.
— Damian Fleming

Fleming’s research primarily focuses on the literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England, dating from approximately 700 to 1100 A.D.

  Plumbing the depths of medieval manuscripts is key to Professor Fleming's research.

Plumbing the depths of medieval manuscripts is key to Professor Fleming's research.

These texts are written in either Old English, the precursor to our modern dialect, or in Latin, the official language of the Catholic Church at the time. But scholars will note that religious texts, including the Bible, were originally written in Hebrew.

That’s where Fleming’s research comes into play: he wants to better understand how medieval scholars interpreted the translations of these texts from the original Hebrew—especially in light of the fact that Anglo-Saxon England was not home to a Jewish population, and very few could actually read Hebrew.

Everything medieval religious scholars knew about Hebrew and Judaism came directly from these texts—texts that were written in a language most could not understand.

See the conundrum?

An Opportunity to Touch History

As part of his research, Fleming looks at original manuscripts from the middle ages—thousand-year-old tomes, many of which have never been fully edited or translated.

  As part of his research, Professor Fleming studies ancient tomes firsthand.

As part of his research, Professor Fleming studies ancient tomes firsthand.

Fleming makes frequent trips to England to walk the stacks and trusts of its oldest libraries, including Oxford University and the British Library in London, to reach out and touch the withered pages directly.

During his visits, Fleming works to translate these ancient texts, scouring them for evidence of interactions between medieval scholars and one of the world’s oldest languages.

Finding a connection could help modern day language and religious scholars better understand the very roots of their field.

Recruiting Scholars

I call my students my junior medievalists, or my junior Anglo-Saxonists, or my junior Latinists.
— Damian Fleming

Fleming readily admits that his classes are difficult—learning to read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English or Beowulf in Old English is, of course, no simple feat.

The process is slow going and not immediately rewarding.

  Professor Fleming discusses translating texts with the next generation of medievalists.

Professor Fleming discusses translating texts with the next generation of medievalists.

But the enthusiasm Fleming brings to his classroom inspires his students to work hard, do their best, and earn their mantle as fellow scholars and colleagues. His students come away from his courses with a hard-won sense of accomplishment and pride in their ability to participate in academic circles as equals.

Much like the echoes of the past still housed in the volumes beneath Oxford University, these feats of scholarly achievement make a lasting impression on Fleming’s students.


PROGRAM SNAPSHOT: DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH AND LINGUISTICS

Thoreau. Plath. Dostoevsky. You. Discover the works of literary giants, find your own voice, and research the scientific origins of language in the Department of English and Linguistics. We graduate authors, teachers, linguists, and more. Our program includes communication media, language, literature, writing, and teacher certification. Learn more. 


John Niser

Marketing Communications

The Art (and Science) of an Industry

Any chef worth his or her salt will tell you: hospitality is more than simply entertaining—it’s all about creating an experience.

Chair of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management John Niser is especially dedicated to these experiences, for both his patrons and his students.

  Chair of the   Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management John Niser tests the aroma of a meal prepared by his student chefs.

Chair of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management John Niser tests the aroma of a meal prepared by his student chefs.

His comprehensive, hands-on approach to mentoring and training hospitality and culinary students provides a second-to-none learning environment for the next generation of restaurateurs, chefs, managers, and hospitality professionals.

Academic Laboratories

Among the signature features of Niser’s programs are the opportunities for students to step out of the classroom and into the trade.

The Holiday Inn at IPFW and the Coliseum and the Palm Island Resort in Florida serve as “academic laboratories” for hospitality management students—places where they can roll up their sleeves and get to work while contextualizing concepts and theories.

  This spring's authentic restaurant learning environment at IPFW Holiday Inn is Polish food at Plock Tavern.

This spring's authentic restaurant learning environment at IPFW Holiday Inn is Polish food at Plock Tavern.

Much More than a Vocation

There’s a very big difference between what we’re doing and what a vocational school would be doing.
— John Niser

Niser differentiates his programs from those offered by vocational schools by stressing the importance of a practical learning environment.

In the hotels and kitchens he oversees, students learn first-hand the vernacular of their trade as it unfolds around them.

By building his curriculum around practical experiences and hands-on training, his students absorb both technical theory and applicable knowledge.

Learning to Lead on Their Own

I’m not easy in the classroom with these things because this is the place where it becomes real.
— John Niser
  Niser carefully inspects the quality of his students' work.

Niser carefully inspects the quality of his students' work.

In addition to practical experience, Niser presses his students to understand, manage, and apply the science behind their trade right down to the molecular level—like when they’re pulverizing ingredients in the kitchen. He believes in turning his students into leaders in their own right.

In a restaurant management course, students are charged with running a real restaurant over the course of 10 weeks. During this time, they prepare meals—as many as 400 dishes on a busy night—and engineer the menu under Niser’s guidance, as if they were at the helm of their very own business.

This approach promotes leadership and confidence, and Niser’s students recognize it. He notes that his students often come to him at the end of the semester and thank him for challenging them to come up with their own ideas and put what they’ve learned into practice.

  Niser's students gain hands-on experience in a fully equipped kitchen—this spring Plock Tavern.

Niser's students gain hands-on experience in a fully equipped kitchen—this spring Plock Tavern.

Booming Business

Careers in hospitality are among the fastest growing in the world. By combining excellence in scholarship with practical, hands-on learning environments, Niser is working to propel his students to new heights with their own career goals after graduation.


PROGRAM SNAPSHOT: DEPARTMENT OF HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM MANAGEMENT

Experts in hospitality are at your service. In the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, learn from the very best industry professionals in hotel and restaurant management, event planning, and food and nutrition sciences. We graduate restauranteurs, chefs, nutritionists, and more. Our programs include hospitality management, and food and nutrition. Learn more.