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Yanfei Liu

Marketing Communications

TRANSFORMATIVE TECH

It’s like something out of science fiction.

Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Yanfei Liu is at the forefront of a new era in automatons with her research into robots that can adapt to their environment by literally changing their shape to respond to different needs.

These advances could completely change how we use and employ robots in everything from sports and entertainment to rescue missions and crisis scenarios.

Robots in Disguise

Liu builds and researches robots—all kinds of robots.

Her research focuses specifically on two types: mobile robots, which use different physical methods to traverse and react to different types of terrain, and modular robots, which have changeable and reconfigurable structures. Liu is then able to test how different robotic builds respond to different environments and needs.

“In different scenarios, these robots can be reconfigured into different shapes,” Liu explains. “It could resemble a snake at first, but it could also use wheels.”

One of Liu’s current projects is a modular robot equipped with a sensor, used to perceive and adapt to its surroundings. Based on the intelligence it gathers, the robot can automatically change into different configurations.

Modular robots could have a dramatic impact in crisis situations like rescue missions.

“If the robot has to go through a tube and enter an open space, a typical wheeled robot would just be too big to fit. But you can break them and put them in a long, worm-like configuration to get through the tunnel, and then change it into a regular wheeled robot once they’re on the other side. They can move faster and get the job done easier.”

Liu is interested in finding ways to improve robotic mobility while boosting the quality of their interactions with their human counterparts—but she and her team of student researchers don’t quite stop there.

“One of the projects we’ve done was to try to develop a robotics pet for dogs, so they could have interactive toys to play with.”

Raised in the Lab

In addition to her research, Liu teaches engineering to students at every level in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science, ranging from introductory courses on the fundamentals of engineering to graduate-level courses in robotics.

She’s currently developing tech electives for seniors in the engineering program to learn more about robotics and automation.

Involving students, both graduate-level and undergraduate-level, in her research is important to Liu, because it’s all about connections—especially when you spend so much of your time poring over circuit boards in a lab.

“Students can apply to different projects, and a coordinator will put them in the right project for their background and interests,” Liu says.

This kind of hands-on experiential learning often leads to networking opportunities for students with regional and national industry partners, turning their work in the IPFW labs into real prospects for a career after graduation.

Closing the Loop

One of Liu’s favorite things about teaching at IPFW is her ability to connect with students.

“We have a small student body,” she says. “They have a close relationship with their professors. Most of the courses that we offer at the junior level and above have 15 students. You actually know them well enough to guide them through the important steps in their studies, and even their professional career.”

Because Liu and other professors have opportunities to get to know students so well, she is able to recommend them for experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom.

“Hiring companies usually will come to us if they have a project in mind,” she explains. “They want to have a group of senior students work on it, because it’s beneficial to us and to them. The company doesn’t have to hire professional engineers, which costs a lot of money, and our students get real industrial experience.”

Many of Liu’s students land internships in local industries, beginning in their sophomore or junior year. The projects they work on during their internships will also typically count toward their coursework.

Liu’s students have found internship and career opportunities with industry leaders like Franklin Electric, Regal-Beloit, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Exelis.

RoboCup

Among their many accomplishments, Liu and her students had an opportunity to compete in the RoboCup Project.

RoboCup is an organization that works to stimulate interest in robotics and artificial intelligence by staging competitions between soccer-playing robots.

“We worked together to build a team of robots to play in the RoboCup competition,” Liu recalls. “We spent three years developing robots capable of competing.”

“Our role is to provide the hardware aspect, like sensors,” she explains. “If they’re building a robot that doesn’t have any sensors, there’s no way they can give it artificial intelligence. The robot would be blind—you’re trying to have him go over unknown places without sensing any information. He wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Liu’s background in modular robotics capable of perceiving and adapting to their environment played a critical role in developing robots that were able to bend it like Beckham.


PROGRAM SNAPSHOT: DEPARTMENT OF ENGINEERING

Transform your future. The Department of Engineering finds new ways to solve everyday problems and offers you opportunities to learn hands-on with the latest advancements in design and industry. We graduate builders, designers, leaders, and more. Our programs include civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Learn more.


Sue Minke

Marketing Communications

ON THE JOB

When students set out to find a co-op or internship opportunity, sometimes the circumstances don’t add up—which can be discouraging to the student and leave a gap in their educational track. 

Continuing lecturer for the IPFW Department of Accounting and Finance Sue Minke does what she can—which is a lot—to help students build the bridge to the opportunities they seek through her classroom experience and affiliation with IPFW’s Office of Academic Internships, Cooperative Education, and Service Learning (OACS). 

