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Really excellent people I have met: Amanda Thompson

For February, I am focusing my blog on really excellent people. Call it my Valentines to people who inspire me. I work at Purdue University, and I think one of the greatest gifts of working at Purdue University is all the great people I get to meet, and more specifically the great women that I get to meet. There’s some really badass females around this place that I have had the great chance to work with.

One such person is Amanda Thompson, Entrepreneur in Residence at the Foundry.

I first met Amanda while I was co-chair of the Purdue Faculty Association. She was a regular at many of our events around town. I didn’t really know her very well except socially, but I grew to know her more as I worked with many of the entrepreneurship initiatives around campus.

The thing that most inspires me about Amanda is how much she really values the people around her. Amanda is the sort of person who really has people’s backs. When I was working on a business plan competition, I needed someone to help me pick out a financial model for how the theoretical company would make money. I know that there were lot of better ways that she could probably have spent her time. Instead she walked me through the complicated areas of a financial model, asking me all sorts of questions that I had not thought to ask, in ways that I had not thought to ask them. Because of our meeting, I feel like I now know a lot more about the details that I would need in a business plan.

Amanda is also really inspiring to me because she never gives up. While we have spoken several times about the idea of failure and how it seemed to be much more catastrophic for women than men, but failure doesn’t seem to stick to Amanda. She’s a woman with a thousand hustles. She’s a mom, a professor of finance, a CFO, a rock climber, and an all-around go-to person in town. It seems at times like everyone knows Amanda, and with good reason. The woman is simply everywhere.

From Amanda I have learned many things. I’ve learned a little about how cool numbers can be. And I’ve learned how important it is to support people even when they don’t know anything about what you do.

She’s very inspiring to me and I feel glad to have met her.

Your Imposter Syndrome is Environmental

I have imposter syndrome and it’s something that affects my professional life. At my institution, librarians are often tenure-track and full rank. They do research, teach classes, and act as “professors” on the campus. I had never intended to become a professor. My masters program, while innovative, was not academic focused. I wrote code. I managed clients. I ran usability tests. I like my job and there are many aspects of it which I think are important and engaging, so I have chosen to manage my imposter syndrome. One of the ways I manage it is that I acknowledge the ways my imposter syndrome is environmental.

Those who have not read the Wikipedia page, Impostor syndrome is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as “fraud”. First observed among high-achieving women, it is also common among men. The part of the phenomenon which most stood out is this point: imposter syndrome is studied as a reaction to certain stimuli and events.

Not an ingrained personality trait, nor some sort of neurosis where I can’t see my own success, imposter syndrome is understood as a response to stimuli and is situational.

As I get older it becomes clear to me that my imposter syndrome is never going to go away entirely, because I haven’t changed the situation or my response to it. This makes sense because I never felt like an imposter in previous environments. My imposter syndrome is something I can overcome, as long as I don’t ignore it.

Below are some of the ways I manage my imposter syndrome through the management of environment.

  1. I acknowledge the ways environment may have led to my imposter syndrome. If you look at how psychologists examine imposter syndrome, it is not as “mental disorder” but as a “reaction to certain stimulus and events.” And yet people often talk about imposter syndrome in terms of their own feelings and not the environment that led to those feelings. So do think: when are you an imposter and why? In what situations do you feel most fake? Are people surprised when they meet you? Do they make comments that ask you about your personal story, such as where you are from, that may be hinting they are surprised at your rank or position? Do secretaries ask you to leave rooms so that meetings of professors can start? Do undergraduates ask you what your major is? In what ways do people expect you to do things you don’t actually know how to do, like operate SAP systems?
  2. I manage the environment to lessen impacts. Think about ways you can eliminate barriers to get your work done in the environment in which you work. Say No to things which don’t help you get work done and which make your imposter syndrome worse. If there’s a certain event or activity where you feel more like an imposter, then don’t go to that event. For me, it was events at the President’s house where I didn’t know people and there are no nametags with rank on them.
  3. I become part of the solution, not to the problem. I was in a meeting with another younger professor where an older professor commented about how great it was that the first professor looks so young. I called the professor out on this. Does that fix the whole environment? Not always. But we all need to weed our environments.
  4. I find mentors who believe in me. The thing about imposter syndrome is that most people with it can get along. It can be done, but you need advocates. Find mentors you trust, who believe in you. Accountability is a wonderful thing. Sometimes you can trust other people to call you out when you don’t give yourself enough credit, or you don’t take risks because you are afraid of being “uncovered”.

