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Faculty Stories - Tell Me Your Why podcast

What is your "Why?"

When one thinks of the role of faculty advancing and sharing new knowledge and in preparing the leaders and citizens of tomorrow, it’s easy to focus almost exclusively on the “what” they do. After all, this is how we measure the impact of their work on students, society, their field.

At least, this is one of the obvious ways to measure that impact. Quite some time ago, I discovered that there is another question that interests me more to truly understand the impact of faculty work: why they do what they do. This question not only gives context to the human stories that drive our mission, it gives it life and purpose. Our own “why” in Faculty Affairs is to create an environment where every faculty member is seen in their whole identity, inundated with positive experiences throughout all stages of their career, and has a sense of belonging to their academic communities.

As part of the recognition of the extraordinary individuals that make up our community of scholars and educators and the equally extraordinary work they do, I introduce short conversations with faculty across the entire university highlighting the deep personal motivations that fuel their passion. This is their story. This is their “why."

- Patrick Louchouarn, Senior Vice Provost for Faculty

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Podcast Episodes

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Episode 1

Terry Esper

Terry Esper, professor of logistics in the Department of Marketing and Logistics at the Fisher College of Business, joins the podcast to talk about his educational and professional journey, and how his trajectory was enhanced when he stepped back to focus on his "Why?"



Episode 1 transcript

Patrick Louchuoarn [Intro]: Welcome everyone. I’m Patrick Louchuoarn and I am your host of faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why. In this podcast, I ask faculty to share what drives their work, what they do what they do. This question not only gives context to the human stories that drive our mission, it also provides a life and purpose. The Faculty Affairs, our own why, is to create an embalmment where every faculty is seen with their own identity. Inodiated with positive experiences throughout all stages of their career. This is why we shine a light on these extraordinary individuals. We complete each discussion by asking our guests for pieces of advice to share with the next generation of scholars. These unscripted conversations are as diverse and unique as each of the individuals. Yet, they have one thing in common. The passion that fuels the work of these dedicators, innovators, and public servants. Join me in following their stories.

Patrick Louchouarn: Well, good morning, Terry.

Terry Esper: Thank you. Thank you. So good to be a part of this discussion.

Patrick Louchouarn: So, you and I had a discussion, not too long ago, and I really enjoyed both the discussion and of course, your Ted talk and I would like to elevate that work in that conversation and your experience, and for the benefit of others. So, I hope you don’t mind sharing with me a little bit of that story of yours. So, we can actually, the purpose of our conversation is to help other faculty understand how to build their own

story and how to identify, more importantly not so much to what they do, but the why they do it. So, if you don’t mind introducing yourself and also when did you join OSU?

Terry Esper: Yeah, hey. So, thank you. Thank you for that. So, I’m Terry Esper. I’m on faculty in the Fisher College of business. I’m in the department of marketing and logistics, and I joined Ohio State in 2017. My background was such that I spent a lot of my my educational train my my years in educational training as well as in my career as a part of the Walmart ecosystem. So northwest Arkansas and and Bittenville, Arkansas, where you know, of course, the world’s largest retailer kind of hails from small town America. So, I spent a lot of my years navigating through Northwest Arkansas. And really, you know, leaning into issues associated with retail and how retail is done and really getting into the, if you will, the the the quote unquote guts of retail right? So, I am in logistics and supply chain management. So, you know my area of focus is, you know,

center on how products get to the marketplace and how we go about making sure that products stay on shelves. And how do we prevent stock outs and shortages? But at the same time, make sure that we don’t have too much. And so so thinking about concepts such as inventory and and transportation, and, you know, merchandising of product at retail. And so so that’s been kind of my my narrative, and the things that have made me Terry Esper: tick throughout my career. Even in my industry experience, before I decided to become an academic. And I I would say that over the years I’ve looked at that that whole area of from the the company side of things, right? As a business scholar, really thinking about the retail companies themselves, and how they can best and most effectively execute. But then, you know, there has been another side of of the work that I’ve done that has looked at that whole conversation from this perspective of the consumer. So thinking about people like you and I, and how we engage with retail, and how we go about getting the products and merchandise that we need in order to live our lives. And so that’s been a a part of kind of what I’ve built over my years as an academic. In fact, I’m celebrating 20 - 20 years of post-PhD. Got my PhD in 2003, and of course in between 2003 and 2017 when I arrived here at Ohio State, I spent some time navigating through a few other universities to kind of buildup that body of work that I brought with me to to OSU and and built on since I’ve been here.

Patrick Louchouarn: Wow! Fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing your journey both from you know corporate American professional world, and you know not directly into into academia. By the way, congratulations you are celebrating being promoted to full professor as well, if I’m not mistaken.

Terry Esper: Absolutely, yeah.

Patrick Louchouarn: This is something that I don’t want to forget to mention because your work is recognized for its scholarship and you know, as an instructor, and also as this scholar. I am really fascinated by what you work. Of course. The last few years have taught us 2 words that used to be embedded within either corporate America or Academia. One is epidemiology and the other one is logistics and supply chain. And you’re you know, you’re pretty engaged in the second one and it’s a relatively small field, if I understand correctly, in terms of research and academia, both you know, with at the US and and you know internationally. So, would you mind sharing with us your why? Why is it that you went that way particularly with respect to the research? And and how did you discover that why? I know you make a very compelling case in your Ted Talk, but I'd like for you to share it, if you don’t mind.

Terry Esper: No, it’s a it’s a great question, thank you. And in fact, I’ll even take you back even back to a time when I was early in my career and I was actually at a truck stop in a a way station in a small town called Fordice, Arkansas. Okay? I would. At the time I was working, doing some work for the United States Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. And I was early in my career, and I was doing a surveys of truck drivers, and I was in small town Fordice Arkansas pulling trucks off of the highway and doing what was called a commodity flow study. So you know, asking about the various products and commodities that they were hauling over those highways and where they were headed. And so, so we. I was doing some work to kind of look at traffic patterns within transportation. And at that time, I was solely focused on transportation. That was kind of my area and in the process of you know, asking these truck drivers, you know what they were calling and such, one of them said, Terry Esper: hey, you know, can you speed this up? You know, I’ve got somewhere I have to be. And honestly, that was a light bulb because I just I I guess it it never occurred to me that they that that truck drivers were on on a time schedule. Secondly, he said, hey not only do I have to be somewhere but the stuff that I got back here man, some people are waiting to buy this stuff. And it just never occurred to me to think about the connection between transportation and merchandising a product and retail and business. Actually, I just saw transportation and trucking as a kind of an entity. But I didn’t. Early in the and I was 21 or 22. I didn’t make those connections to the fact that these trucks that we see on the highways are actually a part of the process for me to live my life daily, to go and buy a bottle of water or to go buy a can of Coca-Cola, right? That that what’s going on on the highways is connected to me. That was that was a light bulb moment for me, and in fact, the guy told me he said, hey man, it’s called logistics. I never heard of that term before. That was the first time I heard about logistics, and what was interesting to me about it was that once I started to do some old school research on it, I couldn’t Google it, right? So, I went and did some old school research. And I learned about logistics. And it was this invisible entity that the majority of people in the world don’t even really know about. It’s like this invisible web of interconnectedness that is responsible for getting stuff to you. And most people take it for granted because the the majority of stuff that we want is there, right? So it’s not until we start to see that there are shortages and things like the last couple of years. That’s why the conversations about logistics kind of hit the hit the hit dinner tables at night because we were dealing with significant shortages in the market, and people started to associate that with logistics and supply chain. I had that revelation back in I think that may have been 1990 , 5 or so when I when I when I had that encounter with that truck driver that was the beginning of that why. Because at that moment, I was exposed to the fact that I had been taking for granted a whole system of processes that was working behind the scenes that I had no idea about, right? And so, I was intrigued enough by that I decided to go back to school and study logistics, and then I became a part of that whole Walmart ecosystem, where, you know, they were really at that time leveraging logistics and supply chain in the way that most of the companies were not. And so, it was a fantastic experience. But again, part of that, why started at that truck way station where I my eyes were open to just the the the the world of logistics and supply chain management that the majority of people in in the world probably don’t think about, or maybe even like me, take for granted. So, I do, I I I I I commit to it. I do the work in it. I’m a practitioner. I go back to school, I get the doctorate, I study it, all those things. But I will say to you. There was still a a itch for me relative to that whole why. You know, I gotten intrigued

enough about the fact that this was this invisible entity out there that was so important, and people don’t even know it, right? That gave me a a a lot of feeling of identity. I felt that that the work idea was important because I was dealing with issues that were the the, the secret or the the silent, the the the, the, the unseen force behind corporate performance, right? That’s how we couched it. We were that force underneath corporate performance, corporate effectiveness that most people don’t see. But there was still something there. I’ll tell you, Patrick. One of the things that was intriguing to me, was

Terry Esper: I it. Although I was interested in logistics and supply chain, it really didn’t have anything to do with me like Terry Esper. It was more about my professional interest, but it I I really it didn’t have anything to do with me individually, right? It was interesting. I had a friend that was a marketing scholar, and you know she did a lot of work in diversity and marketing. She did a lot of work and issues associated with body identity issues. And you know, it was interesting. She was going through some personal journeys herself, a health journey. And so, her life was spilling over into her research.

And I thought, man, you know I I’m intrigued by logistics, but it’s not anything to do with me individually. And as I talk about in the the Ted talk that you referenced, there were some things that, as I was kind of searching for those deeper whys that had to do with like, why am I individually so intrigued by the stuff that I do research on? What does it really mean? There had to be something under these there, I start up things that started to pop out to me. Right? So, for example, my very first job was a paper route for the Detroit News when I was a kid and I re-routed. I redesigned the entire paper route to make it quicker and more efficient. You know, I forgot about that. And I was like, wow, okay. So, I was already starting to do some of this stuff, even the way I was just living my life right as a kid. I took pride in being a paper boy and redesigning the paper route. That was one of those little elements of that why, starting to emerge. And then, of course, I started reading articles about how retail? I’d always known about, you know, issues of, you know, racism and Jim Crow, and how those issues affected retail. But it it it. I then started to think about it, it it personally. And then, as I mentioned in the Ted Talk, I read an article that talked about how Sears, one of the big retail giants, how they used the same things that I researched home delivery services, for, you know retail purchases, and how they use that as a way to service black customers. Such that those customers did not have to go into retail stores and deal with racism and discrimination. And that was when it all just clicked, and I thought, my God, I have been doing this work all this time, having not made that connection to the fact that there was actually a why really, really deep underneath there, that had to do with just how important these processes are that in in logistics, and how it can just help people live a better life and to live their life with dignity. And so those kind of connections really started to emerge over time, and and that really became- I I was then exposed to the real why, of it all it it may all of it made sense. The whole 20 some of years of work made sense to me then.

Patrick Louchouarn: Terry, you’re such a storyteller. I love listening to you. All of the art of your journey. Oh, absolutely well, my why of doing having this conversation is to

inspire all the faculty to make sure they know how to tell their story and to connect to all the components of the story, and you have all the components of an incredibly compelling story. You have the art. You have the journey. You have the moments that actually changed you, which is interesting because not every faculty thinks that they need to, if they know they exist, you know, they need to actually point to them, or to even identify what is that moment that actually change my experience as a scholar or that define the the the things that I’m interested in working? You, you make it personal. We always say that it’s a story and a personal story is more compelling. So, I love listening to you for all of this way, of course, than your own experience. You know you

Patrick Louchouarn: you also couch it very well on paper. And this is why I wanted to have you as part, you know, as part of this program. So, thank you. Thank you for sharing it

Terry Esper: Thank you for that. I I appreciate that feedback, and I I’m very humble by that. You know that the thing that is intriguing to me. I guess one of the things that was kind of underneath all of that was I had to really grapple with the notion of a research interest, right? So as a doctoral student, you know we what what’s your what’s your interest? Right? And we start developing young scholars to, you know, hone in on a research interest and develop a body of work and write a dissertation and go out and start to do scholarly research, to build up a a nice solid body of work that is tenurable and and and easy to a path of success in academia. So, I had to go back and grapple with why I have the research interest that I do. And to be honest, I just kind of you know I I I knew that I was in retail. I was I worked before I went to my doctoral program. That was the hot buzz topic at the time, and it just made sense. It just rolled naturally. But I guess where I am now, and what what I really wanted to extract from all those little stories is that there were things that were my life was unfolding leading to that research interest. And it happened so fast, and maybe so matter of fact that I didn’t really ask the why of my research interest, you know? And in fact, I was actually in. And here’s a slippery slope of it all. I was working with with faculty that were also doing work in that same space. So, it seemed like it just a natural thing to do. What I really think about it. Part of the reason even why I went to the doctoral program I went to was because of the fact that there was the common interest. But I hadn’t really paused to kind of unpack why, the why, that interest was there. And so, I that that’s one of the things that I’ve gotten really passionate about is like, why are we interested in the research that we are? And I think in in pausing and thinking about that, that and really digging into that, why, I think we’ll start to see that there have been kind of an unfolding of that of that why. And it’s it It probably comes through in our life, right? It’s the reason why we gravitate to that research, because there is a a connection. We feel it in our gut. And and sometimes we just don’t really pause. It it happens so quickly. And for you know, you’re in 3-third year of your doctoral program, you know? But but really pausing and unpacking, you know, what is it about me that makes me so intrigued by this topic? And I would there to say that if we really pause and ponder and peel back the layers of that, we’ll arrive at some stories like mine. It started with when I was, you know, 14 on a paper route and then circle back to when I was 21 at a truck stop. But those dots those are breadcrumbs, were all there kind of leading to that research interest. Yeah.

Patrick Louchouarn: Again, I love your your story, and how you actually bring us to those reflection made me think, you know it’s like the fish that meets the other one and ask, how’s the water? And yeah, this is wet water, right? It’s like if everybody is in the water, and that never taking a moment to actually reflect on what’s going on, you know, internally and externally. Yet now, we can keep on going. I love that moment to me. It’s a great segue to our last question. That that idea of pausing. So, here is a question for you when I’ve heard you speak to this before. A little bit here is if you turn around. And now you have quite a bit of experience. You’ve obviously known how to reserve time for Patrick Louchouarn: your reflection, and to, you know, to build on the understanding around your why. That also is propelling you in the future. What would you say what kind of advice would you give to, you know, rising scholars, either in their doctorate right now, or post- doc, or early career early career faculty? What would be the advice we would share with them?