“We work really hard to prepare our students,” Minke says. “I think that’s one of the great things our department has to offer—we have a small staff, but we have a strong connection to our students. We see our students frequently during office hours and we’re all there trying to encourage them to look for opportunities. We have a very working-based student population who are financing their own education—these opportunities to get that work and those dollars in a field that relates to what they’re doing is really helpful to them.”

PARTNERSHIP FORMATION

After Minke graduated from college, she started out on the corporate side of her field—though teaching had always been in the back of her mind. After exploring roles in several major corporations, she started teaching part-time in a few different locations. This transition ultimately led her to Fort Wayne and then to a full-time position at IPFW.

“I’ve been here for about 15 years,” Minke says. “Every class I teach every day is different, even if it’s the same subject matter across semesters. The students have changed; the technology has changed… The world has changed. My own work is always changing because of that. It’s hard to believe it when people ask me how I teach the same class all the time because it’s never the same. Personally, my goals are always to look at those new things and to get those continuing education credits.”

Minke is also responsible for assisting accounting and finance majors in finding co-op jobs and internships—in just this past spring, 27 of her students were able to get co-op positions.

“We have a fabulous student body,” she says. “IPFW is a gem in this part of the state, and I am amazed all the time at how many people need to know more about it. I’m continually trying to get them to think ahead of where they are today and to be prepared—accounting was once the ‘bean counter’ role and that’s not the way it is anymore. We have fantastic students—they come from all kinds of backgrounds, all kinds of experiences, all kinds of ages. They work at different jobs. They bring so much to each class, but they’re here to find a path that works for them. They’re different every time and that’s what makes teaching so fun.”

ACCOUNTANTS’ REPORT

Minke mentions that mentoring students toward their future careers is one of the best parts of the job—her corporate experience allows her to see opportunities for her students that aren’t normally taught in the classroom. 

“At the beginning of every semester, I ask them for information about themselves to know what they’re working on in their lives, but I also ask them to write down what their dream is and what are they going to do about getting to that dream,” she says. “We talk about those halfway through the semester—it’s like checking to see where we are on that dream and how what they’re doing is going to connect them to where they really want to go.”

She’s often faced with students in other business majors who don’t want anything to do with accounting—in those cases, she tries to work with them and see how decisions get made in their field or personal life to see if she can approach the class material through their lens.

“I feel like my job is to dispel the myths of accounting,” Minke says. “People have this perception that accounting is dry and always the same and not useful, but many of my students aren’t even accounting majors. Accounting is relevant to everything a businessperson is going to do. I try to make it relevant, fun, and an exploration of the different sides of accounting that people just don’t think about.”

Minke’s approach includes looking at real-world companies and financial statements to view things from a decision-making standpoint. She asks her students how they would handle the transaction and what impact it will have on the financial statement in order to make the material connect for them.

“Accounting itself has been the same for hundreds of years, but how we communicate that information, how we prepare that information changes all the time,” she says. “The university is very aware of the new things that students need to have in order to stay current in the accounting and finance field. For many years, I think people have thought the role of accounting was to simply count the items. It’s so much more than that now—I think that surprises my students.” 

FUTURE VALUE

The Office of Academic Internships, Cooperative Education, and Service Learning (OACS) serves the faculty, students, and staff with scholarly and creative endeavors. OACS scouts out students with certain GPA levels and skills that employers are looking for—faculty members like Minke who work with OACS then have the students who qualify go to the office to register and look for open positions.

“My role in this—as the office handles all the logistics of the paperwork and so forth—is to be faculty advisor for the students,” she says. “I encourage students to get involved in the program and continue to encourage them while they’re waiting for that phone call for an interview. I visit the students once a semester during their employment time and that’s the best part of the whole experience for me because they get to show me things they’re working on.”

A lot of positive feedback rolls back in about the co-op and internship opportunities OACS is able to dole out. The students go to work every day like normal employees and employers have reported that they often forget the students are interns—that it feels more like they’re part of the team.

“It’s fun to watch them realize there are all these things that we can’t teach them in a classroom that they can learn with an employer,” Minke says. “They show me what they’re doing and I get to ask questions—they bring up spreadsheets and projects they’re working on, which often relate to my classes. Sometimes, I can then take some of the things they’re working on and bring those into my classroom so we can talk as a class about those projects and I can say, ‘See? I didn’t make any of this up. This is real stuff,’ which just makes it real for a lot of students.”