You deserve to be able to function in your environment. You are wonderful person who can benefit society greatly.

Before we start class…

There’s so much theatrics in teaching. Some classrooms have literal stages and podiums. There’s a definite feeling of what should be called the Fourth Wall There’s a moment when the teacher stops being whatever they are before they start each class and then they become The Professor. You can feel it like sharp intake of breath: you become the content at that moment. College classes are bound by space (RAWLS 1086, Purdue Campus), but mostly time. If it’s 8:30 on a Monday, you know that you are “in” MGMT 190 and are “listening” to The Professor.

The interesting part of “class” time is that it’s very fragile and very hierarchical. You are in MGMT 190 from 8:30 until 9:20 only if I, The Professor, say you are. I could cancel class. We could end early. Then the time becomes your own again. I remember in college I had a professor who used to joke that if he ended class early that you should take it out of our tuition checks. We decide their grade, we decide when they have met the objectives; they are to whom we deal the precious As and slap down with the dreaded Fs.

As such, the start of class is very interesting, since it’s ultimately up to you (The Professor) when the class starts and you become The Professor. Of course we know as educators this start is a fallacy. Learning doesn’t stop when The Professor says it has to stop. That’s in fact a great crises in high education: we tell the students “now you learn” and somehow that isn’t enough. Learning doesn’t happen on command. But it can be invited in.

It’s something like this:
Before we start class, I want you to think about the last time you had to use information to make a decision. Where did you look? When did you know that you had enough information to decide?”

Sometimes I do this because I know students are going to be late and the start of class actually is postponed. Sometimes it’s because I want students to answer less formally and think about their lives not as students but as people. It’s a little of a trick to create a space for teaching that has is a little disconnected with the formal space of the classroom.

This question situates the learner to act before the formal confines of the “class” where students “learn”. That’s very important, especially in so-called soft skills like information literacy, because often the spaces where students have to use that information are outside the narrow confines of when “official” learning happens in classroom. We care more, possibly the most, about informal learning as librarians. Like most things in a classroom, this is situational. Sometimes you don’t have the rapport with a group of students to create an informal learning space. After all, creating an informal learning space requires trust, sometimes trust that may have been broke already by someone else. But I think it’s important to think of opportunities to invite such learning.

Researching on Purpose

Filed right behind “Teaching on Accident” is “Researching on Accident”. I never intended to be a researcher either, but I took a job where researching was an important part of the libraries’ mission. I was a history major in my undergraduate, so I knew how to write, but I had never really thought much about social science research: how to do it, why to do it. The type of research that I did for my (two!) undergraduate thesis papers was almost entirely primary documents historical research, mostly at the trusty microfilm machine. I never had to think about human subjects because of all of my subjects were either dead or really, really dead.

I’m a pretty plucky person, I don’t scare easily, and I jumped right into research when I got to Purdue. During my first two years I attended all manner of different programs to better understand how to do research better.

I found the single most important thing in performing research is asking good questions. The research question should:

  • Be interesting to you
  • Help you do your job better
  • Have an answer
  • Be the sort of question where either answer is publishable and interesting.
  • Be sort of scary.

The last two things are the most important. Let’s say you did something really innovative and hard that very successful. You can’t ask a question like “How awesome was that instruction that I just did?” because if the answer is “not that awesome”, what are you going to do? That study is not going to be very helpful to other people. While failure is certainly more interesting than success, I think it’s too easy for people to have multiple reasons for failure, whereas people are much more comfortable with success that is attributed to one single factor.

Questions that are a little scary are even better because that means that they might just a little innovative because innovative questions are almost always scary. Now it’s okay for a question to only be “sort of” scary versus totally scary as you start out because after all you are publishing things outside in the field and you don’t want to research anything too scary because that might make your institution look bad. 

