Friday, March 19, 2010

IU Graduate Student Profile: Ivan Furre

IU Graduate Student Ivan Furre.  Photo by Erika Lee.

IU Sociology Graduate Student Ivan Furre is having a busy year.

First of all, he's a graduate student and let's face it - that means busy.  But in the Fall of 2009, Ivan somehow found the time to work with departments around the Bloomington campus to help organize the Fifteenth Annual IU Undergraduate Research Conference (IUURC).

At the IUURC, undergraduate students from all eight IU campuses are given the opportunity to network, present research, and attend workshops on how to get into the best graduate programs around the country.  Ivan worked closely with Dean Yolanda Treviño from the University Graduate School to oversee logistics, arrange the venue, recruit volunteers and judges, and even managed to engage in fund raising. This enabled Indiana University to give cash awards to the top-ranked undergraduate research projects. Running a conference may be a series of small details and tasks, but it is not a small undertaking, especially when trying to complete your own degree.

This spring, Ivan has shifted his efforts to teaching graduate students as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Mannheim in Germany. He is teaching masters students a research methods course on in-depth interviewing. Students in the class will study Turkish immigrants and he hopes his students will be able to "learn in the most active sense" by building a dataset that they can analyze collectively. Each student will learn about the research process as a whole by developing a research question, designing a sampling strategy, interviewing respondents, transcribing and analyzing data, and presenting their research findings.

For his own research, Ivan's goal is to uncover religious world views at the cultural level.  In his dissertation, he is comparing the Protestant U.S., Catholic Spain, and Islamic Egypt to explore whether residents of each society understand religious groups differently.  He will examine how English, Spanish, and Arabic can shape how native speakers of each language understand religious groups in each society. For example, do Christians understand Jews differently in the U.S. and Islam? If so, what are the differences, and how might we explain them?

In the end, the goal of Ivan's research is to tell us all something about what we could encourage productive inter-faith dialogue and minimize conflict.  What would the perfect religious institution look like?  "If we are able to create a picture of religion in society at its best, perhaps we can highlight what we need to change," he says. Ivan develop his research next year as a Research Fellow at the American University of Cairo in Egypt.

Ivan's enthusiasm at promoting undergraduate research, his unique ability to reach students with diverse backgrounds, and his timely dissertation research makes him and outstanding graduate student! The University Graduate School commends the faculty in the Department of Sociology for equipping Ivan with a broad array of skills and for furthering Indiana University's commitment to excellence in research, teaching and service.