Minke keeps in contact with the employers that come back to continue their participation in OACS’ co-op and internship programs, and often tries to get them in to speak to her classes. She’s working on some projects with a few employers to enable some of the projects she gives her students in class to be based on real-world assignments. 

“We’ll change the names and numbers, but it’s a real assignment,” she says. “That connection is just really strong and I think it’s good for the students, good for the employers, and good for the university.” 

A high percentage of students who fill co-op or internship positions are then hired into the firm they work in—Minke ventures to guess in the ballpark of 70% or even higher.

“We have really seen an increase in demand in the last several years,” she says. “It’s always been a strong program for us. A few years ago when the economy wasn’t as strong, we had a decrease in the number of students working, but that was just one little decrease—it’s growing every semester and I think the reputation is strong. Fort Wayne is a small/big financial community, and the accounting firms and the other employers who know each other share the information about our program and its strength. We have a lot of connections.”


Department of Accounting and Finance

A program with as much variety as the industries it applies to? Money talks. Delve into the fast-paced world of accounting, a major that will open doors to just about any industry that interests you. Take advantage of what Career Services has to offer specifically to accounting students, get involved in a co-op program to practice your skills, or join the Accounting or Finance Societies to prepare for professional roles in the business world. We graduate financial managers, securities dealers, bankers, and more. Our program includes accounting, bank management, finance, business studies, and Post-Baccalaureate (PBA). Learn more.


Christopher Ganz

Marketing Communications

MAKING AN IMPRESSION

In the art world there are a few ways to experience relief. One of these is by observing someone working with the process of relief printing—when an artist carves a design into a block and inks the raised sections to stamp on a surface and create an image.

IPFW Associate Professor of Fine Arts Christopher Ganz is the expert on campus when it comes to this method of printmaking and makes enduring efforts to pass on an art form that dates back over a thousand years.

“I think the visual perception that I teach in all my classes makes the world a little bit more interesting,” Ganz says. “When I was a student and started learning all this, it made me really excited to learn more because I found that the more I looked around and tried to understand what I was looking at, the more interesting it became to me.”

LAYING THE MATRIX

Ganz went to the University of Missouri Columbia for his undergraduate schooling and originally intended to use his art requirement for a metalsmithing course. However, the metals professor was on sabbatical and printmaking was the only open class that met the requirement standards.

“I was also a work study student in the art building,” he shares. “I was just a janitor for the most part. I would go into the print shop and clean up and I didn’t even know what was going on. Then I eventually took a class in it and got it right away. Drawing was my main media—I love to draw—and when I went into printmaking, I realized it was basically drawing. It was a natural fit.”

He says he fell in love with the printmaking process as a whole—including the parts that were normally out of his control.

“I’d get results that were unexpected and it expanded my visions of how to create a piece of art,” Ganz says. “I didn’t come into things with preconceptions like I had before and I thought that was really important. The fact that I could make multiples and there were tests along the way also liberated me to take more risks making art, which is something I encourage in my students. That’s why I think it’s important for them to take printmaking, regardless of what type of artist they want to be.”

Since 2002, Ganz has been using his artistic skillset to teach others—all because he happened to see an ad for the position in the Indiana University printmaking studio in Bloomington, where he attended graduate school.

“I was teaching part time after I graduated,” he explains. “I didn’t plan on staying in Indiana necessarily, but I’m glad I found out about the position. I went out for an interview at a national conference for the College Art Association and met the chair and another professor who would eventually be my colleague. I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”

Part of what attracted Ganz to IPFW was the faculty—those he met at the conference were just the beginning of a professional and supportive network of individuals. It was also Ganz’s opportunity to create a space—he was able to take charge of his own printmaking facility.

I could tell everyone here was really passionate about teaching as well as being an artist.

“I could tell everyone here was really passionate about teaching as well as being an artist,” he says. “I felt that environment was just really positive. I enjoy how the students here come from all different types of backgrounds—because of my own personal background, I felt that I could relate to them well.”

MEET THE PRESS

Ganz teaches all levels of printmaking from beginning to advanced—he also teaches drawing, including foundations and figure drawing classes. In terms of printmaking, he primarily teaches etching, woodcut and relief, and monotype and lithography—recently he has been incorporating digital and photographic methods into his curriculum as well.

“Printmaking is really about graphic design,” he explains. “It has a lot to do with just blacks and whites, positives and negatives. One of the design teachers a few years ago said that printmaking was one of the best graphic design courses there is. I do have quite a few graphic designers that are encouraged to take my classes. For anyone who wants to do anything visual, printmaking’s going to really help with that sense of design, pattern, process, and order.”