Terry Esper: Yeah. I I would say. You know? I wish I had had a chance to, you know, watch something like this, or listen to something like this, or even, you know, just just really unpack this whole thing earlier in my career. I I I feel like, you know. Maybe it was there, and I’m just, you know, didn’t connect all the dots. But I think it is important to really pause and ponder that why of it all, right? Really think about, are there things about you, your life story, your life journey that are leading to the research that you’re interested in. And I think it’s important to find that for a few reasons. Number one, I think it’ll just help you to really own the research that you do, right? Because hot hot topics come and go, buzz terms come and go. But the ownership of a research topic and platform I think is that that’s where real scholars thrive. So, I think that ownership narrative is something that early, the earlier you can get to that real true ownership of your topic, the better. And in most cases, that ownership is going to lie in your why. And and and and and being able to really make the connection between your life journey and the kind of research that you do. Secondly, not only is it about an ownership piece, but it’s about a a, a, a commitment, and a stick tuitiveness, right? The fortitude. Then the fidelity of the research a journey, right? Because, as we know, we can get research published and and but we also in the process of getting research published often get research rejected right? And so, there are times when you know you just if it were not for the commitment to, the research, the ownership of the research. Many of us would have packed our bags and said, hey, I’m out like, I’m you know, I’m doing something else. And I’m in business right where there always those little innuendos of hey, you know, come back to corporate. Folks say, hey you could probably make twice as much if you come back to corporate right? So, you know there, there are many scholars in business that get PhDs, start an academic career, and then after the rejections pack up and just say, hey, you know I’m gonna go back to practice or go into consulting or do something else. And and so again, I think that just staying committed to the work. You know, staying committed to seeing that work get into print and and the impactful outlets. That that requires a commitment to the work. A commitment to these topics, and a a commitment to the the what you’re trying to contribute. And again, I think if you have a real good why of it all, that will help you you to stay committed to it. So, I would say to

any young scholar and rising scholar, and even a, you know, emerging scholar, you know, really pause and reflect. Make the connections between the research that you’re interested in and in in in your life journey because it’ll definitely elevate your commitment and your ownership of of the work that you do.

Patrick Louchouarn: Man Terry, I’m so grateful. You’re so generous with your time and your thoughts and your experience. I’m always inspired. I listen to you, and I really really appreciate that you’re with us. We are very fortunate to have you at OSU, so I want to thank you. And I want to finish by again congratulating you. You have, you know a great career you are committing, obviously, and sticking to it. So, you are leading by example. And you’re very generous in sharing your experience which is what I hope that you know I our rising scholars, both our rising students and our faculty are trying to make here. So, thank you again so much for sharing your experience.

Terry Esper: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thank you for the opportunity to reflect and to to share that journey that I’ve experienced. And I again, I’m just humble. I want to also just acknowledge you for doing this right, for for leaning into these conversations and for really building a building, a space and a platform for us to really dig into what it means to be a scholar, and and what it means to be a a, a a researcher at a university like Ohio State. These kinds of things often are, you know, it it’s all about getting the the pubs, right? But what we know for sure is that there is a whole social environment and a whole life around getting the pubs. So, I appreciate you for leading into the life of the scholar and bringing some of these stories to the forefront. I really do appreciate that.

Patrick Louchouarn: Oh, I am so amazed by all my colleagues, including you. The work that you all do is so quite extraordinary. It’s, you know, if I can, just, you know, be a platform or offer a platform so that people understand the work that you do, and that it has so many ramifications in the life that we lot live just like you shared. And you make a true difference. Not only into the the education and the people you work with, but also your work. So again, thank you. I look forward to see you again soon. And this is the end of this moment, but I’ll look forward to share again with you.

Terry Esper: Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Patrick Louchuoarn [Outro]: The faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why Podcast, is produced by the Ohio State University’s Office Faculty Affairs. For more information, visit us at I’m your host, Patrick Louchuoarn. Thanks for listening and join us again soon.

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Episode 2

Carmen Quatman and Katie Quatman-Yates

College of Medicine faculty members (and identical twins) Carmen Quatman and Katie Quatman-Yates join the podcast to discuss their sources of motivation and inspiration, taking risks and being courageous, and advocating for themselves, their students and immediate community.




Episode 2 Transcript

Patrick Louchuoarn [Intro]: Welcome everyone. I’m Patrick Louchuoarn and I am your host of faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why. In this podcast, I ask faculty to share what drives their work, what they do what they do. This question not only gives context to the human stories that drive our mission, it also provides a life and purpose. The Faculty Affairs, our own why, is to create an embalmment where every faculty is seen with their own identity. Inodiated with positive experiences throughout all stages of their career. This is why we shine a light on these extraordinary individuals. We complete each discussion by asking our guests for pieces of advice to share with the next generation of scholars. These unscripted conversations are as diverse and unique as each of the individuals. Yet, they have one thing in common. The passion that fuels the work of these dedicators, innovators, and public servants. Join me in following their stories.

Patrick Louchouarn: So good morning, Carmen. Good morning, Katie. It’s such pleasure to have you today. And I really thank you for joining us for the first series of what I call will call, Tell Me Your Why faculty corporate stories. And this is a short conversation with, there is a faculty who are going to share why they do the work they do. So, as we start, would you please introduce yourself and what position you hold at the university?

Carmen Quatman: I’m Carmen Quatman. I am an associate professor in the College of Medicine and I’m an orthopedic trauma surgeon scientist. And specifically, I focus on orthopedic trauma, fracture care and geriatric orthopedics.

Katie Quatman-Yates: Yeah. Hi, I’m Katie Quatman-Yates. I am Carmen’s identical twin but my position at Ohio State is in the division of physical therapy in the College of Medicine. I’m a physical therapist by clinical training and an implementation researcher as my focus for my scholarship.

Patrick Louchouarn: When did you both join OSU?

Carmen Quatman: Sure. I I initially started in 2011 as an orthopedic resident. And then I did a fellowship in Minnesota, and I returned back in 2017, and Katie and I actually both started as faculty on the same day, September 1, 2017 as faculty.

Patrick Louchouarn: Wow.

Katie Quatman-Yates: I had actually done my Phd here. So, I graduated in 2006 in the College of Human Ecology with my PhD and spent some years away before coming back in 2017 to join as faculty.

Patrick Louchouarn: This is quite fascinating. So, both of you start on the same day at you know a little bit of a difference in your path. Would you? And Katie, we’ll start with you. Would you share the work that gets you excited to get back to every morning?

Katie Quatman-Yates: Yeah. So, I guess my my story is a little different than a lot of people who get into academia in the sense that I actually did my Phd and then I went back and got another doctorate in a clinical field because I was really interested in merging you know the academic research side. I had a big passion for that, but I really wanted to make sure that the work that I had was having a real-world impact. And so, that was one of the reasons I went back to the clinical doctorate to make sure that what I was doing had real world impact at the same time. So, I really enjoy both the simultaneous process of learning and understanding and really enriching our, you know, a way of doing things. And at the same time, seeing that come to life in a real-world setting. And that honestly, is part of what really keeps me going. Especially as I start to see that happen among my PhD students, many of whom are clinicians themselves, who get to see the work of helping a a patient one on one but then seeing at scale what really enhancing our understanding, and and especially on the implementation side. What we can do makes a big difference, not just for the individual patient level, but you know how it scales up to higher and higher levels at population health levels ideally.

Patrick Louchuoarn: Thank you for sharing, Katie. Carmen, what is your why?

Carmen Quatman: Yeah. So, I have originally started a little bit different than than Katie. I I worked in a human performance laboratory right out of college, and I really love the idea of training athletes to stay healthy and not have an injury. And from that why, I

decided to pursue an Md. PhD. degree and I did it in injury prevention research. So, I explored a bunch of different ways for how to prevent injuries in young athletes. As I progressed through the years, I actually did residency and I I had some personal health issues which I had surgery on both my knees at one time and trying to get into my house was a was horrifying. And I had this deep feel feeling of following that I just couldn’t shake. And so during that, I had this major transition and I wanted to help trauma patients and geriatric patients specifically learn to live safely in their home. And through that, I transitioned all of my research into geriatric orthopedics and fall prevention. And that, my why really started on allowing people to stay safely in their own home without this tremendous fear of living in their own home, and Katie and I eventually connected through this. I originally wrote a grant when I first started back here at Ohio State, and Katie read my grant. She said we can’t just stop here we have to do a much bigger project together and really that became my why. It was the opportunity to reconnect with my twin sister, who we’d had so many lived and shared experiences, but kind of had diverged her paths. And then to one day, reunite at the same institution, and to be able to pursue projects together. It just was this flicker of inspiration, and it continues to drive me every day.

Patrick Louchuoarn: That’s so inspiring. Katie, how do you respond to that?

Katie Quatman-Yates: Yeah, I mean, it’s it was really funny when I read her grant, because as a physical therapist, a lot of what we do connects with orthopedic trauma surgery world. So, we see a lot of the same types of of patients. But my research training at prior, before coming to clinician was really in sort of like a network analysis, social network analysis, how do we make the knowledge that we are gaining stick and work in the real world? And so, I was really excited by what she was proposing, and said, you know what we really can do some transformative work together. We got into community, made some really good partnerships with some of the firefighters and paramedics in the community, and then from there it really took off. It was exciting to to work on it from our complimentary lenses. You know, she’s always been one of my biggest sources of motivation and inspiration. You know, I guess, growing up together, you get this real sense of pushing each other, but really wanting to support each other in the process. So we have a really interesting dynamic personally. But then when we put that in the work, it really, it’s it’s fun to work together. It’s exciting to kind of be driving some things together forward.

Patrick Louchouarn: So I you know, I always think of the path of, you know our careers, and you know, in retrospect. It seems to be, you know, you can always tell the story. Oh, yeah, it was all planned. I I personally took me very long time to find my why. And I was wondering if was that the moment when you started working together that this really solidified for you of what your work means to you and how connected you are?

Carmen Quatman: I I think we’ve always been really connected. We always enjoyed a lot of the same things we were, you know, we we actually scored the same on our GPA, our our SAT, our our, you know, our entry exams for everything. And we we, although we have diverged a little bit in our training, our our paths had overlapped in different ways, and including going on runs together when she was working on her DPT and I was working on my PhD. And she was really teaching me implementation science on long runs just getting me energized about this topic I had never heard of. And so we we originally published our first paper together in 2009 actually was on this idea of what? What was it, Katie? It was something about

Katie Quatman-Yates: Leveraging system, science and thinking in the space of orthopedics. So how do we think about different systems, level applications? And yeah, I really, that’s so. I forgot about that really came from some of our walks and runs together while we are both still pursuing our our training.

Carmen Quatman: Yeah. And and we also learned that we write very differently. So that was pretty pretty fun experience.

Katie Quatman-Yates: It’s true I so so most of my work was in kind of the social behavioral sciences that was my PhD training. Hers was more in the basic sciences. And so I would consider things that like this is really boring. You can, you know, dress it up a little bit she’d be like this is too long and flowery. And it, you know. So it was really Katie Quatman-Yates: interesting learning the dynamics of different types of academic writing. It was. It was really funny ,yet to see that sort of come together.

Patrick Louchouarn: Wow, thank you for sharing. So two reflections, if you don’t mind. As you know, I don’t. You probably already know. I think I’ve shared with you. I have [inaudible] the past, so hearing you being able to talk on long runs is perfect training. You know, it’s just exactly the way you should do it. But of course, your athletes, so you know. And I will share something personal. Though I had a brother who also was an academic who was in the artse was a composer but he was. He had also another PhD in artificial intelligence and mathematics and supply mathematics. I always dreamed of writing a paper with him because he would understand my work more than I wouldn’t understand his. That never happens so hearing you actually being able to do that is, it’s quite heartwarming. So I do have a final question for you. and this is really an important one. I I know you’re looking forward to your career. You’re pushing it forward. but I would like to you to reflect and share any piece of advice, each of you that you may

have for graduate students, who are emerging and interested in academia or early career faculty, or just starting on post docs. What would you? You tell them? What is your piece of advice that you would share with the next generation of scholars? Carmen?

Carmen Quatman: Yeah, I I’m gonna I’m gonna cheat and do two. And I’m gonna quote two things which is, speak from the heart and let the world say no. That take that means, take risks and be brave and be courageous to put it out there. And then the second one is lift as you climb. We all need a little help to get there, and reaching back down and helping everybody along the way helps everybody succeed. And so really doing both that that connecting and doing hard things takes courage, but you can do it.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much, Katie.

Katie Quatman-Yates: Yeah, I mean, I I think grit is the solution to a lot of things. Whether you’re running a marathon or or going through your career. I think I’ll share from the lens of a mother. I I I know we especially women in academics, are have been told things like, you know, don’t start a family until after you have tenure or things of that nature. And as I have seen some of my graduate students start to become parents and think about that, I think the biggest thing is to like to remember that life is this journey, and you don’t want to miss the little steps along with your family as well as progressing yourself, and there is, I think, that I believe, that there’s a space for all career and family at the same time. And so I try to live in the space of like there’s a new chapter around the corner, and you know what is going on right now, what is stressing you right now? Just like kids, they’re going to grow. Your career is going to grow. So, it it does emerge. I remember thinking how I can imagine this little infant, and get to work on time every day and get sleep and and still progress my academic career? And then, you know. Then suddenly, they were walking, and it was a different challenge, but also equally fun. And now my kids are a little older, and it’s you know, soccer weekend every weekend. And the challenges are different, but each chapter is new. And what was stressing me Katie Quatman-Yates: out back when they were little is not the same things that are really at front and center now, and the joys and the highs are very different than the joys and the highs of back then. And so, I think it’s really just thinking in chapters and and remembering that what’s going on right now that might be a challenge, you will overcome it, and there will be new challenges. But there also be new joys and new chapters to life. So yeah, kind of, I think just kind of trying your best to live in the moment and not letting things like a lot of the things that advice that you’ll sometimes hear that sounds like, put your life on hold, or things like that. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s really live your life as you as it comes and do your best to really make sure that you’re advocating for yourself and advocating for what’s right for your students. And then also advocating for what’s right for your family at the same time.

Patrick Louchouarn: That is so beautiful from both of you. I am not surprised that you’re so inspiring and so generous with your words as you are with your time. And I feel so privileged to be able to work with you. I really thank you for sharing your stories. And your why, and your advice for the next generation. You are, you know, lights. You are pushing the field in the full, and you bring your full personality to work. And this is what really, I want to make sure we recognize at this institution. So, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you doing this and showing you why.

Katie Quatman-Yates: Thank you.

Patrick Louchuoarn [Outro]: The faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why Podcast, is produced by the Ohio State University’s Office Faculty Affairs. For more information, visit us at I’m your host, Patrick Louchuoarn. Thanks for listening and join us again soon.

Image shows text: Tell Me Your Why Episode 3 with a transparent play button.

Episode 3

Korie Little Edwards

Dr. Korie Little Edwards, a professor in the Department of Sociology, joins the podcast to discuss the "why" of her scholarly work on race, ethnicity, and religion in the United States, the importance of working on something you're passionate about, and viewing scholarship as something that affects the world. 



Episode 3 Transcript

Patrick Louchuoarn [Intro]: Welcome everyone. I’m Patrick Louchuoarn and I am your host of faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why. In this podcast, I ask faculty to share what drives their work, what they do what they do. This question not only gives context to the human stories that drive our mission, it also provides a life and purpose. The Faculty Affairs, our own why, is to create an embalmment where every faculty is seen with their own identity. Inodiated with positive experiences throughout all stages of their career. This is why we shine a light on these extraordinary individuals. We complete each discussion by asking our guests for pieces of advice to share with the next generation of scholars. These unscripted conversations are as diverse and unique as each of the individuals. Yet, they have one thing in common. The passion that fuels the work of these dedicators, innovators, and public servants. Join me in following their stories.

Patrick Louchouarn: So Korie, good afternoon. Thank you so much for joining me. I so much look forward to have this conversation with you. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to start with, you know, sharing an experience. The first time we met, you didn’t know we were meeting because I was in a room full of individuals that you were welcoming for their first you know, first orientation as initial faculty. That was last.