You will find that you were wrong about almost everything by the end of the project. Working and reflecting on something for months has that effect. Don’t be afraid to be humbled. Push through the terrible truth of being wrong. It’s really hard to be wrong, and you can be wrong in so many different ways in the research that you will probably be wrong in multiple ways. Maybe you didn’t read enough of the literature and you missed studies. Maybe the data collection did not go as planned. Maybe you found something halfway through that might have known something. Push through. Projects don’t need to be perfect, they need to be published.

In addition here are some other tips for people getting started.

  • Pick a good team. I personally discourage a project from having more than three people actively managing the project, because I really think by four authors, one of the team members is probably spending most of their time managing the other three members and not really contributing to the project actively anymore. Try to pick people who bring different perspectives
  • Pick a citation manager. You should probably pick a citation manager that is what other people you are working with use. Since it doesn’t really matter which one you choose, it is easiest just to use what is most common in your work area, That just makes things easier. I use Mendeley, most because when I got to Purdue, the people I worked with were using Mendeley.
  • Be nice to the people who administrate human subject research. At Purdue they hold office hours, and they would love for you to ask questions about how to do ethical research. Like librarians, they love to help!
  • Create multiple outputs/exit opportunities for your projects. You should think about different stages where you can abandon the project if it goes awry, so you don’t spend too much time on a project that isn’t that interesting to you. Most of my projects have an initial scoping presentation, a primary resources presentation, a first paper with possible future work and sometimes the opportunity for a follow up second paper building on the first. That way you can take projects as far as you want and then say no.
  • You can do it. You are amazing, your hair looks amazing, ask those hard questions.

via GIPHY

Teaching on Purpose: What would you ask your students to learn if you were not afraid?

It’s January 1, which I think is a day in which a lot of people try to think more intentionally about things in their lives as they start the new calendar year, so I thought I’d use this day to talk a little bit about secret learning objectives. People like to write about learning objectives in teaching. They like to talk about learning objectives very hierarchically or very sequentially. When you have done this and this and this, then we know that you can do this other thing. All very logical and straightforward.

But there’s a secret wild irrational side to learning objectives. Like any form of goal setting, learning objectives are a form of wishing hopefully. These are the type of learning objectives that you sometimes don’t even want to speak out loud. Perhaps what you want sounds a little foolish. Because they sound too simple, or they make it sound like you or someone else you value isn’t doing their job to train the students prior to this point. Maybe you just don’t think it can be done.

At the stroke of midnight, sometimes you want to wish for something grander, something more special, but you don’t know if you want to let yourself down. We all know from psychology it’s much harder to change behavior than just to wish.  There’s a part of you that thinks that maybe, just maybe, what you want is kind of selfish. What you want is maybe for students to finally understand what you want for the students. Maybe you don’t write them down because you are after all a very reasonable person with completely reasonable reasons for wanting what you want. You don’t want people to think less of you.

Sometimes I wish that someone would hold a little more space for those irrational learning objectives, to hold back the floodgates of practicality just a little while longer. So I’ll be your librarian fairy godmother here, and give you this moment to think about what your secret learning objectives are, and in exchange you can be my librarian fairy godmother and I’ll tell you one of mine.

If I could teach students, and not be afraid, I would teach how to think and act with purpose. I would encourage them to live their lives with purpose, hope with purpose, and decide with purpose. If I had a secret objective it would be that the students would learn about purpose. Not just about the purpose of other people, but also that they would learn how purpose affects so many aspects of their lives.

College is a lot about pretending. We talk about practice sets, quizzes on knowledge, about the idea that there’s some sort later time in your life where you would apply all the things that you learn here. It’s more important to teach them that their decisions hold power, even when it feels like everything that around them wants them to believe that their decision are completed without that power. I think that there’s something even more important than the students knowing the difference between right and wrong, or always acting in the way that I instructed them to act. I want them to do things in their life with purpose.

I consider teaching a compromise activity, and I know to live on purpose is a lot to ask of my student. I know that this is one class and one semester, and people have to go through the rest of their lives. But that’s my selfish wish. I want students to think on purpose, research on purpose. In exchange I try to teach on purpose.

In 2018, let’s teeter on the edge a little more. Let’s imagine new worlds, see new possibilities, and give us all permission to dream with purpose. Happy New Year!

