Thursday, March 3, 2011

Graduate Student of the Month: Ratan Suri

Ratan Suri
March 2011

Doctoral Candidate Ratnadeep Venkata Suri (Ratan) is from Hyderabad, India, and like many of his hometown counterparts, he began his academic career in the sciences. He is lucky, he said, because despite a culture focused on professional sciences and technology, he was able to pursue his interests and become a graduate student at Indiana University in the department of telecommunications.

Hyderabad serves as a major hub for the information technology industry in India, supports a variety of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and is host to India’s second-largest film industry. It also has the distinction of hosting Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and entrepreneur Bill Gates.

Suri was always a good writer and although he had an interest in television production, he said where he is from in India, good students are expected to go into engineering and medical science programs.

“I think coming from an intellectual environment did help a lot because my parents were very keen to push us to do what we wanted rather than what everyone else around me was doing. So I went to a school in India that had a television production focus and that was a launching point for me to realize that I was better at that than what I had been doing in my undergrad, which was molecular biology—a complete switch.”

At first Suri chose another school for his degree, but soon realized that the breadth of research in the telecommunications department at IU would better support his research vision to examine how communications technologies influence society.

“But my dissertation is quite different from what other researchers in a telecommunications department might do,” he said. “It’s an ethnographic study of what happens when a community of geographers and historians use a particular or unique technology for historical research. For example, how does that community grapple with a new technology and how does it affect historical scholarship?”

For his dissertation, Suri is looking at three major case studies of how GIS influences historical research. The first study looks at the development of railroads in San Francisco and the surrounding areas and how that influenced agricultural practices and movement of people and goods. The second study examines how the dust bowl has been studied historically and how that history changes when seen through the lens of geographical information systems (GIS). The third is a case study on the holocaust.

“It’s a group of researchers from England, New Zealand, and the United States interested in WWII and European history, who got together to study different aspects of holocaust from a geographical perspective. They used GIS for their research. My dissertation is looking at how they study history…How is this scholarship changing historical research?” Suri said.

Essentially, Suri is combining mass media and information science with a new media perspective in order to take an interdisciplinary look at these issues.

The approach may seem very meta, but what Suri is really doing—examining how new technologies and an increasing digital fluency in traditional research fields is changing the way research is done—is a topic of current interest as scholars increasingly embrace technology as a research tool.

For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported ( that the time-honored tradition of peer review in journals has been put into question by younger social scientists, many of whom increasingly prefer to use social-media to distribute content more broadly within their field.

“Traditionally every field has its way of doing things… and traditionally historical researchers have not used high end technology. So when historians picked up that tool [GIS], not only did their method for analyzing historical events change, but what they use for historical evidence, and how they go about teaming up to analyze that data, has changed. That puts a lot of pressure on an existing set of norms that are traditionally part of historical research,” he said.

“The field of history has been a little slow to accept this change, so there is inherent tension between the established norms and the new norms that are emerging. To be able to capture that tension gives us a greater understanding of how we can look at the influence of technology on a social system.”

The case studies used in his dissertation give Suri a particular example of what has been done with a new technology, in this case, GIS. What he is discovering is that Historical GIS is emerging as a field where historians don’t do the historical research. It is other scholars who have picked up a historical perspective.

“There are very few historians who are at the forefront of this [Historical GIS],” he said. “If look at scholarship publications and at the affiliation of the scholars, you will see that most of them are not historians.”

Examples like this show that that particular field is not conducive to a particular technology, Suri said. As a researcher, he would like to further understand how technologies are distributed throughout a society, like how the historians he is studying in his dissertation have embraced or not embraced technology. He believes understanding how technology influences a community can reveal trends in society and this is important to scholars, because the use of technology can be tied with the progress of the field.

“And a field that is steeped in tradition can sometimes be resistant to that kind of change,” he said.

Among his accomplishments, Ratan Suri has taught at Howard University on a Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship, received special mention from the principle investigator of "Holocaust Geographies" at a final presentation of the work at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., and received a College of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Year Research Fellowship for the 2011-12 academic year.

Media Contacts:
Erika Lee, Director of Communications, The University Graduate School,
Angela Jones, The IU Graduate and Professional Student Organization,

The Graduate and Professional Student Organization and the University Graduate School would like to congratulate Ratan Suri on receiving the GPSO/UGS Recognition Award. Students selected for this award were nominated by a faculty member from within their department, and selected by the GPSO and UGS for excellence in their graduate studies at Indiana University.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

IU students well represented among international fellowship and scholarship recipients

Jan. 13, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Students from Indiana University Bloomington received more than 35 nationally competitive awards that sent them to study in countries around the world last summer and during the 2010-2011 academic year.

The awards are sponsored by a number of agencies including the Departments of State and Education, the National Security Education Program (NSEP), the Marshall and Rhodes programs of the United Kingdom, the American Scandinavian Foundation and the German-American Exchange Service. The majority of the grantees are pursuing research projects in a range of disciplines around the world while other awards fund participation in guided programs such as language training, academic study abroad or working as an English teaching assistant.
Brendan Faegre

Brendan Faegre (left) from the IU Jacobs School of Music works with Norwegian composer Lasse Thoresen at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo.