Korie Little Edwards: That’s right, that’s right, that’s right.

Patrick Louchuoarn: And I join your college and you you spoke and you just fill the room with such brightness and your personality and you something that really struck me, and this is why we here today, is you started welcoming people by telling pieces of your story. And you made it so personal, so inviting, so welcoming that I couldn’t help but feel that you know I was being welcomed to this group of individuals. So you did this really well. I’ve learned to know you a little bit better since then. We met a few times, and every time I’m always struck by your story by, you know, how you radiate, how generous you are. So, I am very happy to welcome you today and have a conversation with you. And if you don’t mind starting by introducing who you are, when you join OSU, and what it is that you work on when it cites you in your work.

Korie Little Edwards: Yeah. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me on here. This is quite an honor. It’s quite amazing to be able to be present with you and having this conversation. Thank you so much for your kind words. I really do appreciate that

and I’m glad that my story and the dirty of my story had you know, had an impact on you in that way. So thank you, that that means a lot. So, a little bit about me, I am Korie Little Edwards. I’m a distinguished professor in the Department of Sociology and in our associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice for the College of Arts and Sciences. That is a very long title. Yes, I know. But hey, let’s see, I have been here for a minute. I’ve been here since 2004. I came here straight from finishing up my doctorate, Korie Little Edwards: which I finished at the University of Illinois, Chicago. And my scholarship has focused on race and religion. So, I did that when in my under in my PhD program and I continue to do that even through today, you know, building on that research agenda. So that’s been, that’s gonna be my work since I’ve kind of started on this journey. I feel a little bit, though, Patrick, like I have to tell people a bit about what you are, what they what you learned about me when you first kinda met me, so to speak. Could I?

Patrick Louchouarn: Please

Korie Little Edwards: Okay. So so just to tell you a little bit about my journey. So as I just mentioned, I am in the department of sociology, but this was not always what I had aspired to do. So when I was younger, and by younger, I mean, got a a lot younger, I really wanted to be a professional dancer, so I would. I dance for several years, I took Korie Little Edwards: dance classes, I even got accepted and into the Creative Performing Arts High School and had this, you know, was really inspired by Alvin Ali Dancers, which, if you haven’t gone to see them me for me, you know I know they’re just they’re just amazing. it’s and I just love dance period. In fact, I but you know I still dance right. I still love to dance, and I do when I can. But that ended up not being what I what I pursued. I ended up taking a hard left turn, and then I went for my undergraduate degree, I actually did engineering. Civil engineering in particular. And in many ways, I made that decision because, I am well, I am a a black woman, first generation college student. And in many ways, you know, we we are taught and socialized that or say I was. You know that really, you know, taking care of yourself and making a really practical decision about your college education is important. One in which, and that will take, you know. Well, you can take care of yourself and take care of yourself well, when you’re done. But my experience is a part as a black woman in engineering, but also really as a person of faith, who is a grown up going to the lectures, and I also with had attended a church that was largely white. I I just began to really think about how is it that race kind of impacts our society? I began to see things in that way. So I say, I didn’t know this at the time, but there’s a word in sociology, or social sciences, or phrase or concept called sociological imagination. I would say my sociological imagination was opened. I didn’t use that language but what that all that means is I began to see patterns in society that I really hadn’t quite noticed before when they were there, obviously, but I didn’t really notice them. And I just began to have this desire to really understand what those were and why they existed, and how, if any, if any way, we could

kind of address them. So that’s kind of my story. So I thought I would kind of give a little bit of a background to what you were experiencing when you first kind of interacted with me.

Patrick Louchouarn: Well, thank you so much for sharing as usual. As I said, you’re so generous with your story. There’s something you don’t know that we share. When I was 16, I joined a modern dance group and I thought I wanted to actually become a professional dancer.

Korie Little Edwards: Ok.

Patrick Louchuoarn: And yes, in contemporary dance. And eventually, I went into sciences because actually, I came from there from actually painting. I was painting with a muralist in Mexico and then I went into dance. And eventually, I went back to high school, and, you know, got diverted to the sciences. So I think that some of the paths that we followed are somewhat secret is but that’s so and different.

Korie Little Edwards: I love that that you also. I’m I’m sure you still maintain a passion for dance.

Patrick Louchouarn: Oh, I do.

Korie Little Edwards: Oh yeah. Don’t let the beat catch us, right?

Patrick Louchouarn: Yes, the beat will not go undanced. So tell me, if you don’t mind, or tell her listeners, why you know what you’ve you’ve talked a little bit about that you’ve had those reflections. What is the the why that animates you? And I think you mentioned a little bit how that came to be when you discovered. But would you mind sharing for the next few minutes a little bit of that personal why of yours that has, you know, not you working in the area where you’re working?

Korie Little Edwards: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, I just. I’ll give a a little bit of background. So just generally, I’m on topic. You know. You get scholars go, and we can’t stop ourselves because we’re so excited. But so I in particular, I look at how religion shapes and it impacts race and ethnicity. And then conversely, how race and ethnicity shape religion. And so when I go back and I when I as I mentioned, I began to notice these differences in different, in churches that had different racial and ethnic compositions, and just kind of stood out to me. And I really wanted to know sort of what is going on here? Why does this? Why is this continuing to exist in this day and age, you know, well after the Civil Rights movement, well after the end of Jim Crow, why is it that as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about? He talked about Sunday being the most segregated hour of the week and it was still the case decades later. And, in fact, it’s still the case today, even though over the past decade or so, we have seen greater and greater diversity and religious spaces. It still is by and large a segregated space. And so, you know to me, that was a really interesting question. And another reason why it’s interesting, Patrick, is because race and religion are really interconnected in the US context. If we think about the ways in which tattle slavery, the ways in which the treatment of native Americans in our society have been framed often these are framed with religious ideologies and understandings. And so for me, I really wanted to know again, why why is that? Why is this impacting us? Why is our world work in the way that it does? And I then would say, sort of on a person in a more sort of not just my personal sort of reason about why it sort of triggered and made me think about how is it that people can and experience religion in the US. I was also. I’m also really interested in the work that I do having practical and accessible implications for for practitioners. So I Korie Little Edwards: really want my scholarship to be something that affects the world. I mean, I appreciate you know, people scholars read my work and and it impacts the kind of work they do. That matters that matters to us as scholars. But for me, what’s important is that it goes beyond that. And so, I am grateful and privileged that my work has been able to do that. That it has been the kind of scholarship that people who are practitioners in this world in this space. That’s what I’m talking about racial and ethnically diverse spaces religious spaces in particular, are able to assess it in access it and use it. So I would say, those are my sort of big whys of why I do the work I do. I wanted to make a difference. I want it to be accessible to people. I want to impact society the way that changes it and what I would consider a more. I don’t want to word, a more a space where people can be right. A space where we are is going in a positive direction of space that’s more just. So yeah, that’s what I do that’s, why, I do what I do.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much. Well, a few times I’ve met you, you always create spaces where people can be and can feel to be themselves. So, I am not surprised that this is the why that animates you and I feel privileged with you sharing your story. Thank you so much, Korie. The last question I have for you is a little bit about the future. You know why you have found you know what animates you and and obviously you make you have a greedy impactful presence in academia. What would be a piece of advice that you would like to share with early early career faculty or emerging scholars, graduate students from post doc who are considering joining academia? What

would you like to share with them in preparing for joining the space where obviously you enjoy working and enjoy making an impact?

Korie Little Edwards: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s such a such an important question, Patrick and I appreciate just you, you know, being interested in hearing what I have to say here and and let me say this. Whenever I am talking to my graduate students or somebody who’s in an early career when it comes to in in academia, I I always say work on something that you’re passionate about. Pursue answering those research questions that you really care about, that you want to know the answer for. I think that because of the demands many of the expectations of academia, you know, we depending on our disciplines of course it varies, but we have expectations of presenting and publishing and and doing creative cutting-edge research, pursuing, you know, service in a, in a variety of different academic associations. You know we we have a lot that we are expected to do. We are to teach, we are to nurture students, and so on. So there’s a lot on our plate. And sometimes because of external expectations, we can either come to a point where we think we have to or it might be that there are some expectations that we that are communicated to us that make us think that perhaps I need to pursue this kind of research because it’s maybe the hot research at the time. Or maybe I need to use, I should use this methodological approach or engage in this research design because this is what most people in my field do. Or perhaps, I need to really just focus on this area because from what I’m learning from looking at the top journals, this is what gets published. And that’s a very practical I suppose approach to being an academic. But I believe that that’s not what’s needed to really get you through to the long, to the long haul. To really drive you as an academic. I believe it’s we are driven by and we do the Korie Little Edwards: best work when we are really passionate about a particular question that we want to answer, and we look out there in the literature, and nobody has actually answered it yet, or pursued it in the way that we think it’s important to be pursued. And you know what, I would say, and I do say that’s true. We have to believe that if it’s not out there we’ve done our due diligence, then answering that question might actually reside in us. And it’s our opportunity to answer that question for the world. And so I believe that people who are thinking about academic going into academia or people who are just beginning on this journey, that you will do yourself justice and the world justice if you pursue that work that really matters to you. That’s really important to you and don’t compromise on.

Patrick Louchouarn: So beautiful. You are the epitome of why I I want to have this this series. Thank you so much for sharing with the listeners. Your experience, your life, your life’s passion, and and importantly at the very end, your advice to the next

Patrick Louchouarn: generation of scholars. So thank you so much for joining me and I look forward to see you again very soon.

Korie Little Edwards: Thank you so much Patrick for having me. This has been a delight.

Patrick Louchuoarn [Outro]: The faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why Podcast, is produced by the Ohio State University’s Office Faculty Affairs. For more information, visit us at I’m your host, Patrick Louchuoarn. Thanks for listening and join us again soon.

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Episode 4

Bart Elmore

Dr. Bart Elmore, professor in the Department of History, joins the podcast to talk about putting an environmental lens on history, how nature shapes the course of human events, and how his spiritual journey set him up for thinking about the big picture.



Episode 4 Transcript

Patrick Louchuoarn [Intro]: Welcome everyone. I’m Patrick Louchuoarn and I am your host of faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why. In this podcast, I ask faculty to share what drives their work, what they do what they do. This question not only gives context to the human stories that drive our mission, it also provides a life and purpose. The Faculty Affairs, our own why, is to create an embalmment where every faculty is seen with their own identity. Inodiated with positive experiences throughout all stages of their career. This is why we shine a light on these extraordinary individuals. We complete each discussion by asking our guests for pieces of advice to share with the next generation of scholars. These unscripted conversations are as diverse and unique as each of the individuals. Yet, they have one thing in common. The passion that fuels the work of these dedicators, innovators, and public servants. Join me in following their stories.

Patrick Louchouarn: So good morning, Bart. Thank you so much for joining me. It’s such a pleasure to have you. I’ve attended a few of your conferences that you’ve organized. And of course, we have a lot of interesting common in environmental studies and envrionmental sciences. It’s such a pleasure to have you with with us today. And so, if you don’t mind starting by introducing you briefly sharing when you joined OSU and a little bit about the work that you do.

Bart Elmore: Yeah, what a gift. Thank you for having me. I joined Ohio State in 2016. And if you’d asked me then that I was going to be living in Ohio, I think I you know I didn’t really, I think I would come to know how to state, you know, right before that. I I’d been down at the University of Alabama. I’d been hired to teach environmental history, which is what I do. And you know, it’s this field that basically thinks about how humans have impacted the natural environment, but also the ways in which nature shapes the course of human events. We were just talking about the wildfires, you know, or climate change or you know, hurricanes, whatever it might be. And of course it’s dialectical, the interactions between these two. It’s a fascinating field. It’s been around since the 1970s or so. Started as a kind of response to the modern environmental movement where historians were saying, well, what if we put nature back into our stories and take it more seriously as an actor and as something that’s being reshaped by human events? What can we say? And I think, what’s so fun is, it’s revolutionized our understanding of the past, you know, and it’s it’s fun to be revisiting things like the American Revolution or the Civil War. But putting an environmental lens on it, you see a whole new story. I’ll say one thing there about that. My adviser when he went to get his PhD in history. I went to the University of Virginia, so I was studying with this scholar named Ed Airs. He said his mother said to him why are you going to get a history PhD baby? We already knew what happened, you know. And I think what’s so great about this field is that we don’t

really know what happened. And I think the new science and technologies that we have Bart Elmore: to understand the past has really reshaped our understanding. And in in in in doing so is helped us figure out, how can we create a more sustainable economy? And I think that’s at the core of what I’m trying to do is, how can we learn lessons from the past that can help us build an economy in a society that’s more echo conscious? My main focus has been on big businesses. I’ve written about the history of Coca-cola and its environmental footprint around the world. The history of Monsanto slash Buyer, the German company that bought Monsanto. It’s genetically engineered seed ag business. And I just finished a project on the history of Delta Airlines, Coca-cola, Walmart, FedEx, and Bank of America, all of which are Southern companies. I came from the American South and the the book thinks about how these businesses revolutionized our our economy, but also changed our our climate and our planet by, you know, engaging in all these logistics revolution. So, it’s been a great place to be. We have now something like 8 or 9 environmental historians in our department and we’re probably one of the best places to do environmental history in the world. And I, yeah again, I didn’t anticipate coming to Ohio. But at that time, they said, we’re going to build this program. And and I kind of didn’t believe everybody. I thought, how could you hire all these people make it happen? But thanks to Nick Bri Fogel and others here in the department, they did, and I haven’t looked back. This has become home. I think we’re we’re doing really radical work here. And yeah, I’m excited to see what we create in the next next several years.

Patrick Louchouarn: Wow, thank you for sharing. It’s interesting. I did move up from the South to been in Texas for 22 years and never thought I’d be in Ohio. And of course, I we have the environmental, you know, history in common, but I come from the physical sciences piece. And when I came here and people say, yeah, there is a very strong group, environmental historians. And a lot of my work has been from the Industrial Revolution to today, and all of the changes in the environment. And I can completely understand it’s not usual to have humanist look at this work, which is basically is always been something we’ve missed in the physical sciences. Understanding the human component that drives the change. So, I I definitely feel like a fishing water right now it’s like, wow this is such an exciting place to be.

Bart Elmore: If I can say something about that Patrick, I I started an undergrad. We were talking about being close to each other. You were in Montreal. I was in Hanover, New Hampshire, you know. I was studying the history of doing biochemistry. I I went off to school very much driven by thinking about science as the best way that I could have an impact in the world, and I still think that’s true. And and if you look at our work and environmental history, a lot of us have that kind of scientific training and and ability to go over to Lonnie Thompson, Ellen Thompson's lab and and talk to them about what's going on with climate. And and we love that and it. And so I think, in a way, environmental history was a way for me to combine the sciences with the humanities, you know and and and it's it's a it's a wonderful home for that. So for anyone out there in

the community who's listening to this, like we want we welcome folks into the history department to are coming from these other fields to help us think through this stuff. And there are no boundaries, really. And it’s one of the great great fun of doing this, you know, it’s just getting to go around this huge university and feel like all of it’s fair game, Bart Elmore: you know. So yeah, I was myself at one time, you know, firmly rooted in the kind of biochemistry, genetics, and studying that kind of thing, and then made my way to this field. So maybe there’ll be some others who hear this and want to come over and join us.