Ganz shows his work annually at a national printmaking show situated in the Art Link Gallery in downtown Fort Wayne, which is a great opportunity for students to see work from artists all over the country.

“Generally, I give a talk before the opening and explain printmaking techniques to the students,” he says. “One thing I like to do as well is bring in visiting artists from other colleges or countries to show students how international the printmaking field is, because it goes on in every country and every nook and cranny of the world.”

Ganz’s art students come from all walks of life, but their connective factor is their curiosity about art and the art world. He says a lot of them come into the program not knowing too much about art, and then—once the gears start turning, so to speak—they really take off and do outstanding things.

“I’ve had some students go on to be really successful and open up their own businesses and go into graduate programs,” he says. “It’s exciting when that happens. I’ve also found that this school allows a real chance to build relationships with students—you’re with them a lot. Over the course of four or five years, you get to see a lot, see them grow and change, and that’s what I really enjoy—seeing the beginning and the end of at least their academic career here. They go on and do other things, obviously, but it’s exciting to have that chance to work so closely with them. I don’t think that’s typical of most universities.”

Ganz takes his students to national printmaking conferences so they can mingle with artists from all over the world—he also leads the study abroad trip to Italy, where he teaches drawing.

“Just for them to go and to see the greatest artwork ever made and to be in the presence of it and to realize that a whole culture of civilization is built around its art— that’s something that I think is very important in order to see how powerful art can be,” he says.

THE ARTIST’S PROOF

As he’s passing on what he knows to his students, Ganz remains aware that these students have a direct impact on the community at large.

“They’re the future of the community and the present, too,” he says. “They’re going to be the leaders of Fort Wayne. There’s a lot going on right now and I think students are more interested in making changes where they see changes that need to be made. They feel like the arts scene needs improvement and can get better. They want to be a part of it. They feel empowered now, more than I’ve ever seen, to take charge and feel like this is our town and our community. It’s important to support that.

“I also feel fortunate to be a part of that. It’s exciting to see where these students go. I can tell usually early on which students are going to be the ones who are going to really make a difference. There are more and more of them, and it feeds off of itself. The more that you can support the arts at IPFW, the more it’s going to blossom in Fort Wayne.”

Ganz has watched IPFW and his department grow in the years he’s been teaching at the university and believes that he and his colleagues have a better vision on how to make students become better artists because of that.

“Every year we get more and more of them out in the world doing amazing things,” he says. “I think I’m the proudest of the students and what they have done and how we’ve helped them to get to where they’re going. We’re a small department. We definitely have finite resources, but we do a lot with what we have. I’m excited about where things are headed.”

Ganz has experienced a lot of support from the department, college, and university levels—last summer he was able to spend two months in Venice, Italy, at a printmaking studio thanks to a summer research grant from the university. He was also awarded travel grants to go to conferences for smaller visiting artists, where he can travel and take his artwork with him. Grants from both the department and the university have been large supporting factors for his creative endeavor.

“I feel like we’re really lucky here,” he says. “I can’t say that I’ve ever been denied doing something just because someone didn’t feel it was worth it or there weren’t funds for it on campus. The dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts—John O’Connell—has been really supportive of faculty and their research, and so has the chair of our department, John Hrehov. Really, from Vice Chancellor Carl Drummond on down, the university been really supportive of faculty research and projects, and I just think there’s a lot of interest in the art program across campus.”

As an artist, Ganz wants to keep creating new work and developing his skills—as part of that, he hopes to continue his relationship with the Anne Nathan Gallery in Chicago, where he’s shown his work for the past five years. He would eventually like to show internationally and follow through with his plans to do a visiting artists residency in Venice again next year for his sabbatical.


PROGRAM SNAPSHOT: DEPARTMENT OF FINE ARTS

What shape does your art take? The Department of Fine Arts can help you hone your craft in modern studio spaces and connect your work with major regional galleries and organizations. We graduate painters, sculptors, printmakers, and more. Our program includes ceramics, painting, drawing, printmaking, metalsmithing, and sculpture. Learn more.


Cheryl Duncan

Marketing Communications

X-RAY VISION

Assuming that radiology and its associated technologies are as transparent as the X-rays they produce is far from accurate.

IPFW Chair of Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences and Clinical Assistant Professor Cheryl Duncan teaches students about radiological physics and image acquisition for the program—and has been for 20 years.