Press: Krannert Video about Leveraging the 21st Century Library

I made this short video during fall break for Krannert’s Deans Advisory Board. The Libraries have a really good relationship with Krannert School of Management, which is where my liaison areas are and where I do the bulk of my teaching. The impetus for this video was the opening of the Wilmeth Active Learning Center.This is the first time I’ve made a video about the libraries at a large level, and it was interesting trying to describe very succinctly the larger scale vision of the Parrish Libraries, and maybe even modern Libraries as a whole.
The activity the students are working on in the video (where my colleague Heather Howard is teaching) is the reverse logistics assignment I posted last week.

Recall, Reverse Logistics, and Ethics: an active learning assignment

I get very frustrated with assignment repositories. One reason why is that just putting an assignment up in a document repository really doesn’t tell you the whole story. Why did the instructor choose to do this assignment? Why do they think it works well? What types of students does that university have and are they similar to my students? It’s also very frustrating to me because as far as I can tell, the assignment repositories do not have good SEO and they don’t show up in Google searches. From time to time, I’d like to talk about an assignment that I use and why I use it.

I first thought of this assignment when I was in graduate school and the University of Michigan. While there, I worked at the business library at the reference desk and I had many opportunities to look up many different types of reference questions. One of the questions that I looked up was about recalls. There was a student who wanted to know what made recalls successful. After searching around, I found that recalls in the databases were more likely to be referred to as “reverse logistics”, both because that was a much more encompassing terms (it included things like recycling programs) but also because it was much more polite and didn’t bring to mind scandals.

I like to teach on purpose and one way that I exert effort in this direction is to try to make students understand how their decisions might affect other people. One way to make students think about how their decisions hold value is to confront them with ethical scenarios, and in these scenarios give them the opportunity to act ethically and in the best interest of the community. In this Group Challenge, the students are a crib manufacturer and their cribs have been found to be unsafe. Their goal is try to get the cribs off the market as quickly as possible. Their company was in the wrong, but now they have decided to do what’s right. It is in their business’ best interest to now be good logistics business people.

In the interest of acting most ethically, the student must consider how to get the information out. In this case they have the chance to help as many people as possible which will allow them to think differently about the role they might have. I don’t think that problems in business are always public versus business, but they are actually more nuance. You can find ways to do what’s best for the business while also doing what’s best for the community. Or maybe you don’t. But whatever you do, you want to make sure that you base your decisions on the information that you found, and back that up with solid reasoning and thinking.

In librarianship there is also great discussion about scholarly versus public sources. In my area of librarianship (business), there is a greater amount of discussion about scholarly versus trade sources. The good thing about recalls is that they are public events so there are often many  examples of what happened.  What companies are doing can be found in trade articles, which could be (depending on who you ask) newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, but also things like Fortune magazine or Grocery Review. If you were looking for trade articles on a recall you would search “recall”. You search “recall” because you were looking for specific company examples of when recalls were done.  If you are looking for scholarly journal, you will most likely want to use the term “reverse logistics” because recalls are but one part of an overall structure of approaching the details of getting things that were on the market off the market. Scholarly articles in management are very much about models and processes.

Group Challenge : Operations

DUE: End of class today, to Blackboard. This is a group project that will be graded for overall accuracy, following directions and completion. Put the name of your group members present in the comment box when you submit to Blackboard. Problems submitting to Blackboard? Email it to your instructor.

This is a group assignment that will be graded on its merits. Points will be award for accuracy, ability to follow directions, for the quality of the recommendation using the information, for grammar and spelling, and for clarity.


You work for a successful furniture manufacturer located in the Midwest. You have recently found out that 14,000 of the baby cribs you manufacture were deemed unsafe by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. There is a risk of an entrapment hazard, meaning babies can fall becoming entrapped in the crib bars, or suffer cuts. You need to issue a voluntary recall so that you can give your customers a free (safer) replacement mattress support with newer brackets. In order to avoid large publicity issues, you need to recall these baby cribs in a short amount of time.

You are on the team to research potential solutions for implementing the recall in the short amount of time. Your team has decided to research two forms of evidence to help decide how to recall the cribs in the fastest manner. First you are going to research two companies (IKEA and Bexco) who have done recent recalls. Second, you will located scholarly approaches to reverse logistics, recall management or product recalls for best practices. For this case, you are most interested in doing the recall most efficiently and effectively.