Patrick Louchouarn: Why, you make a really great point about the communication of you you know the humanities and the sciences in this common body of knowledge that is inseparable, and that you know, feeds from each other’s methods and analyses. So, I think that I would like to go to the next part, and I I think I heard a little bit some of the things that drove you into that field. But I would really love for you to share why you’ve decided to actually become a humanist to become this. A humanist that looks into the size and uses the scientific method to understand it is there humans and the relationship between nature and humans. And when did you discover that why that animates your work?

Bart Elmore: it took? It took me some time, you know. I I but but I think one thing I could just say at the very beginning was, I was. I was always a kid, even as a kid. Someone who is deeply who wanted to be a part of solving big problems, you know, who who felt like there were big stakes. I would even go back. I’ve had a a strange spiritual journey in my life which we don’t often talk about in academia. But I started out, you know, in a Deep South, and there was a lot of just discussion about religion and God and all these types of things. And I I’m a very different person than I was back then but I think that that set me up to think about big picture things, you know, doing community service, thinking about public service, thinking about, you know, getting involved in and and and trying to quote save the world. You know, I think that for me was something I really I I always cared about, and so I always wanted to go big, and I think what I went to go to undergrad. I thought that biochemistry and medicine to be honest with you. That’s what I wanted to be was be a doctor. That's the best way I can help people is to go in, and if they have a cardiac issue whatever I can, you know, potentially save a life. That to me was really appealing. I think that kind of profession in which you could serve society in such a a tangible way, you know. I even worked for the Center for Disease Control my first summer after my first year, I was gonna work on vaccines. I did work on vaccines and worked on you know, we’re thinking about big, you know, problems like Tuberculosis. And but slowly over time, I kept taking all these history classes. I I was in the thing about. I went to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and their curriculum was just like wild. You could take anything. And I that’s what I loved. I don’t think I took many. It’s funny I teach American history here, but I was taking, like modern and Indian history. And all these opening, I was always taking that on the side. I was doing these

science classes. And slowly but surely, I think, Patrick, I found the power of history. You know that history has power, that in the same way that you can heal a life, or you can save someone you know, in terms of a medical intervention. But if you use history effectively to shape policy, or to think about how we can design something better business, you know strategy that could be less harmful to the environment, that you could make a difference. And I think I drank that Kool-Aid. You know I had several historians who were kind of preaching it, but I but I really came to believe it, that history Bart Elmore: could be that kind of thing. Now, and and I should say that some people in history push back on this say, that it’s presentist. You know there’s a big debate about this is that does that somehow cloud your ability to be a good historian? Because you’re too focused on today and not really putting yourself in the past. And I’d argue that I think there’s a way to both care about how history can shape the future, but also be true to the past by by making sure that you’re not, you know, at at every term, trying to bring the present back into the past, but paying attention to your sources, listening to them very carefully. These types of things. But that’s really what what what I do. And I should say two things. Last thing I’ll say on this when I went to the University of Virginia for my PhD I went to study the history of southern public schools in the South. I had been a public school teacher. I had kind of embodied this idea that being a teacher would be one way in which I could have a real impact on society. In fact, if you look at my

websites and things, it’ll say, “Teacher First”, I think of myself as a teacher, first and foremost. And, I had taught in the Southern public schools. I’d seen how segregation had essentially, you know, destroyed the public school system in the South have led to these fast inequalities under resource schools I’ve taught in them. and how they how just the the the evil really of Jim Crow segregation had led to so many problems among other issues that had been there. And so that’s what I went to go write about. But then I found this field of environmental history my second year, and I thought. Whoa, wait a minute. Science, environment, these big issues. I still care about these questions of segregation, Jim Crow, the South. But I kind of made this switch. And that’s the other thing I’m you know, for for those listening, like I think all of us have had these winding journeys, but it’s useful to share to to people earlier in their career. That but that’s the beauty of academia that you come in and you get these cross pollinations going on. And then, all of a sudden, here I am, an environmental historian, and I I would never look back to think about a historical field that uses science and history to try and figure out how we become better humans living on this planet. What a gift. What a great thing to be able to do every day. You know I’m in my office in June. so our top and I love it. You know, I want to be outside. I’m going to go hiking and all that kind of stuff. But I think that young, that young kid who wanted to do something that would actually help others. I got. I get to do it here at Ohio State, and I, you know I feel very lucky. And I feel very lucky that how state is, provided the resources. I’m not just buttering up. You might be listening to this, but really, we’ve been giving great capacity to do big things here. So it’s home, and I feel I I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much, Bart. A couple of things, if you don’t mind. First of all, you’re a fantastic storyteller. And one of my secret ambition is that the you know faculty across OSU and elsewhere listen to these podcasts and start understanding their own story to through those that are being told and how to tell a story. And you did this thing. The friend of mine taught me because her partner is a writer, is a country music writer. And you basically told your story through two book ends. You started and ended with the same image you as a kid, right? And in between, you shared that journey which is definitely not linear. Definitely was, you know, had a number of influences had intention to it. But also, you let yourself be guided by the discovery and and what I find in the conversations I’m having with all faculty is that if Patrick Louchouarn: there is one common element, is that journey is never linear. That journey is always inspirational, not always easy, always has these moments of changing course. But it is still a journey that you know enriches the individuals, and you’ve shared that story in a absolutely beautiful way so I appreciate that very much.

Bart Elmore: Yeah, I appreciate it.

Patrick Louchuoarn: And you you alluded to this a little bit. And if you don’t mind, you know addressing the last question is, if you had one piece of advice to share with the next generation of scholars, those rising graduate students, post docs, early career faculty who were interested in academia. Of course, you shared the passion you have Patrick Louchuoarn: for working in academia coming from a different a different place, being a teacher first. What would you share with that generation?

Bart Elmore: I think it’s somewhat of a trinity package together, but that they’re all around the same thing. The message would be, you know, we go back to that kid. You know, as dyslexic according to the the adults that were around me, they they sent me to a special school. I went to this Speech School. Most of the kids around me had hearing impairments, or we were all one or one way or another, speech impediments, whatever it might be seen as aberrant, you know, or having real challenges. In fact, I doubt that anyone would have suspected I would have been writing books years later given the kind of issues I was facing. And I know what many academics are feeling which is feelings of insecurity, feelings of imposter syndrome. Maybe I’ve actually talked to some here in Ohio State. If you say no, I don’t have that. I just feel like I’m brilliant, and I wow what a gift to have that kind of confidence. But I think on paper, especially those of us who are now more senior here at the University. It can look like well, it’s all you know. They just had it all figured out, but I still feel those feelings of imposter syndrome. I still feel those feelings of insecurity, but I think the thing I’ve learned is to lean into them, you know? That my teaching became better when I stopped trying to hide what I didn’t know, and just opened up myself to be more vulnerable, you know? I think vulnerability

is something that you know, you think about these challenging PhD Comps and things were supposed to be tough and fight through it. We’re taught those things, and in some ways, you know, those are useful skills. But but weirdly, when I’ve become more vulnerable, I feel like my research has opened up, my ability to talk to people my subjects, and and a way that I think has been more illuminating to allow for connection has has really made made things better, and it certainly is maybe a better teacher because I’m learning from my students. I’m I’m learning so much every year, because instead of saying rushing through a question of students ask me that I don’t know the answer to, we pause, we sit and just acknowledge I don’t have the answer there. Let’s see what we let’s go find out. Would you help me find out the answer to that? So so those, I think making himself vulnerable. And then I think at the end of all that too, just enjoying it and join the journey a little bit, you know, pinching yourself every now and then when you’re crossing the oval. I mean, I set a gift several times. Maybe we’ll end. We’ll book end again there. I mean, it’s a gift. It’s a gift to walk across the campus like this to be able to think about the ancient mysteries of the world and is trying to solve big Bart Elmore: problems. So you know, I think for me that younger person whose kind of come this long journey, I’m no less yeah. I have some of the same fears that I started out with. But, I think I’m more comfortable sitting with them, you know, as a scholar and being and and then finding that that that leads to to to great opportunities. So I don’t know if that’ll be helpful to somebody, but that’s certainly my journey.

Patrick Louchouarn: Well, let me then end with a book end of my own booking a book ending your own your own way to start. You are a gift. You are a gift today. The vulnerability, the openness, the genuine way you share how to be compassionate and empathetic is quite extraordinary, and I really appreciate you, for you know, opening yourself and showing that you don’t need to have all the answers. Nor to appear, you Patrick Louchouarn: know, in control all the time that we’re humans. And I think that a whole lot of the pressure that we are going through is to appearing, that we have all these answers to model in a position of, you know, being an established faculty. Being able to model the fact that you’re still learning, you’re still, you know, in a place where you don’t have all the answers is quite extraordinary, and that’s a gift to me. It’s a gift to our listener. And I really really appreciate you for sharing sharing it that way.

Bart Elmore: Thank you. This is it’s it’s nice, I mean, I think we don’t often get a chance to reflect. So thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the journey in a way you asked me when I came here, and I had a big. When did I come here? You know with the pandemic and all that we’ve lived through. You know I think part of it, too Patrick is just like us getting to be friends, you know, and and realizing, I think it’s easy nowadays to find difference or whatever to I I’m just all about let’s finding ways to connect and have conversations, and I think in a society so fraught right now, you know. We we gotta have more patience and and and compassion, as you said, empathy. These, these are

striking me as the the very things that are critical to us getting out of the the crises we face. So, so again, thanks for the opportunity.

Patrick Louchouarn: And thank you. Thank you so much for sharing today. I have learned a great deal. And I really look forward to having more conversations. So have a fantastic day. And thank you.

Bart Elmore: Thank you. See you next time.

Patrick Louchuoarn [Outro]: The faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why Podcast, is produced by the Ohio State University’s Office Faculty Affairs. For more information, visit us at I’m your host, Patrick Louchuoarn. Thanks for listening and join us again soon.

Image shows text: Tell Me Your Why Episode 5 with a transparent play button.

Episode 5

Mary Rodriguez

Mary Rodruguez, PhD, Provost’s Midcareer Scholars: Scarlet and Gray associate professor of Community Leadership in CFAES, talks with host Patrick Louchouarn about forming solid connections to the community and engaging with people from different backgrounds, the vital role that mentors played in her academic growth, and her experience in higher education as a first-generation American.



Episode 5 Transcript

Patrick Louchuoarn [Intro]: Welcome everyone. I’m Patrick Louchuoarn and I am your host of faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why. In this podcast, I ask faculty to share what drives their work, what they do what they do. This question not only gives context to the human stories that drive our mission, it also provides a life and purpose. The Faculty Affairs, our own why, is to create an embalmment where every faculty is seen with their own identity. Inodiated with positive experiences throughout all stages of their career. This is why we shine a light on these extraordinary individuals. We complete each discussion by asking our guests for pieces of advice to share with the next generation of scholars. These unscripted conversations are as diverse and unique as each of the individuals. Yet, they have one thing in common. The passion that fuels the work of these dedicators, innovators, and public servants. Join me in following their stories.

Patrick Louchouarn: Well, Mary, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate your time and I look so much forward to our conversation. So we can start right away and if you don’t mind introducing yourself with your name when you joined OSU, and a little bit about your work, what it is that you do?

Mary Rodriguez: Sure. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Louchouarn, I’m really glad to be here. I am. My name is Mary Rodriguez. I’m an associate professor of Community Leadership in the College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. I actually started at OSU in August of 2015. It has been 8 years now which has gone by incredibly quick. But in that time, I have really gotten to hone in a lot more on what I wanted to research. The work that I do primarily is looking at how can we support marginalized communities. And that looks like a few different things in my, with my area of expertise. And a a lot of my work here in the United States is with new American populations. I’m super interested to understand how to support their communities when they, when folks come as immigrants or refugees to this country, how do they integrate into their communities and what helps them to succeed and be productive members of our society. And so understanding household and community resilience, understanding, food security, the role of women in those households. That’s really what I love to focus on here in the US. But a lot of my research is also internationally based. The work that I do internationally is again, focused on food security, however, treats a little bit of a different look here. What I research in international settings is, how can we support subsistence farmers to increase their production for their household. Make sure that their families are having access to safe and healthy foods. So again, I look at that at that resilience aspect, but I also look at the adoption of new technologies and practices. So we have researchers that do an incredible amount of work with with farmers developing new technologies, new practices that should be helping them, but they don’t always have the end user in mind. And so, my passion is making sure that the farmers voices are heard in the development of those technologies and that we try and minimize the harm that we can that we can have on communities if we don’t keep that person in

Mary Rodriguez: mind. That’s also along that line, uplifting indigenous practices, making sure that women and their households are empowered throughout these these interventions, I think, is is extremely important. So that’s a lot of what I do, workwise, research-wise. But in teaching, one of the things that I teach your multiple classes that I teach are really about, how do you engage with others around you either individually or in those communities. And so, I love helping students to see how to engage with people across differences, how to dialogue, how to be able to agree to disagree respectfully, and also how to help their communities move forward during times where I feel like we’re very polarized on a lot of different subjects. How can students really work through some of those conversations for the betterment of those of their communities. So that’s the teaching side of things. And of course, really focusing on community engaged scholarship, both community engaged teaching and community engaged research is is Mary Rodriguez: kind of at the foundation of what I do. So always making sure students have the opportunities to engage with community members and and practice some of those skills in a safe and empowering way throughout their education.

Patrick Louchouarn: Mary, thank you so much for sharing what you do. I can tell very quickly how passionate you you are about your work and how committed you are about you know the well-being of others. Both the students and the communities with whom you engage. Of course, I looked at your CV and I saw that your journey is quite fascinating. You work for USAD early in your career. And then you were in the Peace Core before that you, even if I’m not mistaken developed a program for you to study abroad, or at least in doing your master’s. Which of course, shows me how interested you are in connecting with others and bringing students to that experience. So of course, the question arises what under, you know is underneath this, this interest? Why do you do the work you do if you don’t mind sharing. You know how you came up to discovering this passion and and what that means to you, this particular work?

