Ideas Magazine is an exhibition catalog meant to contextualize and illuminate the work of the researchers, leaders, and creators who visit Purdue’s Honors College as part of the annual “Visiting Scholars” series. Content of the magazine is created by members of the Visiting Scholars seminar class and the magazine’s student editor.
Ideas in a Time of Crisis
Volume 2 of Ideas Magazine is the second half of a year-long pedagogical experiment. Launched in Fall 2020 by Kristina Bross, Associate Dean for Research and Creative Endeavors in Purdue’s Honors College, the question behind Ideas was a simple but urgent one: how do we continue to nourish close intellectual community during a global pandemic, when distance of many kinds has altered regular practice? The Visiting Scholars Series—a program through which the Honors College partners with other colleges and departments around Purdue University to bring esteemed guests to campus—had gone online, as had many of our students. The “residential” aspect of the Honors College, so much a core part of our identity as Purdue’s only academic-residential college, felt different as the borders of our community expanded around the globe. Professor Bross’s redesign of the Visiting Scholars Seminar aimed to rethink a cornerstone of the academic experience—how we go about experiencing and discussing ideas as a community of diverse but connected thinkers—using the latest in digital teaching technologies. Volume 1 of Ideas Magazine was one of the results of that redesign, and it collected a series of “artifacts” produced by the students enrolled in the Visiting Scholars Seminar in an effort to bring the larger conversation of the Visiting Scholars Series to a wider public. You can access Volume 1 here: https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/ideas/one/
The most important thing to recognize about Ideas Magazine, then, is that it is more than compensatory. Yes, SARS-CoV-2 was the occasion for its development, but the innovation goes beyond the question, “how do we make do in an asynchronous, online learning environment?” The question to which Ideas Magazine is the answer is, rather, “what opportunities now exist to create methods for communication and outreach that we might want to continue after the pandemic ends?” Indeed, you will see that how we, as a thinking collective, communicate our ideas, and to whom, is one of the most urgent conversations that animates the volume now before you.
Volume 2 of Ideas continues the work of Volume 1, but it also differs in important ways: it focuses on a new line-up of visiting scholars, activists, and artists; it contains the work of a new group of undergraduates enrolled in the VS seminar; and instead of being produced by a team of student editors, it is the work of one: the very talented Jannine Huby, an alum editor of Volume 1 who spent Spring 2021 working closely with me and with the students enrolled in the Visiting Scholars course.
The collaborative nature of the project speaks to the learning goals and methods of the Honors College. As an interdisciplinary college dedicated to building bridges between different types of inquiry, intellectual cultures, and people, we prize peer-to-peer and project-based learning, and we incubate new pedagogies that extend beyond the classroom. The Visiting Scholars Series and seminar both evidence this approach: the series connects partners across campus to bring in specialists from a wide array of fields, and the course brings together students from across the university, each arriving with a different academic skill set and viewpoint. Together, these students discuss and debate the ideas of our visitors, and they bring their own experiences to bear on the work. While all students engage with each visiting scholar, they also collaborate in small, interdisciplinary teams to focus on the work on one visitor and to produce content for Ideas Magazine. The basic structure—in which Purdue students connect with the scholarly and artistic work of people outside the university, wrestle with it collectively, and then produce material aimed at making that work more readily available to a broader public outside of the course and the university—is underwritten by a belief in the value of breaking down traditional barriers to knowledge. Even the tag-team approach to course design taken by Professor Bross and I, in which the second semester of the year-long pilot built upon and drew lessons from the successes of the first, speaks to our core principle of innovation through collaboration.
Everything about Ideas Magazine has been co-created with and by students. Student teams researched, sourced, and annotated the background materials that participants in the seminar read to prepare for the visiting scholar visits; students worked together to develop a deeper understanding of those visits through online discussions; and students then produced artifacts for submission to Ideas Magazine—which has been edited by student taking an adjacent course on academic publishing.
In a time of crisis, when we have all felt separate from one another, we have been able to come together around ideas. Our hope is that we can now also come together around Ideas.
Emily Allen is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Purdue Honors College. She was the instructor for HONR 299: Visiting Scholars Seminar in Spring 2021.