Among the research award grantees are nine recipients of Fulbright Hays and Fulbright U.S. Student grants that are sponsored, respectively, by the Department of Education and the Department of State. Fulbright Hays grantees conduct dissertation research in countries outside of Western Europe. The destinations for this year's recipients are Mali, Russia, South Africa, Ghana and Israel. Two Fulbright U.S. Student recipients are currently conducting research in Morocco and Germany, and another will start teaching English in Argentina this month.

Research awards granted to IU students also include NSEP-sponsored Boren Fellowships to Brazil and Syria, an American Scandinavian Foundation fellowship to Norway, German-American Exchange Service awards to Germany, an American Councils award to Russia, an IREX research grant to former Yugoslavian countries and a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to South Africa.

Other activities of student award recipients support intensive language training or directed study programs. Eight IU students received State Department-sponsored Critical Language Scholarships during the summer of 2010. These graduate and undergraduate students traveled to countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia and India to participate in intensive study in languages critical to the United States including Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Hindi and Russian.

Other recipients of directed grants include 13 undergraduates who received Gilman and Boren Scholarships which support a semester or a full academic year of study abroad in countries outside of Western Europe.

Indiana University students are consistently represented in top competitions for scholarships to universities in the United Kingdom. William Yu was named one of 40 Marshall Scholars and is currently in his second year of study in the United Kingdom pursuing degrees at the Imperial College of London. Two IU students have also recently been named Rhodes Scholars. Mutsa Mutembwa was named a 2010 scholar and is currently at the University of Oxford, and Esther Uduehi was named a scholar for 2011.

"We honor the hard work and determination exhibited by these students and congratulate them on their accomplishments," said Patrick O'Meara, IU vice president of international affairs. "These students bring back detailed research results that advance their respective disciplines. Their extensive periods spent abroad and increased language abilities contribute to our collective efforts to better understand and interact with other cultures."

Below is a list of IU students awarded international grants from summer 2010 through the current academic year. The list is ordered alphabetically by name of award and includes name, primary course of study and destination country.

American Councils Title VIII Combined Research and Language Training Award
Joanna Matuszak -- Art History, Russia

American Scandinavian Foundation
Brendan Faegre -- Music Composition, Norway

Boren Fellowships
Gregory Auclair -- Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Syria
Timothy Thompson -- Library and Information Science, Brazil

Boren Scholarships
Bethany Muncy -- East Asian Languages and Cultures, Japan
Luke Martineac -- Business, China

Critical Language Scholarships (for intensive language study during summer 2010)
Lennea Carty -- Central Eurasian Studies, Turkey (Turkish)
John Dechant -- Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Tajikistan (Persian)
Jessica Evans -- Folklore and Ethnomusicology, India (Hindi)
Jamie Johnson -- Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Egypt (Arabic)
Nicholas Kontovas -- Central Eurasian Studies, Turkey (Turkish)
Niels Lee -- History, Turkey (Turkish)
Christopher Roush -- Russian and East European Studies, Russia (Russian)
Anne Vithayathil -- History, Tajikistan (Persian)

Fulbright U.S. Student Awards
Jacqueline Cornetta -- English Teaching Assistant, Argentina
Ahmed Khanani -- Political Science, Morocco
Joel Klein -- Cultural and Intellectual History, Germany

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Awards
Jessica Hurd -- Art History, Mali
Joanna Matuszak -- Art History, Russia
Megan Musgrave -- History, Russia
Fileve Palmer -- Anthropology, South Africa
Fred Pratt -- History, Ghana
Karen Ross -- Education, Israel

German American Exchange Service Awards (DAAD)
Joo Hyung Kim -- Political Science, Germany
Sibyl Kleiner -- Sociology, Germany

Gilman Scholarships
Kayla Douglas -- African American and African Diaspora Studies, Ghana
Olivia Holloway -- Arts and Sciences, Brazil
Jamie Johnson -- Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Jordan
Justin Martinson -- Communication and Culture, Germany
Bethany Muncy -- East Asian Languages and Cultures, Japan
David Osborn -- Business, Ghana
Genevieve Postlethwait -- Journalism, China
Olivia Schmidt -- Biology, Italy
Richard Scinteie -- Communication and Culture, Spain
Emily Spiegel -- Sport Marketing and Management, South Africa
Chelsea Todd -- International Studies, Brazil

IREX Individual Advanced Research Grant
Ramajana Hidic-Demirovic -- History, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia

Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship
Fileve Palmer -- Anthropology, South Africa

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Who Am I-U?" Conference on Identity: Thurs-Fri March 4-5, 2011

Conference Website:

The idea behind this conference is that individuals who feel their identities validated in public venues are better able to accept others’ identities, and to analyze critically the social forces and experiences that have shaped their own. We would like to transform our campus into spaces for just this kind of critical exploration and sharing among students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, and emeriti of all backgrounds, majority and minority.