Mary Rodriguez: Sure. This is actually a story that I love to share with students in particular, especially when they don’t know exactly what they want to do. I think that we expect people to know exactly what they didn’t want to do at 18. You know maybe after a master’s degree, maybe directly out of a PhD. But my journey has been one that has helped me to see. There are different paths and different opportunities, and each time I have taken a new path that’s given me more opportunities. So, I believe that in order to kind of tell you why I do what I do, if I can tell you a little bit about me and my personal story. I think that would that would really help. So, I am the eldest daughter out of 4 children to a we’re all first-generation Americans. My mother is from Columbia. My dad is from Nicaragua. And when I was young, they would tell me be anything but a teacher. You know we; you know, teachers don’t make that much money back in their countries, and here in the US. That was their perception, but I developed a desire to teach others very young. My mom would tell me stories that as soon as I would learn something, I would be eager to teach somebody else that same thing that I learned. I would come home and and share what I had learned in school with my younger siblings. My sister, who follows me, is about 6 years younger than me, and so I always had the ability to

engage with a captive audience with my younger siblings because I was so much older Mary Rodriguez: than them and really got to teach them a lot as I was growing up. My first teaching, true teaching experience was teaching riding. I decided to learn how to ride horses here in Houston and I thought to myself, you know, this is so much fun I want to see if I can help teach others. And so I started to teach the the smaller kids that were just starting to ride about 2 or 3 years after I started. And just really, I felt like I was so like that was what I was meant to do somehow to teach others. Engaging with the little ones was so much fun, and seeing them develop and learn, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I just didn’t know what kind of teacher. So when I went to Texas A&M, I did what most students do, and just kind of explore and find their way to their degree program. And one day, I came across in a seminar class the fact that you can be an agricultural teacher. You can teach agriculture in high school. I had no idea. I went to an inner city private high school in Houston. And I had no idea that you could teach agriculture, but I Mary Rodriguez: had a passion for horses and animals, and knowing where my food came from, and exploring those topics, and of course sharing them with my my captive audience with my siblings. And I decided I was going to be a high school agricultural educator. So, I finished my degree program at Texas A&M and that was my first degree. I was going to be a high school teacher. Opportunities came along and I said yes to a master's degree, and I went to UF. Where during that time I got to go to Earth University, which is a sustainable Agricultural University in Costa Rica, and there I learned a different type of teaching. I was actually there coordinating study abroads. and I saw community education for the first time I really got to see working with communities. But you were still working kind of in that teaching realm, that community development and extension realm that I hadn’t really spent a lot of time in. And so, that propelled me to explore a little bit more and go to the Peace Core. Because what What better way to learn something than to throw yourself into it? So, I was an Agri forestry volunteer in sub–Saharan Africa, in the country of Cameroon. I was in the north region, where I learned French, and then I learned a full full day. I taught at an agricultural technical school. So I was actually teaching these were maybe like a agricultural certificate, if you will. So, it wasn’t university but it was a technical school, and then this is also where I developed capacity building programming for women’s groups. I found that women were honestly an incredibly important part of the household when it came to food security. I hadn't really study food security up until this point. But seeing the the choices that they were making in the household about who ate what? what's a plant and why for their household? Not, you know, for sale kind of production, but commercial production, but more about their household. Just, I just found an absolute passion to work with them when it came to food security and nutritional security. What were they feeding their families. And so I developed capacity building training for them and their groups so that they could work better together. Leadership, communication, those types of soft skills. Because I wasn’t an agriculturalist, but I did have skills that I could help them with. So that time in the Peace Core then, it opened my eyes to the fact that I had still so much I wanted to learn, so that the impact that I could make could be greater. I went back to University of Florida, where I wanted to do my PhD in agricultural extension and community development with a focus on gender gender and development. Making sure that I was always thinking about how to center the voices of the marginalized and the work that we did. And I was set on working for the FAO the Mary Rodriguez: Foreign Agricultural Service at the of the United States, USAID. You know I I wanted to work in what we would call, I guess the industry right of of

development. So I did an Africa Bureau internship and worked in Ethiopia for several months for U.S.A. there

and saw an immense amount of work and an incredibly diverse portfolio of work that U.S.A. was doing there in a feed the future country working in food security with some of the most vulnerable people in the world. And it opened my eyes to honestly the the difficulty that it that I would have wanting to do the the community-based research that I do at the organizational level. And so, you know, I thought well maybe later on down the road that could be something that I do. But right now, I don’t want to lose my connection to the community. I want to still be in the community, sitting on the ground under a tree, listening to women’s stories and and trying to help them in any way that I could with the capacity that I had. So, I came back home from Ethiopia and spoke to my

Mary Rodriguez: adviser, and he said, well, you know, Mary, you still a teacher, and you still have that immense passion to teach others. What if you focus on academia? What if Academia was your home where you could do this research, this community engaged research, but teach others how to do this work or help others see their passion? That’s my why. That is why I came back to the university. That’s why I get up every day and do what I do and strive to be as successful as possible here. I love what I do. I’m extremely passionate about my research. But, helping to develop new scholars, either as as undergraduates, even, you know, masters and PhD. Helping them to to gather their tools to be engaged citizens, to make a difference in their communities, to be able to help them see how their passions can create change. That's why I do what I do here. I could have gone to industry and worked, and I think made a difference in programs and things like that, and and have been a really good manager of a portfolio of development work. But this gives me an opportunity, I think to be that drop in a lake that has ripples and those ripples might touch others in ways that I can’t even anticipate. And over the years, past students or different people that I’ve engaged with have sent me messages about something I said or something I did for them during their time as a student of mine or as a mentee, and I realized that I am I am making an impact even as small as it might be individually. But that’s why I I’m an academic. That’s why I am continuing to research and to teach in the areas that I’m passionate about.

Patrick Louchouarn: Wow, thank you, I love it. I you know, if if anybody ever dreams of telling your story, I would just ask them to listen to yours on the way we all those experiences and the incremental changes that happen to those experience, and that allow you to through this journey to find your why. Which also speak to to the experience that we have in developing our own path that it doesn’t necessarily need to come straight up that you discovered. There’s an image that you shared with me and I want to make a highlighted so it doesn’t go un, you know, unseen or unheard is you saying I want to be sitting under a tree, speaking to women, making sure I can actually understand what it is that they need to make a difference. And to me, that’s such an example of community engage work, and that it is about the individual where they live

where they have the experience. So, you’re bringing in this a little bit, also very much aligned to how long and understanding extension my, you bring the experience, the and

Patrick Louchuoarn: and the work where the communities are. Which is really exciting to me to hear you speak about this and being successful in that space because universities are more and more trying to actually formalize that work and recognize it more and more as, you know, as part of the standards of excellence. Not just work, that is, you know, read and evaluated by just expert, but really work that also makes a difference in communities. And obviously, you do wonderful job in that space and how you just kind of weave all those images in your story also for me are a great example to demonstrate that the journey is is not linear. It has lots of opportunities and pretty sure it wasn’t easy every day. But here you are and I really I feel very privileged we for us to actually hear you stories. So, thank you so much for your generosity.

Mary Rodriguez: Absolutely. I think that sharing that story sharing my story. I love sharing my path with students because they think that I must have known I wanted to be Mary Rodriguez: a professor my whole life, you know. They must have known that this was the area that you wanted to work in your whole life. Obviously, that’s not true at all. It just kind of, you know. A door opened another door, and I just kept walking through it until I found a place that I wanted to be. And even here, I continue to walk through different types of doors to enhance my career, and I think that students hearing that will hopefully give them just a sense of piece, that if you just walk through a door, it’s just a set of opportunities on the other side and they might be different. They might be more challenging. But it’s not wrong to to have a path that’s nonlinear. And those who have linear paths, that’s great too. But that’s certainly not been my experience and I think sometimes it’s scary for people to not have very linear paths. But I I think it. I personally think it brings a lot of spice to life, but I know changes very hard for a lot of people.

Patrick Louchouarn: I would agree. Well, then, you know it is perfect segue to my last question for you, and you may have already spoken somewhat to it. But it’s very important for our conversations I really would, like all of our interviewees, is to share one piece of advice that they would like to share with the next generation of scholars, those graduate students who were considering joining in academia, not even knowing, eventually hearing those stories, realizing wait a second, I could maybe do that post office, of course, and even early career faculty. You just joined academia and hopefully can benefit from your experience. What is the one thing you would like to share with that generation of talented individuals?

Mary Rodriguez: Honestly, I have two, but they’ll be brief. I think the first thing is finding yourself a champion or a mentor that really really supports your growth. Had it not been for an advisor that each time I went to him and said, you know, I think I’m gonna do an Africa bureau internship in the middle of my PhD. And actually, he was my master’s degree advisor as well. And when I told him, hey, I think I’m gonna stay and live in Costa Rica for about 8 months, and I’m gonna work for this university for a little while in the middle of my master's and continuously saying, you know what, Mary, I think this is

a great idea. It’s going to challenge you in a different way. It’s going to open up opportunities for you. I think you should do it. And always helping me to reflect on those experiences, what they taught me, what challenges they brought up, and how can I Mary Rodriguez: address them. That to me is invaluable. I find that some students don’t have those experiences with their faculty mentors. So find somebody that can help you through that. If it’s not your advisor, your direct advisor, or supervisor, it can be another faculty member. It could be someone outside of faculty roles. But somebody who can guide you in that process and help kind of motivate and lift you when you need it. I will say though, that as a new faculty member at a university as large as Ohio State, I felt pretty lost at the beginning, and finding myself a mentor, or in my case, a set of mentors, somebody who would help me on the tenure track process part of things. Another mentor who helped me as a Latina woman in this space because I had never had a lat a Latina professor, a woman, Latina professor in my career. I had a colleague that I had worked with, but nobody who was really my professor from undergrad all the way through my PhD. And so I think you know, having mentors that can help provide your sub you support in these different areas whether it’s the personal support, the support of Mary Rodriguez: being an underrepresented minority in academia, the technical support that it takes to achieve 10 year promotion. But making sure you have those champions behind you. And I think as it weaves through that as well, is knowing your why and writing it down. And even if that why you don’t know it at the very beginning, there’s a reason you want to to study what you study or to make an impact with your work. So I would say, think about that, because the tenure track is really hard. Article rejections, grant rejections, mean student evaluations, you know. Frustrating colleagues. Oh, my goodness, you name it it. It’s just a really tough road. and grew framing and really thinking, okay how am I doing on achieving what I want to be achieving, and that to me helps you pick yourself up in those really hard times and continue forward because you’ve got a mission. You’ve got something that that gets you up every day and tenure track is not for the lighthearted. And so, I think it is certainly a good thing to have your mentors and and definitely know why you’re here or why you want to be here.

Patrick Louchouarn: I really appreciate this. Here is something that, first of all, thank you for speaking about mentorship. This is something that you may already know, but we are really focus in developing at a issue with a more systematic and organized formal way with a Mentorship Academy for faculty and creating a much more known pathways for training mentors and for training mentees to do exactly what you have done, meaning the the thing that we call mentoring up and speaking with your mentors about the things you you need in particular identifying the mentors that you need. One of the things that I love about what you share in any 2 examples is for me something that I actually was very clear on both of them is a sense of ownership. You own the fact that you need guidance, and you own building those relationships. You’re not waiting passively for these to happen. You’re asking different people to help you in different areas. And you own that relationship. And this is a very very essential part of relationship building and mentoring building, particularly from mentoring up type of conversation and the second one is you on your own story.

Mary Rodriguez: And I think you know, finding the right mentors is a journey, you know. Sometimes it feels like you’re dating your mentors. You’re trying to figure out how you Mary Rodriguez: fit, and whether you guys fit for you know, maybe the short term, or maybe the long term. I’ve had mentors that I’ve said, okay, you know, thank you for getting me through this one thing. I’m gonna maybe not not form a conversation, but finding who serves me at what time and and that support. I will say, though, that one of the biggest reasons that those 2 things are what I would, I would really help what I would suggest that would help somebody is because the university system was not meant for me. It was not meant for people like me. A first-generation Latina woman, and it is sometimes a as they say, a dog-eat-dog world out there. And so, making sure that your mentors help you navigate these systems and create changes to these systems as you go through your through your time and academia is essential, not just for yourself, but the ones that follow you. And so I think that those things are really important for up-and-coming scholars to really keep in mind as well that the system can change, and it takes a lot but having your army, your support around you is gonna help you get through it.

Patrick Louchouarn: So Mary, thank you so much for the last piece that you shared. I would like to add a final thing and with context and full respect of your experience. because that experience is your own and and and minorities, faculty and students cannot you know? those for majority like me cannot understand the experience that you may have had. Then you rephrase your statement by saying universities were meant for they are not formally organize to support that ideal. but Land Grant University in particular, with design around access, and we have to reconcile that vision with action through action of inclusion. And people like you with your cheerfulness, your ownership, your courage.are making that image real every day. and I thank you for that courage. I thank you for speaking up, and I thank you. We’re still giving your time to the students who are coming behind and being that whole model that my knowing my students need. So thank you.

Mary Rodriguez: Thanks for that reframe. I think that’s very. I think that shows it helps to ensure that we are always thinking about, as you said, that mission. The original mission of the Land Grant University, so that we don’t forget it. So I appreciate that reframe, for sure.

Patrick Louchouarn: And it’s also remember that my grants were not all created equal. So not until we have who all all the land grants but around the same mission for all access, we will have achieve what we need to achieve. So, there’s a lot of work, and I appreciate that you’re part of it.

Mary Rodriguez: Thank you.

Patrick Louchuoarn [Outro]: The faculty stories, Tell Me Your Why Podcast, is produced by the Ohio State University’s Office Faculty Affairs. For more information, visit us at I’m your host, Patrick Louchuoarn. Thanks for listening and join us again soon.


Image shows text Tell Me Your Why podcast episode 6.

Episode 6

Stephen Quaye

Stephen Quaye, professor in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program, talks about his journey to Ohio State, the importance of support from colleagues in processing impactful situations and working through significant feelings and events, and how he has blended personal interest with broader impact in his research.



Episode 6 Transcript

Patrick Louchouarn: Well, Hi, Stephen, thank you so much for joining me.

Patrick Louchouarn: I really really appreciate your presence. And are you accepting to share your story and your journey with the listeners. And if you don't mind, I would like you to introduce yourself. What position you hold at the university, since once you've been at OSU, and a little bit about your work.

Stephen Quaye: Yeah, sure, thank you for the opportunity. So

Stephen Quaye: my name is Steven Quay, and I'm currently a professor at Ohio State and the higher Education. The student for this program.

Stephen Quaye: which is specifically in the College of Education and Human ecology.

Stephen Quaye: and I started at OSU 4 years ago. I came in as an associate professor, so I'm recently promoted as of last year to

Stephen Quaye: Professor.

Stephen Quaye:  and I think.

Stephen Quaye: Oh, my gosh! I really lost track of the can we start again?

Patrick Louchouarn: No, please, please. So you were just saying that you join OSU

Patrick Louchouarn: as an associate professor. By the way, congratulations! Thank you for your promotion. Well deserved, and that now you are, you know, a a professor, you know, on the high strength since last year, and you were going to be chatting a little bit about the work that you do in the college of Education and human ecology.

Stephen Quaye: Yeah, so thanks for that.

Stephen Quaye: So the work that I do is I'm early around this concept of racial battle fatigue. that's my current work.

Stephen Quaye: and what that essentially means is the racial battle fatigue describes.

Stephen Quaye: Simply put the exhaustion that people of color feel from repeated racism.

Stephen Quaye: and I think it's easy to minimize it, as it's just exhaustion that folks of color are just tired.

Stephen Quaye: But I think what's most important for people to understand about it is that racial, bad fatigue. It has these negative consequences on the psychological, physiological and the emotional well being of people of color. so it actually is. It impacts our well being in our health.

Stephen Quaye: and so for me, I'm I'm most interested in not just navigating or understanding what racial battle fatigue is. There's a lot of work that that has already outlined what that is, and the the feelings that folks of color get from

Stephen Quaye: just navigating racism in our society. My work really centers on

Stephen Quaye: strategies that people of color can use. specifically, those who are faculty and graduate students of color they use to heal from racial battle fatigue.