“With the challenge of instilling in students the idea that radiation protection is their responsibility, I am faced with the challenge of showing them how these invisible concepts of X-ray photo energy and the interactions of X-ray photons matter,” Duncan says. “How those invisible ideas impact what we’re going to end up with on the image and how they’re going to impact the radiation that a patient or anyone else in the room will receive—my challenge is trying to make those concepts visible for the students.”

LOCATING THE CAUSE

Duncan began her teaching career two decades ago at Parkview Hospital. Parkview transitioned the program to IPFW in 2010 and she opted to follow suit.

“The program has changed in a lot of ways and hasn’t changed a lot of other ways,” she says. “We have a bit of a different focus here on our development of faculty. We have more resources available for that. We are able to connect throughout the state and across the nation. It’s brought some different opportunities for faculty, which brings with it different opportunities for the students.”

IPFW supports its radiology program in a number of ways, but its largest contribution has been the lab space, according to Duncan. The resources and support the university has contributed to nurturing the program has allowed it to grow over the last few years—so much so that it’s now in the process of transitioning from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree.

This transition will allow the program to grow even more. It will expand the opportunities for our graduates.

“This transition will allow the program to grow even more,” Duncan says. “It will expand the opportunities for our graduates. We’re a growing field and we’re already sort of an overgrown associate degree. We have all this technology and all these advancements and changes in our field that we keep adding to the curriculum without taking anything out. It will really help our students to have a little more breathing room as they go through the program and it will also allow them the opportunity to explore some of the specialty areas in greater depth.

“It will open some doors for them, career-wise. If they want to move into management or go on to pursue a master’s degree, they will already have that baccalaureate degree completed. The degree transition is one of the things I’m most looking forward to because I’ll get to work with students on my content area and some projects related to it. I’m really looking forward to that opportunity.”

BENEATH THE SURFACE

Duncan’s courses focus on radiation physics involved with image production and evaluation and quality of the images produced. They also focus on X-ray production and X-ray interaction with scanned matter.

Duncan’s courses focus on radiation physics involved with image production and evaluation and quality of the images produced. They also focus on X-ray production and X-ray interaction with scanned matter.

“We’re preparing students for a career in medical imaging, specifically radiography—to be the individuals who take all the X-ray images,” she explains. “They could go into CT or MRI or other imaging modalities as well. Our students work with a lot of different clinical sites—many of them at Parkview, which we have a close affiliation with. They also do clinical rotations through St. Joe, Fort Wayne Orthopedics, and other local out-patient clinics.”

As soon as students start their clinical rotations they begin working alongside the technologists and performing procedures on patients. They’re taught these procedures in the lab on campus and—while they’re not actually taking X-rays yet—the students practice the positioning techniques, which they carry directly into their clinical work. Having the lab equipment and space on campus allows Duncan to bring the technology students will eventually be using in their careers into the classroom.

“While I’m lecturing, I can walk into the lab that’s connected to our classroom and show our students how scatter radiation actually impacts the room and how it will impact an image,” she says. “We have the technology to take images on phantoms in our room, process and look at the images, and then compare the radiation that was scattered and absorbed to the radiation that was transmitted.”

LOWERING THE OPACITY

Duncan believes that her students prefer a hands-on approach to the course material—which can be difficult to provide with content based mostly on the nonconcrete aspects of the science.

When I can walk into the classroom and pull that technology in as well as allow the students some hands-on experience, it really makes the difference.

“I think our field is very hands-on to begin with, but the content that I teach—again—is a little more abstract,” she says. “The physics of atomic structure and what’s happening with the photons and with X-rays is harder to grasp. When I can walk into the classroom and pull that technology in as well as allow the students some hands-on experience, it really makes the difference.”

Students come in at all different levels, according to Duncan, but the application process for the program is thorough—regardless of their starting point, students are prepared and motivated. The department looks at GPA, math and science grades, and pre-admission tests when sifting through applications. Duncan spends a sizable amount of time reviewing atomic structure and other basics so those concepts can then be applied to what students will learn about radiation.

“My focus is on safety and quality,” she says. “I want to make sure that when students graduate from our program—when they leave my classes—that they really understand the concepts they learn. However, I’m most proud of my students’ success. Our students graduate from the program and sit for a national registry exam. On that exam, our students score on average higher than the national average—that helps me to know that my methods of teaching are effective.”

Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences graduates are in high demand with area employers and across the nation. While most of the department’s graduates stay in the Fort Wayne area or within the region, the field opens a huge selection of doors for students.

“I think this program impacts the community in several ways,” Duncan says. “When our students are able to be in the clinical setting it keeps the technologists who are working with them and their departments on their toes. They have to answer questions that students are bringing them and they have to remember the concepts they learned in school. We have to keep learning as we practice.”