Suggested way of breaking the project up:

8:30-9: One group member works on finding the scholarly journal article. Three student work on locating the three recent events and writing up the paragraph summary. As the Question 1 students finish they check each other’s work. You may also want to put an additional person on finding/reading the scholarly article.
9:05-9:10: Bring all information together and discuss what you think the company should do.
9:10-9:20: Write up two paragraph response. Submit.

Questions to answer as a team:

1) Use either ABInform Collection or Business Source Premier Complete to locate three recent articles (since 2008) describing recall events involving IKEA, Bexco. Summarize them briefly (1-2 sentences each) and then describe how all of them would affect your recall (1 paragraph).

2) Use either ABInform Collection or Business Source Premier Complete to locate one scholarly (peer reviewed) article which might be a good model for you to consider when implementing the recall.

It does not need to be about baby cribs or furniture but does need to be written in the last 12 years. This article could answer any (but does not need to answer all) of the following questions:

  •  How do companies maximize the efficiency of their supply chains when implementing reverse logistics? (more questions on back)
  • What are the most effective reverse logistics systems?
  • How do you write the most effective product recall message to get people to participate?
  • How does someone plan and implement a successful product recall?
  • What are factors affecting implementation of reverse logistics?
  • What frameworks do scholars use when they study reverse logistics?

Summarize your article briefly and how they might help you in your decision (1 paragraph)

3) Based on your answers above, what do you think your company should do? Were any of the two companies using a model you would follow? Did your scholarly article point to any specific things your group should consider when implementing the recall? Support your decision with information from your articles and summaries (2 paragraphs)

4) In all, you will have located four articles. Please give the citations for the articles.

 

Active Learning: What to do With Yourself

Active learning is amazing in many ways. One of the ways that it is amazing is that it allows the professor to fine tune the brick-and-mortar classroom experiences to really focus on the muddiest, trickiest part of the learning process in a way that you could not before. Student centered teaching shifts the focus of the classroom from the instructor. Students can grapple with the most challenging part of the assignment together, with your help, so that you can really find that spot where student keep getting tripped up and adjust their conceptions, which leads to better outcomes on course deliverables.

The reason it’s so tricky is because sometimes that also means you spend less time lecturing, which being a university instructor, is probably something you are pretty good at. When I stopped lecturing as much in classes, I had even more time to engage with students and make those direct contacts that are so satisfying to you as a teacher. But I also noticed you need to be careful to make sure to design activities for yourself.

I get very bored easily. When your teaching is reactive to learning, sometimes there’s a period where one is pedagogically “waiting for the water to boil”. Waiting for students to learn so I can teach is very challenging. I imagine it might also be challenging for other people. So here are some of things that I do instead in a flipped environment when I might have to spend 5-10 minutes not being the object of attention to get the most of the active learning environment.

  • Do informal assessment. Get out a pen, look around, and observe your students. What are they discussing? What is tripping them up the most? I find this helpful because I often forget as an expert all the things I do easily that my students might not be as good at. I try to use the extra time to assess student learning so I can see overall how the class is doing. I find recording this information makes it more functional to you in the future.
  • Observe inter-group dynamics. My students work with the same group all semester, and I really pay attention to how each of the group is working. Are all students working together, or in two pairs? Is there one student who seemed to be doing all the work and not letting the other students get involved? Is there a student who is on their phone and not helping? Alternately is there a student who might be struggling with the material and therefore left out of the group as they move forward on the assignment? Any of these dynamics might affect the performance of the group and are important to keep track of. Extra bonus is that this was something that you could never observe first hand before active learning; you just had to sort of guess what was happening in the groups or rely on accounts of different students. In class activities gives you a real chance to observe up close what is happening inside the group.
  • Learn student names. Our Blackboard has a feature called “Photo Roster” which allows you print out a picture of all your students. I use this as I quiz myself on their names. It’s a wonderful feeling when you can surprise a student by calling them by name in class. You can do that more often if you take the time learn the students’ names. If you don’t have photo roster, you can also use name tags. This also makes it easier to start associating names with faces, so that when students email you, you know which student is which. I have between 80 and 116 students each semester, so this can be a real help.
  • Prepare the next activity. The more you prep your activities, the faster you can get to them. Enough said.
  • Join in. It’s always good to join a group and actually do the activities that you devise, though I will say that you tend to be faster at them then your students. This does seem to be logical first step, but you also might freak them out a little depending on the activity. But sometimes you can learn new things about your activity and do more in-depth assessment. Or sometimes you can focus your participation in a group where a student might be struggling and help that student keep on task. Also you plan really fun activities, right?