Stephen Quaye: So knowing that this is a concept that's happening on our bodies, the question that I often ask in my work is, what can we do to actually heal

Stephen Quaye: from racial battle for tea that is more sustainable, and it is not just

Stephen Quaye: temporary fixes. so I'm really invested in that work, in part, because when folks of color are able to heal from racial battle fatigue, it means we're able to then devote that attention that we were then devoting towards navigating racism to more productive and life giving activities such as our teaching, our research, our work, our interactions with

Stephen Quaye: with our students, with with our friends, our relationships, like all of those we're able to navigate more seamlessly because we've spent the time necessary to heal in a more sustainable and long term way

Stephen Quaye: from racial battle fatigue. So that's essentially why I'm invested in that word because it's taking time and attention away from being able to do those more in life giving activities that folks who are not navigating racial data fatigue are able to do so. That really sums up.

Stephen Quaye: the work that I do around Rachel. Battle fatigue.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you for sharing that story, and you work such an important work at any time I would say more and more.

Patrick Louchouarn: However. I feel a message of hope. and the application you give to your work. This is so uplifting, and I so appreciate

Patrick Louchouarn: that you are devoting so much of your time to the healing part.

Patrick Louchouarn: You know of that racial battle fatigue. So if you don't mind sharing with our listeners

Patrick Louchouarn: what you've you've mentioned a little bit the why that motivates you I can't imagine. You know your own

Patrick Louchouarn: personal journey, but maybe you want to share it a little bit. How you came to discover that this was your path and Maybe there are more ramifications to your why, deeper roots that you may want to share with us.

Stephen Quaye: Yeah, I'm I'm happy to. So

Stephen Quaye:  so I I came across this this concept in in 2014. So for con, for for for context, for people listening.

Stephen Quaye: in 2,014, I was an assistant professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. So Miami University is a predominantly white institution, probably about 86 or 87 of the students at Miami are white.

Stephen Quaye: It's in a rural area in southwestern Ohio. And this context is important, because in 2,014,

Stephen Quaye: August 9, 2,014 is when Michael Brown shot and killed Darren Wilson. in Ferguson, Missouri. And it's probably one of the most impactful

Stephen Quaye: impactful situations that happen to me personally, I it. Michael Brown is certainly not the first person who was shot and killed by police officer, and he certainly hasn't been the last since 2014, unfortunately. But yet Michael Brown's death

Stephen Quaye: had an impact on my on me in a way that I wasn't anticipating. August 9, 2014 was 6 days before I was participate, my promotion and tenure materials at Miami University. So they were due August fifteenth.

Stephen Quaye: and I just remember I was working on my materials, and I just had this

Stephen Quaye: this overwhelming sense of like just grief and sadness and anger.

Stephen Quaye: and it was really hard for me to

Stephen Quaye: to prioritize somebody my dossier, and working on it like I was. I was revealing my materials and all of it just felt so futile.

Stephen Quaye: in part, because I thought to myself, I have the privilege of

Stephen Quaye: sitting in my office, any of my house working on these materials. But yet this 14 year old life has been taken from him, and what opportunities

Stephen Quaye: like would he have had if he had. you know, 30, 40 more years of life to to give to others and give to himself and get to the world.

Stephen Quaye: And I just started reflecting on just what it meant to be in Academia in this position of privilege to have this opportunity to to submit my materials, and I was really struggling with with with with doing that

Stephen Quaye: And so I was

Stephen Quaye: because I was struggling so deeply. I ended up having some conversations with 2 of my closest colleagues, both of which are black women. At Miami.

Stephen Quaye: Dominique, and the mahogany shawl mahogany actually grew up really close to Ferguson, Missouri. And so she was also really impacted by Michael Brown's death. As well.

Stephen Quaye: and we just started having conversations at a coffee shop. just talking, processing our feelings. And that really helped me move me out of my grief and and and anger.

Stephen Quaye: and at the time. coincidentally, too, and trying to process my feelings and emotions, I came across this concept of racial battle fatigue.

Stephen Quaye: and those listing, I think what's really important here is I think sometimes when we're really struggling with something, and then we don't really know what it is. And then we finally have some language to name. What we've been experiencing.

Stephen Quaye: It feels really, really powerful. It's very empowering. And so for me, I I all of this grief, the anger.

Stephen Quaye: the lack of motivation, the hopelessness that I was feeling.

Stephen Quaye: I finally had had words for it. And so I just then started reading as much as I could about this concept of race, about a fatigue to try to understand it more

Stephen Quaye: And so, in processing that with my colleagues, Mahogany and Dominique, who are also 2 of my closest friends. we decided to form what we call the mobilizing anger collective

Stephen Quaye: which is a group of faculty staff students, and community members in the Oxford to hire community who met regularly to process and address issues of injustice on our campus and the surrounding community

Stephen Quaye: and the mobile. The mobilizing anger collected really gave me the space to mobilize. So it's it's it's it's appropriately named to mobilize our anger into something more productive.

Stephen Quaye: so anger is a very healthy and natural emotion, and I think Andrew is important.

Stephen Quaye: But for me, personally, I couldn't stay in that place of anger. I had to transform that anger into something productive.

Stephen Quaye: And so that the mobilizing and your collective really gave me a space to really think through that, and it actually served as a healing space for me. So this is where the healing part of my interest in racial battle. Fatigue comes into play is because because I was able to start processing

Stephen Quaye: my feelings of sadness and anger and frustration and hopelessness with 2 of my colleagues and friends, mahogany and Dominique. And then, with this larger group of faculty, staff and students in the Mobile Mobile, I say, anger collected.

Stephen Quaye: I started to really see how.

Stephen Quaye: having supportive people, having community being very intentional about the healing process, can really facilitate productivity and enable people of color to move through

Stephen Quaye: this racial battle fatigue. So then, that is the why.

Stephen Quaye: But then, because this was something that I was navigating personally, and I saw how it was impacting others beyond me. I wanted to understand it more systematically and how it's impacting other people. So it it started from myself.

Stephen Quaye: And then it morphed into wanting to learn more about it among other people. And what I've learned over time is that

Stephen Quaye: healing is possible.

Stephen Quaye: Sometimes healing is not as sustainable as we would like it to be, because, unfortunately, racism

Stephen Quaye: is is endemic to our society. It's something that will that will continue to happen. But yet I do think in in. What I've learned from this research is that in community and in conversation with other people, that healing is possible. And so I think that's that to me is is is my. Why is that?

Stephen Quaye: It's been from really trying to make sense of Michael Brown's death. wanting his death to not be in vain.

Stephen Quaye: and then wanting to figure out some more meaning and mattering around this promotion and tenure process, and do work that I think was more meaningful and more powerful and not just doing research for the sake of being promoted, or for this week of earning tenure. We're really doing research that I thought would make a difference in the lives of real people of mainly people of color, both inside and outside of bacteria. And so that's really what motivated me to do this work.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much for sharing your your story. I love the precision of your language. and how you are able to share your emotions through the process.

Patrick Louchouarn: and how you were able to also rationalize your own learning.

Patrick Louchouarn: This is such an inspirational story to me. I always

Patrick Louchouarn: it made me think when you were initially identifying the and and I will apologize if I make interpretations that are not appropriate. But do you know how you were surprised by your sense of grief.

Patrick Louchouarn: at least the way I understood it at the very beginning, and how that sense of grief became blocking to your own work, meaning became cap incapacitating, and and

Patrick Louchouarn: few people understand the power of grief. How it can really affect the capacity of individuals to even perform the basic

Patrick Louchouarn: functions. and I, you know I'm I was thinking, although and again I will ask for, you know, for apologies, for making

Patrick Louchouarn: links. But this is in one way that I learn. I try to project, and you know the experience of others. In

Patrick Louchouarn: what could that? How could I understand this in my own terms? And basically the trauma that comes from disasters.

Patrick Louchouarn: and that, you know it really affects people in incredible ways.

Patrick Louchouarn: The difference here is that this disaster of that you speak about that affects people of color in a way that is so impactful.

Patrick Louchouarn: is invisible to others

Patrick Louchouarn: right, that that the impact of a hurricane or an earthquake is visible to everyone. Yes, those that live it and those that don't live it because they have tangible impacts to every everyone that we were impacted, whereas the grief that you speak about is very invisible to a number of people, including myself

Patrick Louchouarn: and the fact that you were able to share in such precise way

Patrick Louchouarn: how that affected you, and how you decided to use that to feed your own research and make a difference

Patrick Louchouarn: is the inspiring piece. And and I thank you for both sharing your work, but also deciding to become a leader, thought leader. And how to use that learning to actually

Patrick Louchouarn: help others to heal and become stronger. All right. past the trauma.

Stephen Quaye: Thank you. You're welcome. Appreciate that.

Patrick Louchouarn: So my apologies for interfering a little bit here. But you're sort of compelling, and

Patrick Louchouarn: and congratulations to you and your colleagues. I you know you have done quite a bit to support your community, and

Patrick Louchouarn: I look forward to seeing all the things that you're going to continue doing with your work and and you may have spoken to a little bit about this, but for my last question.

Patrick Louchouarn: I know that you've you've mentioned. You've helped some, you know. graduate students in particular.

Patrick Louchouarn: What advice would you give to graduate students.

Patrick Louchouarn: all of them

Patrick Louchouarn: specifically those that you work in particular to help that are interested in academia.

Patrick Louchouarn: You spoke about the 10 year process, you you are saying, you know, to you you spoke how you're trying to make sense of it all, particularly from your perspective, being a minority, being a minorityized individual or individual, firm, analogized group. what kind of advice would you give to individuals who are interested in coming to Academia? They may not

Patrick Louchouarn: see it as a place that will uplift their wise and give them the opportunity to drive.

Stephen Quaye: Yeah, so

Stephen Quaye: so I simply put I'll just say the the simple advice, and then I'll I'll I'll expand on it in a bit

Stephen Quaye: but I think in simplest words, my biggest advice is to just do the work that matters

Stephen Quaye: And so what I mean by that is, I think, one of the one of the challenges of of Academia, I think, especially for newer scholars or graduate students, is

Stephen Quaye: they? They see, sort of the the Cvs, or the publications of their faculty, or or or peers who are further along in the process, and they get really.

Stephen Quaye: I think, sidetracked and motivated by the all of of long Cvs or or big grants, or lots of publications. And I think that gets in the way of focusing on the work that matters

Stephen Quaye:  And so for me. Everything that I have done in my career in academia has been because I have. I have prioritized, I think, work that matters and not work that is going to either yield large brands or be heavily cited, or in lots of publications.

Stephen Quaye: and maybe maybe that is sort of the the

Stephen Quaye: the effects of of doing work, that matter is, if that's if that's what happens of of doing work that matters. I think that's great. But that's not the motivation. So as an example, my career has span that I've done sort of focused on, maybe on 3 primary research areas. And they've all connected to

Stephen Quaye: to me. work that I think has mattered and has stem from from me personally.

Stephen Quaye: so first, I was very interested in understanding how people can talk about and facilitate dialogue about difficult issues.

Stephen Quaye: things like privilege, power, oppression, racism, sexism, copies that are really hard to talk about, because people are either worried about saying the wrong thing, offending somebody, just not having the the, the knowledge to do that, and especially when we look at our our larger social contexts or political climate.

Stephen Quaye: there is a desperate need for this work to continue, because folks really struggle with talking about issues with which they disagree with with members of society and productive ways.

Stephen Quaye: And that's then for me, personally, as a

Stephen Quaye: I'm an immigrant who was born in Ghana, and so, coming over to the United States, being in predominantly white areas, I rarely interacted with other black folks growing up.

Stephen Quaye: so I often had to put my place to put myself in positions where I was engaging with people who are different from me. So I I often have to prioritize that. And so that's what's sort of my first research area. It's from me wanted to understand something personally that I was struggling with.

Stephen Quaye: Then I started to get involved in student activism. so I mentioned this mobilizing anger collected as part of my research and part of my reason for that was, I saw the ways in which students with minoritized identities were often exhausting themselves to hold their institutions accountable

Stephen Quaye: for addressing racism and not not just being students, right like they were in college, this to be students. But they felt they had to be activists because either their faculty or their staff were not doing the work of addressing racism, Texas, homophobia, etc., on their campuses. So that's then, from something that I personally was navigating in this mobileized, mobilizing anger collected.

Stephen Quaye: And then I mentioned sort of the ratio of out of the team, which again, stem from Noticing that I was struggling personally with Michael Brown's death and wanting to learn more about that.

Stephen Quaye: And so I share those 3 sort of trajectories of where my research has gone and involved, because they all started with something personally that I was wondering about. I wanted to then extend to to other people to look at how this is impacting others. And so for me, work that often matters is work that is deeply personal and deeply connected to who I am.

Stephen Quaye: And I think it's possible, as grad students and Us. Dollars to do work that is deeply personal, personal.

Stephen Quaye: and and

Stephen Quaye: that it still yields a good career and still yields promotion. Tenure all those pieces, if that's what you're invested or interested in.

Stephen Quaye: So that's a long way away from the essentially just saying

Stephen Quaye: to those listening, just focus on the work that matters don't get sidetracked by the the lower, by the prestige, by the publications, by the all those pieces that I think are are the

Stephen Quaye: re rewards potentially of work that matters. But it's the work that ultimately matters. That's that, I think is is what drives scholars. And so for me, I think that's it connects to my why connect to who I am.

Stephen Quaye: and when you do the work that matters

Stephen Quaye: like others won't notice, and even if they don't. You know that it's important? And I think that's what is really important in life.

Patrick Louchouarn: Again, the precision of your language always impresses me. You have a way to be able to weave that whole story and make so much sense to it. Pop really really appreciate you highlighting the importance of the work that we engage in.

Patrick Louchouarn: It is, you know, academia is a space where you have the opportunity to do that. We often, you know, forget to tell that story, and others

Patrick Louchouarn: may may not see it, especially rising scholars, and I love how, you juxtapose! You know the work that matters versus the allure of a long Cv meaning. This is, you know, all of the results of a long career or an established career.

Patrick Louchouarn: However. for the most part a lot of people who have long CV started from a word that matters at least to them.

Patrick Louchouarn: And and I love that. You simplify it back to that message

Patrick Louchouarn: is, you know I call it. The current adventure of the mind is, you know, the work that matters both to you, but also even more so when it matters to society, to others. And you really addressing issues that have significance. And and you do that so beautifully

Patrick Louchouarn: in all the 3 dimensions that you shared the evolution of your work across those 3 areas. you continue to do work that matters a great deal. So thank you. Thank you for doing the work.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you for being here. Thank you for being at us, you, and definitely for sharing your journey and your story.

Stephen Quaye: Appreciate it. Thank you so much. It was. It was good to to reflect and talk a little bit about it, so I appreciate the opportunity.

Patrick Louchouarn: I know that. you know our conversation and listening to you is going to be inspirational to quite a few people. So again, thank you for being here, and I I look forward to see you on campus.

Stephen Quaye: Sounds good, thank you all. Thank you so much.



Image shows text: Tell Me Your Why Episode 7 with a transparent play button.

Episode 7

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly, PhD, speaks with host Patrick Louchouarn about her non-traditional start in academia, incorporating entrepreneurship into her courses, and how following her heart and passion drives her professional pursuits.



Episode 7 Transcript

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Patrick Louchouarn: So, Caitlin, thank you very much for joining me. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your story with. as I was sharing with you. quite a fascinated

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by the work that you do, and especially in the multiple dimensions in which you do your work.