Department of Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences

Take a look inside one of the fastest evolving professions in healthcare. In the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiologic Sciences, medical and physical science come together for the purpose of medical diagnosis and treatment. Work alongside a radiologic technologist to apply what you’ve learned in class as well as the skills you’ve demonstrated in our lab. You’ll learn in a “high-tech, high touch” environment using state-of-the-art technology with a focus on communication and other critical soft skills. We graduate radiographers who can choose career paths like diagnostic imaging, special imaging modalities (mammography, CT, or MRI), management, education, and more. Learn more.


George Kalamaras

Marketing Communications

LARGER THAN THE SELF

It takes a certain perspective to put words to silence—and it takes a certain mind to craft creative and scholarly work. Not only separately at once, but in such a way that they coalesce.

Meet George Kalamaras—Professor of English at IPFW and former poet laureate of Indiana—who makes incredible things happen on campus and in the Fort Wayne community with words, research, and projects that bring writers and readers together.

“How do we engage in poetry so that it’s not simply expressing one’s thoughts and it’s not simply about one’s own person?” Kalamaras muses. “The basic idea—the core of the initiative that I took into the poet laureateship—was how can I serve the poetic community? How can I serve even people who are not poets and see that art is really everywhere?”

REACHING THE SUMMIT

Born in Chicago and raised in Indiana, Kalamaras found himself intrigued by the idea of returning to his Hoosier roots—which also meant nurturing his profession at IPFW amongst a faculty he admired.

“IPFW has supported me in a lot of ways,” he says. “They’ve supported my research through various grants and always acknowledging and seeing value in my work. I’ve always felt supported—not only as a teacher, but as a researcher, a writer, and a poet. There are some poets who have felt that academia is not the place for them—I have never felt that.”

He divulges that he often teaches his students lessons that he feels are good to review, himself—switching to “auto-pilot” can be easy to do unless one consciously slows down and reevaluates.

“If we slow ourselves down,” Kalamaras says, “and begin to translate out how to write a poem, how to look at the world, we can remind ourselves of what the process is.”

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

Kalamaras’ work doesn’t stop in the creative realm—he’s currently engaged in both scholarly research and creative endeavor at the university.

“My research is primarily on silence and my doctoral dissertation was on the rhetoric of silence—I was very involved in the ways that silence and language reciprocate and interact,” he says. “I’ve published many articles and a book on silence, particularly as it relates to the Hindu yogic meditative tradition.”

Kalamaras is also involved in composition studies and how writing can be made more accessible and available to students—on which he has published extensively as well.

And—of course—he is consistently active in the field of poetry with publication of his work and initiatives including the Wabash Watershed blog project, the Gray Barn Rising video series, and Project 411—a statewide collaborative poem for poets and non-poets alike.

“I know it has a funny name, but Project 411 is named such because the Wabash River runs untamed, un-dammed for 411 miles. What I did was I solicited lines of poetry and gathered 411 of these lines—from poets and non-poets—to emphasize that and bring others into this effort,” he says.

Kalamaras has published around 15 books of poetry—eight full-length books and seven chapbooks of poetry. His work focuses on the unconscious, perceiving it in a way that aligns with the conscious mind rather than as its rival.

“Surrealism as a literary and artistic movement is really delving into the intuition and our unconscious minds in deep ways so that we’re not simply intellectualizing about something,” he says. “This grows out of my interest in silence and how it reciprocates with language. I really am trying throughout my scholarly and poetic work to break down binaries and to not position things as ‘self’ and ‘other,’ but to see how they interact. The core of my poetry is built on breaking down distinctions.”

THE ROLE OF A POET

Poets come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t simply wear berets and dress in black and walk around and play bongos.

“I think that the poet laureate is extraordinarily relevant to the community at large because, if anything, the poet needs to break down the stereotypes that hem the poet into this idea or that idea of what a poet is,” Kalamaras explains. “Poets come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t simply wear berets and dress in black and walk around and play bongos. Some poets might do that and that’s perfectly fine, but—for example—the great William Carlos Williams was a pediatrician. Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive.

“The relevance of the poet is someone needing to speak deep inner truths. Someone needs to say that simply looking is of value. We often think that poets write about huge or extraordinary things—and sometimes we do—but the real importance of poetry is that it can be an attentiveness practice. It’s not the outcomes that I’m after so much; it’s the how and the why and in what ways?

“The practice of poetry changes my consciousness, and the yardstick for that is really, have I changed at all in writing a poem? Am I a better person? Am I kinder? Am I more open?”