The objective of this post isn’t to say you can’t lecture. Sometimes the best way to tell people is to tell them something all at the same time. Also, sometimes to create a good learning environment, there is some need for storytelling and theatrics. But I think I’ve learn a lot of things by shutting up and watching my student work, and I think this greatly improves the classroom for everyone involved.

Press: Fulton Indiana Project with Purdue Women Lifting Communities in Krannert Magazine

From time to time I get the opportunity to be interviewed on various projects. When one is on the tenure track, one cannot be shy about one’s achievements. Self-promotion is part of the duties.

I was lucky to be interviewed for Krannert Magazine’s Fall Issue about a project I worked on with a couple of other folks inside of the School of Management. The project started with Joy Dietz and the Women in Management Program, but it sort of blossomed out into my Greater Lafayette Greater class and also into two groups of independent studies under a marketing professor.

Krannert Magazine front cover

Article with quote and pictures from Fulton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those that do not know Fulton, Indiana, it is a very small (around 200 people) town outside of Rochester, Indiana. I went out there for an event last spring to better understand the issues of Fulton. Some of the issues involved the lack employment opportunities and net migration from the town. What we found was that while Fulton had approached the Krannert School of Management for help, the town has  a lot resources and a really nice new little community center. I like to try and help people help themselves. I don’t think that just because you ask for help it means that I need to find a problem to solve in your community. I am always happy to work with other communities.

Here’s the website to read about it: http://www.krannert.purdue.edu/konline/2017f/features/fulton-1.php

No-No-November: What Can You Say NO to in Your Teaching?

My excellent colleague Dr. Julia Kalish has been running something she calls No-No-No-November this past month. The concept, per Kalish’s blog post: “reduce, remove, quit, stop, and minimize as many nonessential tasks, belongings, activities, people, habits, and projects”. I love this idea, even though if there’s something about me you should know it’s that I am constantly saying yes to things. I do not consider the two to be mutually exclusive: you can say no in order to say yes to other things.

November is a great time to say NO to things in teaching, as you head into finals season and are probably thinking about what will go into your next syllabus. It’s been my goal since around early October to quit something every two weeks or so, or at least resolve to quit it. So far, I’ve resigned at least unofficially from my post as an editor of a column. I moved meetings with my supervisor from every two weeks to monthly. At first it’s really scary to quit things, because I often wonder that if I quit something if I am ever going to be able to get to that thing again. But then I remember all of things that I get to say yes to because I said no.

I love Julia’s idea, and I’m trying to extend the idea of NO to my own teaching. Here are some things I plan to say no to in the coming year:

  • NO to student emails. This next year when I teach my 120-student course, I’m going to have my Graduate Assistant answer all of my student emails in my large class. This is mainly for mostly practical reasons, since currently half of the students email the GA and the other half email the instructor. Why not simplify? Half of the time, I end up forwarding the email to the GA anyway.
  • NO to students turning things in on paper. It’s 2017, folks. You shouldn’t need to hand anything out. I’m resolving in the future as much as possible to only use paper when I need students to look at multiple things at the same time (the two monitor problem). And a definite NO to returning things to student on paper.
  • NO to database/Google comparison. This is more librarian focused, but I just hate it when people do this comparison. There’s no situation in the real world where you would try multiple different databases and just compare the results. That’s not a thing that real people do. More specifically, the results from one large database doesn’t reflect the total of databases..
  • NO to 5 minute guest lectures. If I’m there for less than 20 minutes, it’s like I wasn’t there at all. I don’t do many of these, but I am resolving in the future to do even less of these, maybe even none.
  • NO to internalizing my student’s performance as my performance as a professor. This is a tricky one, but I’m going to commit to saying NO. Students are adults, they can choose not to learn. I’m very critical of myself, I want to do well, but doing well isn’t putting too much stake on the performance of my students.

What can you say NO to in your teaching?