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Patrick Louchouarn: And I'd love you. I'd love for you to actually share that story without the faculty. So if you don't mind introducing yourself sharing when you join Osu, and what it is that you do here in, you know, in your unit.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: Okay? Yes. thanks for having me.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I'm Caitlin Wendell Riley. I'm a newly tenured associate professor in biomedical engineering. I have a joint appointment in chemical and biomolecular engineering, and also a courtesy appointment in ophthalmology and visual sciences.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I joined Ohio State in 2,016.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I had a bit of a non traditional start an academia. I worked for a small company prior to joining the faculty. Here.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I currently work on researching and developing ocular biomaterials and drug delivery systems.

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Patrick Louchouarn: Well, thank you for sharing that. I I really got very interested in your work. it seemed to me

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Patrick Louchouarn: from reading your You know some of your you know synopsis on your work that it is difficult to understand

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Patrick Louchouarn: why some of the you know elements of the I that you're studying, why that happens, and some of the materials, the buying materials in the eyes of natural ones. And how do you come up with engineering? some solutions to heal that on on those issues. So just that whole approach to me seems so fascinating.

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Patrick Louchouarn: And I was wondering if you could share

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Patrick Louchouarn: why it is that you decided to work on on this. What is that drives you to do this, and at the same time to continue your entrepreneurial work. If I'm not mistaken, you are chief technical officer of a company that you started, that you launched, and you remain active in that space which is not usual.

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Patrick Louchouarn: So please you know, if you don't mind sharing. why, this this work?

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I actually did my Phd on molecular bio materials, and I did go and work in several different areas. After my Phd. I dabbled a little bit in neural tissue engineering, and then the company I worked for I worked on wound care products for like skin cups, burns, and factions.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: and so the common underlying theme behind all those was polymers and bio materials. And really these are all also considered soft tissues. So when I looked at starting my lab here in Ohio State.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I felt like the biggest unmet need like that area where there were the least researchers was still in the ocular field.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: so I saw a real niche or a real place where I thought I could make a difference, because there wouldn't be very many of us working in that space.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: And then, as far as my approach goes, So when I started, I was still looking at investigating a lot of what was going on in the native tissues.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I'm passionate about the vitreous humor which is the whole center part of the I. It's probably the least studied part of the eye. for a long time it's been considered to be disposable. you know, kind of like the appendix in the rest of the body. it turns out that it's a huge reservoir of antioxidants, so it might be contributing.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: You know, it's the overall health of the I. So I'm still interested in pursuing that.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: And then, from a materials perspective. I've been using my knowledge from school and from working in industry

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: on how I can use polymers, and how I can, you know, really do translational research. So even though I'm at an academic institution, I found that I'm still very passionate about

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: getting things out of the lab. I really would hope to see a difference in patient outcomes or in health care.

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and really to ultimately do that our work has to translate from the academic lab to where the patients are actually going to encounter it.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: So a lot of my research focus has been more on the translational side because I am passionate about it. but at the same time we do still have some more basic science or basic engineering type projects related to the I

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Patrick Louchouarn: thank you so much for sharing that. if not not not mistaken, you not only interested in. you know, the basic science and the translation that I actually would provide solutions and health solutions to patients who need it. I'm I'm quite interested. you know, in

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Patrick Louchouarn: the fact that it almost how did you put it? the p to your system was disposable. So, meaning to me it almost seems like it's one of those ailments. If you get old and you have it. Well, you know

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Patrick Louchouarn: it's you know it's it. It is the way it goes, and you see, not to let that deter you on the country. It seems to attract you.

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Patrick Louchouarn: One of the piece that really really speaks to me is that in addition to those 2 dimensions, you also are driving education and and and and teaching students to think and develop their entrepreneurial skills.

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Patrick Louchouarn: And so

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Patrick Louchouarn: that's the third dimension that is even more rare in faculty. Tell me a little bit more about that, if you don't mind.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: Well, part of that kind of twofold

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I myself never thought of myself as an inventor or an entrepreneur. It's just kind of something that I fell into. Oh, through my experience and industry, where I started to get patents. you know, instead of publications.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: And then, when I saw that, you know, kind of the way forward through

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: getting things out of the academic space, you still, you still need to have that intellectual property protection. and I was really influenced by the reach for commercialization program.

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The the time was run by Mary Youhaust and Carolyn Christopher.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: and even though I was a junior faculty member. fairly new assistant Professor. I I found, kind of a support network and the encouragement to go ahead and pursue that line of activity. In addition to what we would consider like the more traditional academic research approach.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: So it was challenging. But at the time I I saw, or I was seeing a shift in the culture at Ohio State that was starting to acknowledge and reward those types of activities. so ultimately, after consulting with friends, family and colleagues.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I decided that I wanted to push through with that side of things with the entrepreneurial side of things, because ultimately that's what drives me. and that's what keeps me very interested, even though I am an academic

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: and from the education perspective like, I said, I never thought of myself in terms of being either an inventor, and never thought I'd have a patent. I never thought I'd be working for a start up company. And I feel like.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: you know, that's something that most people don't think of in terms of a career opportunity. I was never exposed to anything like that. It's it's just kind of something that I started to fall into. And I had great mentors. I had great programs like reach for commercialization program. And that's how I ultimately started to see myself in that space.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: So I thought, especially in engineering and especially in biomedical engineering, where there's a lot more in terms of smaller, start up companies and other things happening. I thought students should be exposed to

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: some of those characteristics and ideas earlier on in the curriculum, because some of them might ultimately either end up working in that space, or might start to consider. You know, the the intellectual merit of what they're doing, or start valuing their ideas, and and really looking at how they could move it forward to translation.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: And then the other side of things.

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I got involved with the teen entrepreneurial minded learning initiative, this one or the Ohio State, and while it says entrepreneurial in the name, it's not in terms of traditional entrepreneurship. but it is a thought process, and it's a. It's an interesting way to have engineering students

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Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: really think and be more creative about their approaches to problem solving, so that really connected with me as well, and we became a keen partner institution shortly after I joined the University. So it was a great opportunity for me to jump in and become more involved with that program.

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Patrick Louchouarn: I, for one, I'm very glad that you decided it fully. Heart.

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Patrick Louchouarn: we, we definitely need a faculty like you who actually are incorporating entrepreneurship into their teaching. One of the things that I've noticed is that there is more and more demand, particularly in professional programs for from students who want to understand what that looks like, and both your experience, your own journey and your courage in developing. And that line of for both research and application and teaching.

00:10:35.260 --> 00:10:53.450

Patrick Louchouarn: is fantastic for the students, for osu and and and I'm very, very happy to see how successful you are, and leading at the same time, also in very strong recognition in your on promotion and tenure, do you? So? Thank you. Thank you for.

00:10:53.760 --> 00:11:19.479

Patrick Louchouarn: I do have a last question, if you don't mind, and I think that's a little bit, you know you almost segue into it is What would be an advice that you would give? rising scholars so graduated students finishing their Phd. And early career. faculty, or postdocs, or considering academia, what advice would you give Considering both your journey and

00:11:19.500 --> 00:11:21.419

Patrick Louchouarn: and how it's worked for you.

00:11:23.160 --> 00:11:30.580

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I would say that you're going to hear a lot of advice. it will often be conflicting.

00:11:30.610 --> 00:11:35.119

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: So at the end of the day what I decided to do

00:11:35.320 --> 00:11:47.550

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: was to go with what I knew would make me happy. So I made the decision in terms of the entrepreneurial aspects. For example, I decided that

00:11:47.780 --> 00:11:51.140

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: I would be more upset

00:11:51.380 --> 00:12:18.389

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: if they were successful, and I was not involved then if I was involved and they were not successful. So it really told me that that I really did want to go for it. And I did want to, you know, work on those opportunities, even though at the time as a junior faculty member. I was sometimes, you know, discouraged because it would take time away from the more traditional aspects.

00:12:18.450 --> 00:12:30.260

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: So it's it's along the lines of following your heart, following your passion, and at the end of the day you know, don't necessarily try to make yourself fit into a mold

00:12:30.600 --> 00:12:39.380

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: Do what you think is worthwhile, and hopefully your institution will will value your contributions.

00:12:40.410 --> 00:12:52.470

Patrick Louchouarn: I really appreciate your words. Someone who's followed my heart sometimes to, you know, making mistakes. But that comes with the experimentation. I really appreciate.

00:12:52.540 --> 00:13:16.950

Patrick Louchouarn: and that you are so honest with you know, following your own direction and and and also I appreciate your your time and sharing your story today. Thank you so much. I really want to reiterate my congratulations to your promotion. This is a fantastic recommendation of your work, and I really can't wait to see all the things you're gonna continue doing

00:13:17.310 --> 00:13:19.230

Katelyn Swindle-Reilly: alright. Thank you very much.

Image shows text: Tell Me Your Why Episode 8 with a transparent play button.

Episode 8

Abby Zbikowski

Abby Zbikowski, Ohio State graduate and associate professor in the Department of Dance, talks about her life as the leader of a dance company, building trust with students and community, and her path to conducting research and being creative in academia.




Episode 8 Transcript

Patrick Louchouarn: So, Abby, thank you so much for joining me for this conversation. On telling me you why I really appreciate you making time to share with our listeners your on journey in academia and outside. So, if you don't mind, would you mind introducing yourself

Patrick Louchouarn: what position you hold at the university

Patrick Louchouarn: when you joined OSU, and a little bit about the work that you do.

Abby Zbikowski: Yeah.

Abby Zbikowski: So I'm Abby Zbikowski, she her.

Abby Zbikowski: I just completed my first full year last year as an associate professor in the Department of Dance But prior to that I have a longer history. With Ohio State. I got my Mfa and dance here

Abby Zbikowski: in 2012, and then I worked here as a visiting artist for about 2 years after that. but so I'm going into my second full year as an associate professor

Abby Zbikowski: in the department of dance and I teach. I teach physical practice. I teach dance composition, creative process.

Abby Zbikowski: and actually. I almost put everything I do under the umbrella of creative process. because

Abby Zbikowski: there are a lot of kind of in between, like like layers of information that serve everything that we as dance people do and engage with and account for. And so sometimes we don't think about it in certain spaces like, you know the the history of the why. You hold your body in a certain way, because you've trained in a specific way. You know how that affects you in the composition class and kind of taking it back and understanding how some of these patterns and psychologies are like

embedded in you. You might not even realize that. So there's a lot of kind of back and forth

Abby Zbikowski: between the I guess genres of classes. I teach But

Abby Zbikowski: I think a little bit about sort of like

Abby Zbikowski: there's there's that same kind of

Abby Zbikowski: like, not a hard line between. Okay, what is teaching? What is scholarship and what is research? and I know that that is kind of like a wild thing to think about for somebody who's an academia? That there isn't. This sort of like

Abby Zbikowski: this is the product. And this is something tangible. That's like, maybe a written document or something in that manner. but I'm a bit of a I'm a teaching artist. And so all of these kind of like the underpinnings and the academic things that support. What I do serve. This sort of.

Abby Zbikowski: you know greater creative research that I do with my company, obviously in the new utility. So to be an academia, and to be an artist is to kind of like, cross the the the lanes and the highway, and like, take all the jug, handles, and all. You know, you're constantly negotiating in between these spaces because it's not necessarily a system

Abby Zbikowski: that was designed for particularly what dance is today, which it's undergoing sort of great redefinition and sort of decentral, you know, sort of European

Abby Zbikowski: solely European aspects that have driven the or you all American aesthetics that have driven sort of dance in higher Ed.

Abby Zbikowski: So everything

it feels, all encompassing. Everything is everything. It needs to be talked about. So even within myself.

Abby Zbikowski: there's a lot of village and slippage of information between the courses. I teach, how I how I interact with my company, how I interact with students and

Abby Zbikowski: So when I'm working with students, I'm I am. I'm teaching them something. But I'm also respecting the inf, like the the world and layers of information that they are getting to understanding about themselves and treat them as if they're somebody that I would be collaborating with within my company.

Abby Zbikowski: So there's a lot of crossover. so that's what I do. I choreograph as well with with students. And I do a lot of really important research in the studio and building trust and building community and

Abby Zbikowski: in in my.

Abby Zbikowski: in, in my position, or from my perspective, I feel like I am trying to shift the dial into a more inclusive, more self-aware dance spaces where not only the the students or the people, but the dancers in the work are, are kind of more self aware or and aware of.

Abby Zbikowski: I've tried to be a transparent, either, so kind of these things that had maybe kind of lurked in the shadows of dance that have, you know, driven people to make decisions out of like fear, or like not wanting to challenge conventions kind of openly speaking about them more so.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much for sharing. I love hearing you talk about your craft.

Patrick Louchouarn: and just listening to you people don't realize that you are definitely physical when you speak, you are dancing. I love that so for the benefits of everyone. I want everyone to understand that you really feel the space

Patrick Louchouarn: you've mentioned a few times your dance company. Would you mind sharing a little bit what you do with, because it is not usual that faculty also have either a company or you know. well, the company and us is, you know, it's it's own organization. So

what? What is the life of the leader of a dance company like?

Abby Zbikowski: Yeah. Well, I I have a dance company. It it's it's a bit project based. We have a 501 c. 3 so that's our own. not

Abby Zbikowski: fiscal like. what is that right? Oh.

Abby Zbikowski: I haven't had enough coffee. I'm in the Starbucks parking lot, so I need to get it after Okay, so I'll I'll come back to that with our own 501 c. 3 and

Abby Zbikowski: I I work with. I have a manager who is also a long time dancer, and actually 2 of the founding members. I bet what I was in grad school at Ohio State. Fiona, Lindy and Jennifer Meckley, and

Abby Zbikowski: they they help.

Abby Zbikowski: I it's really hard if I'm in academia, and I also have a 2 year old. And so Fiona has taken on a lot of the business management and there. It's a collective collaborative space. But there's planning that needs to go into kind of bringing people together and getting rehearsals going. And so they are instrumental into sort of like

Abby Zbikowski: creating that that space and kind of knowing more like when we're bringing some new dancers and people into the full. They they help a lot with that transmission of information that takes a long time, and they also have their own because the work is really really physical. So they kind of can be slightly like life coaches. The way that I am to new dancers who are are trying to

Abby Zbikowski: engage with this really physical material, and it's taxing mentally as well as physically. So just finding sort of the strategies inside of it. So I have this company. I founded it, I would say I found it in 2,012. But I got my

Abby Zbikowski: 510, it's a it's a fiscal, it's tax exempt status. Is that what is because we are a nonprofit? We are not, you know, and

Abby Zbikowski: it's very experimental dance and it's experimental, but with the goal of creating sort of creating points of access for people who have maybe kind of

Abby Zbikowski: they'll like, shut out from these more philosophical ideas that live inside of dance and their practices, and all of those are cultural constructions, and I'll get it back to that. but

Abby Zbikowski: I have.

Abby Zbikowski:  I expanded the company in like 2,016. So my first big evening length work called Abandoned Playground. which I got a Bessie.

Abby Zbikowski: a jury best the award that year coming off of recognition for what I was doing in the field. and

Abby Zbikowski: you know, Covid disrupted a lot for people and it really disrupted what was going to be the premiere of my my second evening length work, radioactive practice down those supposed to premiere in March eighteenth.