PROGRAM SNAPSHOT: DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH AND LINGUISTICS

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John Licato

Valerie Gough

THE AI EFFECT

We’re all at least somewhat familiar with the idea of artificial intelligence—whether that familiarity comes from the Hollywood boom of science fiction films with an AI focus or the latest sassy response from Siri gone viral depends on your interests.

However, that’s what most of us have in relation to the integration of AI into our daily lives—interest. IPFW Assistant Professor of Computer Science John Licato has made it an integral part of his occupation.

“Humans, at their best, have this ability to simultaneously reason using concepts and reasoning about those concepts. This gives us sort of a flexibility of reasoning that we don’t see in any computer systems—even the most advanced,” Licato says. “I want to figure out how to get computers and robots to reason in that way.”

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FINDING THE BASE LINK

Licato started off as many computer science enthusiasts do—he wanted to be a video game programmer.

“I wanted to program the physics and then the AI, which is what got me involved in AI research—I just loved it,” he explains.

Now teaching courses primarily in AI machine learning, Licato spends a lot of his time building up his lab and researching AI and robotics with his students. He guides a team of 10–15 undergraduate and graduate students though research exercises, managing the workflow and ensuring that communication stays open so goals can be met.

“I was looking for a place that could really benefit from an AI program. If you think about the advances that we’ve seen in AI just in the past couple of years, manufacturing and food service industries are already benefiting from robots. We’ve have advances in fraud detection algorithms that can benefit insurance and healthcare industries.

Fort Wayne and this region are centers for all those industries, so this region is really poised to benefit from all these advances in AI.

“As it happens, Fort Wayne and this region are centers for all those industries, so this region is really poised to benefit from all these advances in AI. That makes IPFW, I think, an ideal place to do this research.”

A QUESTION OF SENTIENCE

Licato’s research is AI in general, but his specialty is what the experts refer to as cognitive robotics and human level reasoning. There are some things that humans can do that are still outside the realm of possibility for computers, such as the ability to reason from moral and ethical standpoints and to feel empathy. Licato strives to understand why that gap still exists and to see if he can bridge it in a practical way.

“If we think about the kinds of things that humans can do that robots still can’t—for example, I mentioned how we reason and have empathy for each other—we can come up with explanations and arguments for phenomena that we observe. I think—like it or not—we’re in an age where we’re starting to see things like the military deploying automated drones in combat situations. We’re seeing systems like Watson in healthcare environments. When these robots and systems are deployed—and a lot of them already have been—I think we wouldn’t want them to be completely amoral or unethical.

At minimum, we want them to to have at least some understanding of this human notion of common sense.

“At minimum, we want them to to have at least some understanding of this human notion of common sense.”

Licato approaches all of his courses in a similar way—with the belief that computer science is a very applied field, there is a lot of theory involved, and the learning becomes more concrete when the theory is applied to a hands-on project.

“What I tell the philosophers is, if you don’t know how to write it in code, then maybe you don’t understand the concept that well. I give [the students] a lot of chances to really implement things and use that in their learning experience. I try to get them involved in research as well, because I think that it really helps add to their overall understanding of what they’re dealing with.”

Licato tries to recruit some of his researchers from the classes he teaches and issued a general call for interest as well. The students selected—both from his class and who responded to the call—exhibited high motivation and, according to Licato, ended up being some of the best students to work with.

“They don’t say ‘no’ to challenges. They’re able to go a little farther, I think. We’ve already had three students within the past year that have gotten into internships—in part because of the research they were able to do here.”

FRAMING THE FUTURE

This year, Licato and his student researchers have been doing sizable foundational work for the road ahead.

“The question becomes how to do these things. It’s not an easy question to answer and that’s why I think this research is very important.”

Licato and his team have been in talks with some industries in conjunction with IPFW. Recently, they met with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership to understand how they could help better satisfy training needs in the region.

“IPFW has been very helpful. I’ve been working with Information Technology Services and they set up a private network just for our lab so we could have our robot communicate by WiFi as it moves throughout the building. Just the fact that we’ve been given this lab space is something that’s been extremely helpful. Everything you see here—the lab, the programed robots—all of it is a direct result of how hardworking the students are and the freedom they’ve been given.

“This is something that the students do—not because they have to for course credit or anything like that—because they’re proud of their research and they want to be able to give back to the community. The fact that we have the opportunity to do all of this is something that I’m proud of.”