Abby Zbikowski: in 2,020 in New York City, literally when

Abby Zbikowski: the city was shutting down for Covid

Abby Zbikowski: But now eventually it it premiered or got its full premiere. There was a whole new work in May 2022,

Abby Zbikowski: and we're actually still touring it this season. We're we're touring down to not down

Abby Zbikowski: out to to Portland, and we're going to Austin, and we're going to Philly, and we're going to. Where is the other place we're going to? Oh, Minneapolis. So

Abby Zbikowski:  it's

Abby Zbikowski: it actually isn't as on

Abby Zbikowski: heard of as you might think for a a professor of dance to have their own company. It's almost expected that unless you have a doctorate and you are somebody who is purely not. And I hate to say someone is a purely written scholar, because even the scholars in the department of dance have a history of performing, or have some other kind of like

Abby Zbikowski: element of a a a other hat in the dance field that they wear, or have have been through or lived through. That has brought them to this point, as maybe

Abby Zbikowski: being more interested in written scholarship. but for those of us who are pursuing like

Abby Zbikowski: our our status as a professor is like, our research is really what we're doing with our companies, or what we're doing, even if they don't have full companies. A lot of professors go and have commissions with different companies out in the field out in the world. So But

Abby Zbikowski: there is

Abby Zbikowski: The work I do is demanding. And it

Abby Zbikowski: once I'm starting a project, it takes sort of a consistency and a a ramping up of rigor. And like kind of even though we're we're calling upon layers and worlds of information. All of the dancers are coming into the space with, we're building something new together, and so the only way to do it is to do it so it that live inside of it for a long time. So it kind of

Abby Zbikowski: requires its own set of

Abby Zbikowski: it. It's incubation period, right? So it kind of there's there's things that need to be accounted for. And it's actually, you know, to try and pay people what they're worth. It gets kind of expensive to pay them hourly. And so so, having a company like a full company with something that I I really kind of needed to do

Abby Zbikowski: And we're still figuring out, you know.

Abby Zbikowski: because it's really it's almost unheard of for dance companies to be starting these days, unless you're kind of grandfathered in to companies that

Abby Zbikowski: you know existed prior to 1,980, or some time. In the eighties there was a huge dance boom, and there was money, and there was all this stuff happening, and we are not at that time at all. I think everyone in the art is feeling it, but, like dance has historically, like always been filling it. it's an expensive art form, and people call it ephemeral

Abby Zbikowski: and and it is because it's something that you experience and you don't necessarily you you're not going to take it home with you tangibly like in your hands, and you're not going to necessarily listen to it hopefully. It shifts something inside of you and that in in the experience of it. But it's kind of been, you know. It's hard to replicate like with my my work.

Abby Zbikowski: It's hard. I'm working with a group of people, and if I don't have that same group of people again radically, will become a different piece, because that's just part of the ecosystem that's being created in a rehearsal process. so

Abby Zbikowski: having this company is essential to kind of the the space that I'm trying to create and kind of the business form that it requires to keep it all going.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much for explaining this and also normalizing the life of a performance. arts faculty. Because we are such a complex in, you know, institution

Patrick Louchouarn: with so many people doing so many things. The work, professor doesn't mean the same thing, although we have. We have a lot of connectivities in how we relate to learners and how we relate to our craft. obviously, what you explain even to me, is, you know, a performance. Our faculty really have to be

Patrick Louchouarn: engage in their craft in the world. and you know, and that's the piece that's the you know the representation of the scholarship. And I can totally also understand what you shared with us about. You know

Patrick Louchouarn: how dance will change, depending on the groups that you have. So you have to have this structure around which you can organize

Patrick Louchouarn: some form. I wouldn't call it sustainability for the criminal representation of the art. It's something that allows you to create continuity. So thank you. Thank you so much for sharing.

Patrick Louchouarn: So here's, you know, the most important question that I have to ask you is.

Patrick Louchouarn: you are very busy. You also shared that you have a young family, and you know you're going through the motions of promotion in the institution. You are engaged in the world with your company touring the Us. And other projects.

Patrick Louchouarn: Why do you do all these things? What is the you know, the energy that motivates you, that you know makes you get up every morning and wanting to do it all over again. Can you share with us?

Patrick Louchouarn: You know that energy, that? Why.

Abby Zbikowski: yeah,

Abby Zbikowski: I think it's

Abby Zbikowski: what I operate from. Currently that energy is

Abby Zbikowski: the same energy I've operated from since

Abby Zbikowski: I I knew I wanted to choreograph since, like I was in high school or before.

So like there's some spark.

Abby Zbikowski: and and and I now have other words to describe it, and and life experiences to reflect through, to understand, you know where where it's coming from, but there is something just really innate and and

Abby Zbikowski: there's something for me physically like healing about movement. And I I'll say that coming up in a you know not the the happiest homes, quite volatile home. Dance was always a way that kept me grounded, and I was also always really physical playing sports and things like that, and I didn't necessarily in my mind like they were. They were serving me in the same way. I think they live in such different aesthetic world for for most people, and that's like, Oh, this person would do that! And then that person would not engage in this activity. But in reality

Abby Zbikowski: that's not true. Like I. They were serving the same purpose for me. Which was it was activating this, and I don't know, like now, maybe it was endorphins. And it was this kind of thing that I was after, but it was also creating the sense of community and team structure. that

Abby Zbikowski: I

Abby Zbikowski: in in both sports and in dance, that I I wanted to, you know. kind of prioritize that sense of community with within my company.

Abby Zbikowski:  and

Abby Zbikowski: there's also my dance training is now everybody. Everybody has has atypical dance training. There's not one way to become a dance professional or be a dancer in the world. But I think historically, mine is very confusing for people.

Abby Zbikowski: because, you know, I'm a white woman South Jersey, and I grew up like tap was my first true love. And there is again, like there's something really soothing about the rhythm and the sensation of it, and really not about what it looks like, but what it's doing.

Abby Zbikowski: And I would go into as soon as as soon as I could. I would take the speed line into Philly, and I would take

Abby Zbikowski: West African dance is to take Jeffrey pages class at Crest Dance center, and then I would also take crystal frasers, a pop class. So Crystal was one of the dancers with Rennie Harris for a movement which was like it's like

Abby Zbikowski: known as like one of the first

Abby Zbikowski: Hip Hop Street dance theater companies in the world. And he's from Philadelphia. So based in Philly, so so kind of. From there I went to Temple University, where it was also a very

Abby Zbikowski: Africanist. Afro. I'm not going to say the whole department was Afro-centric, but there were concepts about

Abby Zbikowski: like contemporary African and African NIST

Abby Zbikowski: ideals, and histories that were part of the curriculum that at the time I didn't realize that most universities were not giving that information out right? So it was like, there is something really particular. And all this time knowing

Abby Zbikowski: like it.

Abby Zbikowski: you know, understanding white privilege. I mean, I remember as a freshman reading. Peggy. Oh, what's her last name?

Abby Zbikowski: Unpacking the invisible backpack understanding white privilege. I remember that I wrote that in like 2,002

Abby Zbikowski: in college, right? And so, having this self awareness, and then also kind of gravitating into Spaces where I was I was an outsider. I was a guest, culturally, and so understanding kind of that position that I have in the world.

Abby Zbikowski:  I think that continues to serve

Abby Zbikowski: both. How I create work and how I teach, like

Abby Zbikowski: really asking students to go deep into understand, like what has almost disciplined your sense of how you operate in the world like, what has

Abby Zbikowski: you know? How do you see yourself? And how did that get there? And then is that? Is.

Abby Zbikowski: are there other systems? Because, of course, there's other systems that play. Everyone isn't having the same experience. So really understanding sort of the structural and institutional, like racism, classes and sexism, which are all super inherent, both, you know.

Abby Zbikowski: historically, in institutions, but also in the dance field. So really kind of understanding all these complex things and and creating individualized paths that serve

Abby Zbikowski: each student that serve each dancer that I work with, and that hopefully move the dial to wherever we should be going next as a as a field or as the world.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much. I I

Patrick Louchouarn: I am always touch. How people would you go really the experience from being so personal and sharing. the personal parts of your life that may not have been easy.

Patrick Louchouarn: but that are a true part of your journey.

Patrick Louchouarn: And this is one of the things that I always encourage faculty

Patrick Louchouarn: to make sure that they understand their June journey as a whole, and that

Patrick Louchouarn: that all of these points? that are, you know, the selection affect how we make decisions and how we continue digging into the things that make sense to us.

Patrick Louchouarn: you know the whole explanation of

Patrick Louchouarn: why the physical movement is important to you. And then how do you you translate that externally for others to I to also understand, this place in the world is is beautiful. And I really appreciate that. you share that image with us? so

Patrick Louchouarn: to fin to finalize, or, you know, to finish our conversation, I ask our you know, our guest all the time the same question.

Patrick Louchouarn: You have spoken a lot about you know, engaging with others and helping others grow their own sense of self and self awareness in space. And so this question is really in the same in the same line. what would you? What piece of advice would you give to the emerging scholars in the dance world.

Patrick Louchouarn: both graduate students or postdocs, or even early career faculty things that you have learned to your own journey, and that you would like them to consider if they are considering themselves to enter in academia.

Abby Zbikowski: I have a couple

Abby Zbikowski:  I think the first one

Abby Zbikowski: would be

Abby Zbikowski: understanding that life outside of institutions moves

Abby Zbikowski: faster.

Abby Zbikowski: And so things are happening at a

Abby Zbikowski: rate and pace in for lack of better words. The real world when it comes to like certain, you know movements, or like aesthetics, or like

Abby Zbikowski: ideas out in the field, that

Abby Zbikowski: it takes, you know it 5 years for institutions to recognize what they are and that they're important. and obviously, when new ideas are out in the world, we don't know how they're going to hang around. But I think it's important to understand

Abby Zbikowski: sort of like you got to keep.

Abby Zbikowski: You gotta stay in both world. You can't just

Abby Zbikowski: be You can't just take

Abby Zbikowski: for granted what you were reading.

Abby Zbikowski: because things aren't being registered in real time, when it cuts to the point of being published, or something like that. So so there is this kind of like

Abby Zbikowski: being aware of sort of the limitations, particularly on timetables, but also on people's like. There might not be language to describe new things happening. I've for years have people just like I don't know, like I don't know what to talk like, what are what are you doing, you know? And so I'll explain to people what I'm doing, and then

Abby Zbikowski: so maybe take issue with it until they see the work. And it's like, Oh. so it's also the sense of like, not everything so clearly translates to words in the way that other people use words. So how the next thing would be like.

Abby Zbikowski: do your research obviously taking all the information that is relevant and supporting you, but also don't regurgitate other people. You can be informed by it in conversation with worlds of information.

Abby Zbikowski: But really, what are you doing, and what are you adding to the conversation? And don't be afraid to add something in the conversation.

Abby Zbikowski: particularly it. It's like not something you need to like for me, like I said. what I'm doing. I didn't.

Abby Zbikowski: You can't kind of front-load the information and then work from there. It's like you have to work through a series of things over years and then be able to put words to it that maybe translate more

Abby Zbikowski: easily

Abby Zbikowski: to to institutional language or academic scholarship and language in that that regard. But there is also like

Abby Zbikowski: I. I try to write from an accessible space. But I I have been in institutions for a while, because then, when I go to write grants or things. And people like this is.

Abby Zbikowski: this is too much. You need to like, strip it down and be more basic. I was like, Okay, so it's like keeping the ability to speak to multiple audiences. Understand the audiences you're trying to reach with your work.

Abby Zbikowski: and that

Abby Zbikowski: institutions aren't just for institutional like like, is it just sort of I for me? I don't want what I'm doing just to circulate within an institution. But how? And again, this is why the company is important and like going up and teaching if they stands. Festival next next next week is important and like, continue to engage with students outside of the university is important, that it's like you know it it to be a closed loop.

Patrick Louchouarn: Thank you so much. You know I'm going to share with you a little experience.

Abby Zbikowski: in preparation for a conversation. I you know I looked up some of the done the work that you Your company has done. And there are a few videos available of a radioactive practice. And so I experience your work

Patrick Louchouarn: from the perspective. Now, Grant, you, is not the same as being you know, in front of the stage, or having 3 dimensional movement around you. But I expense you work from the perspective of the movement

Patrick Louchouarn: before I experience the explanations that you shared. And now everything makes sense. So you shared. You know that sometimes, you know, people have a hard time understanding

Patrick Louchouarn: with the words around

Patrick Louchouarn: the 3 dimensional performance. And that's the point. You have to experience it to, to understand it right. And I really love the way you also

Patrick Louchouarn: share the the experience of making sure that people actually anchor the experience both inside the institution understanding what is the language that needs to be spoken for promotion for grants, but at the same time understanding the timelines of very different outside of institution, of higher education, especially in the creative, the way I'm

Patrick Louchouarn: understanding from our conversation. in in the creative space there are movements that move very, very fast and you know, you have to capture them as they go. Is this a fair representation of.

Patrick Louchouarn: yeah, totally.

Abby Zbikowski: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And what you were saying, like, there is, there's also this whole thing like, even if you didn't

Abby Zbikowski:  when you were watching the video. if you didn't get what I gave you, I'm also okay with that. You know what I mean. If you didn't, if it doesn't align like I'm I'm

Abby Zbikowski: I really want to create space. I'll give information in in the program, and I have a lot sort of available, you know, different interviews and things that people can can listen to before seeing the work. But

Abby Zbikowski: I really honor that giving people space to like, live their lives, how they need to while viewing what it is. So it might.

Abby Zbikowski: you know, and that all, maybe reveal something about you where you don't want to go with it, or where it really kind of pulls you in like. What is that reveal both about the viewer. And you know there's a lot of

Abby Zbikowski: forwarding expectation that I'm interested in inside like going a different way than what is predicted, or what's what's kind of within us? and so there's something about

Abby Zbikowski: about letting the reality of these like reactions live and

Abby Zbikowski: and affect us.

Patrick Louchouarn: You said something earlier that I really kinda hit me, and it's coming back as I'm listening to you. When you said

Patrick Louchouarn: when you mentioned the issue with dance being described as ephemeral, and therefore you can carry it, you know, like a music piece or a piece of two-dimensional 2 dimensional art that you can bring home But you said something that really triggered something in me you mentioned, and I'm going to paraphrase

Patrick Louchouarn: it might change you inside.

Patrick Louchouarn: It might trigger, a series of reactions that changes you and that's my experience with performance arts with with dance. Is that those pieces that I watch from you have changed me. They have, because I very, I feel very close to the top, that type of movement.

Patrick Louchouarn: So it really made an impression that I still remember today. And I think this is also

Patrick Louchouarn: part of the conversation of today is the work, no matter how it's similar, it might be considered, is what is the impact it has on the individuals, and if that impact

Patrick Louchouarn: last for a long time.

Abby Zbikowski: then there's a very, very strong reason for that work to exist.

Patrick Louchouarn: So I want to thank you so much for sharing

Patrick Louchouarn: your story, your journey, your why, and your advice to the next generation. I want to wish you the best of success to this you know to your

Patrick Louchouarn: your

Patrick Louchouarn: true going around. And you know all of the different shows that we'll have, and your summer, and I look forward to see you on campus soon.

Abby Zbikowski: Yeah, thank you. Thanks so much. Have a good one.

Patrick Louchouarn: and that will.