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Joshua Pyburn

Marketing Communications

CARVING HIS OWN PATH

We tend to use the phrase “set in stone” to mean that something’s unchangeable, concrete, and stagnant. IPFW senior sculpting major Joshua Pyburn proves that this isn’t always the case—in life and in art.

“There’s that pride in working hard, and working hard with stone,” Pyburn says. “It’s heavy and it’s dusty, but when you’re done with it there is a tremendous sense of self-satisfaction.” 

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BUILDING THE ARMATURE

Over the years, Pyburn has undergone as much formation as his pieces—he’s lived in at least eight different places and one of those was for his deployment. Pyburn was a diesel mechanic in the military and retains a love of cars—which he also considers an art form, particularly in the paint and bodywork.

“I was born in Nashville, Tennessee. My dad is a horse trainer, so we moved a lot in the South,” he explains. “I moved to California when I went into the military, and then went to Iraq for a year. Then I moved back to Tennessee, and then I moved to Fort Wayne in 2008.”

He attributes that last move to Fort Wayne as his main reason for starting at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)—but he started as as a philosophy major.

“I acquired some basic classes, but then—when I realized that I actually wanted to just make art and go for it—I pretty much only had studio classes left to do. The good qualities I find with a smaller program is that your professors are aware of you—they are willing to talk to you and help you resolve issues as an artist, as a student, as a person, and help you navigate all of those,” Pyburn says. “In my first semester, the ceramics professor here—Nancy McCroskey—got to know me a little better, and I mentioned to her that I was interested in stone. 

I went down there for a week in 2013, slept in my car, and bought a bunch of chisels—and I met and learned from some really impressive, friendly people.

“I’d never carved stone or done anything artistically with it, but she mentioned a stonework symposium down in Ellettsville just outside of Bloomington. I didn’t have the money to go, so she referred me to the dean and student government to get money—and the dean was gracious enough to help me. I went down there for a week in 2013, slept in my car, and bought a bunch of chisels—and I met and learned from some really impressive, friendly people.”

Pyburn describes his experience at the symposium (and sleeping in his car) as humbling and decided that—if he really wanted to reach his goal—he would have to look past the trouble it took to get there. 

TRUTH TO MATERIALS

Pyburn’s medium of choice is Indiana limestone, which is usually used in construction—Fort Wayne is home to several official buildings majorly constructed out of the native material. Other famous structures such as the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and the Washington National Cathedral also have incorporated elements of Indiana limestone.

I’m just a hard-working, blue collar kind of guy who’s trying to make it work.

“I think of limestone, in a way, as a blue collar stone because of its multi-use,” Pyburn says. “Sometimes it’s just a wall. Sometimes it’s used as a relief carving, and I like that because I feel that way too about myself—like I’m just a hard-working, blue collar kind of guy who’s trying to make it work.”

Sculpting, for Pyburn, becomes a meditative experience—and he hopes that his finished pieces will have that same meditative effect on viewers. 

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“I realized that, when working with stone or working with any medium, I find a great value in that meditation—why not make pieces that people can meditate to, in a way? I make my pieces abstract enough to where they’re not obvious forms. One day you might see a face—and maybe another, you’d see a tree. But that perception is something that’s in them—that’s why I try to make my abstract work as vague as I can, but I’m also aware of what I’m possibly making the viewer see.”

What it really comes down to for Pyburn is what the viewer takes away from seeing his artwork. He often considers his work “completed” based on how someone reacts to it and the feeling it evokes.

“That’s what I’m really trying to do—I’m trying to create some kind of magical effect within them that I can’t experience. I want it to be their own experience.”

ROLEMODELING

Not only is Pyburn a college student, United States veteran, and a talented, thoughtful artist—he’s a husband and father, too. Balancing the two most important sides of his life can be tricky, but Pyburn is doing his best to nurture his family life and his art equally.

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“I have to go to some strange or funky places within myself to bring something out that’s worth looking at. Then the kids need food. Suddenly, I have to snap out of it,” Pyburn explains. “Moving out of that and going back into my work is difficult. I feel like being a good father and a good husband is very important. I also feel like expressing myself honestly through art is just as important. As time goes on, I’m getting better at it.”

Pyburn hopes that traditional art makes a return to the community and society at large—to him, it’s a missing link in the way we live now.

“3,000 years ago, the process was the same,” Pyburn says. “A Michelangelo sculpture or a Van Gogh painting has an effect on people—how were our brains any different then? How should it be any different that art has an effect on an engineering student or a math major? Once you make the work, it’s almost out of your control. I don’t know what will happen, but hopefully it does something—lights a candle within them or gives them a mental stepping stone to another place.”


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