Monday, May 4, 2009

A great end to a great year.

I'm in denial as I'm typing this, but today is Sindhu and I's last day as diversity fellows.

The year has absolutely flown by and I've enjoyed this fellowship more than words could even begin to explain. I have had the opportunity to not only expand on my own diversity interests but also be exposed to other perspectives that have changed the way I saw things.

I have had the opportunity to grow as a person and get an inside look at the ridiculously large amount of resources University Library truly has for students who want to step outside of the box and obtain something greater than just your basic "four year education."

I highly encourage others to apply for this fellowship if they are an undergraduate and passionate about diversity. It has been an experience I will never forget.

Thank you for everything,
Alise Cool

Friday, March 13, 2009


Two months have flown by since my last post and yet it feels like days.

"Beyond Stereotypes" has come and gone, and I couldn't have asked for a better turnout. I can proudly say we had a total of 66 participants and conversations were strong. Four professors have expressed interest in incorporating the sessions into their curricula in future semesters. Out of all the evaluation forms we received back, only one was negative. I feel proud that I helped create something that looks to become a regular feature of University Library in years to come.

Yesterday I represented University Library at the Ishmael Beah festivities on campus. For those of you who don't know, Ishmael Beah is the author of "A Long Way Gone," which was the campus reader project this year. He is a native of Sierra Leone, who at the age of 12 tragically lost his entire family at the hands of a brutal civil war. He was enlisted as a child soldier and was forced to not only witness but commit horrific crimes, at the risk of losing his own life. The book tells the true account of his childhood, what he went through and the miraculous recovery that followed. He now travels across the globe sharing his message of peace and hope for victimized children.

Considering the lecture was held the day before Spring Break commenced, I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of the turnout. However, walking in you could immediately tell how many people's lives this man's novel has touched by the fact that the room set up to seat 500 was packed. I was lucky enough to get a seat right behind the man himself, and I could tell just by looking at him that he has been through a lot in his short life. Before the lecture began, he sat very quietly and kept to himself, only lifting his head to smile and say "Hello" to whoever was introducing themselves to him at the time. When he got up to the podium, however, he completely transformed. His speech was absolutely inspiring and focused on the reasons why he wanted to write "A Long Way Gone," and what has happened since it was published.

Here are a few of the quotes I managed to scribble down:

  • "When you dehumanize someone else, in reverse you dehumanize yourself."
  • "Good people can become extremely horrible. Bad people can show signs of goodness. It is not black and white."
  • "I wanted people to see the resilience of my people and the beauty of the culture that were there, that are still there.
  • "I wanted to put a human face to this experience and wanted people to think 'this could be my brother, this could be my son, this could be me.'"
  • "Think of your education as a journey to discover yourself and your humanity. Use it to expose yourself to the world."
  • "One's life has to not just be for yourself, but for others. If it's only for yourself, it's not worth having."
  • "Show love in how you look at people and how you treat them."
  • "The issue of violence and children is not just where there are civil wars. It's wherever children are being victimized.
After the lecture, Beah moved downstairs to Barnes & Noble to sign copies of his book. The line wrapped completely around the store, and somehow I managed to be the very last person in line. I laugh remembering it because by the time I got to his table, he looked at me with a huge smile on his face and said "We're almost done!"

I was also lucky enough to attend the private dinner held in his honor later that day. Only three tables were set up in the ballroom, with about 20 total people in attendance. At the beginning, we went around and introduced everyone and then had a wonderful dinner buffet. Beah ate dinner at one table, had coffee at the next table, and dessert at the final table in order to get to talk to everyone. He is an amazing, inspirational man and yesterday's activities are something I will never forget.

I am attaching two pictures I managed to shoot during the lecture and at the book signing. They aren't that good, but you at least can see what he looks like. =)

Until next time,

Monday, January 5, 2009

New semester, new projects.

Sindhu and I are really excited for what lies ahead this semester! (Though I would venture to guess Sindhu is even a bit more excited than me, considering she is graduating--everyone be sure to congratulate her!)

Our big project, "Beyond Stereotypes," is set to launch late February and we are very anxious to see it all come together. As of right now, the dates are set for the 25th and 26th, from 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Our main focus right now is finding students, faculty and staff willing to talk about their backgrounds and beliefs to people interested in learning more. We currently have three people signed up but are hoping to find quite a few more. If you or anyone you know is interested, please let us know by emailing us at our joint account,

The other project we are working on is putting together our next exhibit. As many of you may know, the campus read project for this year is "A Long Way Gone," by Ishmael Beah. It is a true account of Ishmael's life as a child soldier. Ishmael grew up in Sierra Leone, so in honor of that we are focusing on that country as well as the other countries that make up the region of West Africa. We are hoping to have the exhibit launched by the end of January or early February. (IUPUI is very lucky to have Beah coming here to speak on March 12, so be sure to check that out as well.)

Hope everyone had a great break and good luck during the Spring semester!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A wake up call


This is my first post on this blog. I am glad Alise has documented so well our activities since the start of our fellowship.

I felt the need to write this blog entry in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. It is not primarily about the attacks itself, or my reactions to it, but about how I feel it pertains to what we do here at the University Library. I would like to emphasize that this is just my opinion.

One reason I believed I would be a good candidate for the diversity fellowship is because I come from a country which strives for unity in diversity, tolerance and equal opportunity.
I strive to live up to these ideals. Achieving this, to a great degree, is the Indian dream.

My country overthrew colonial rule through nonviolent aggression. My country became one of the first independent non-Western democracies. My country continues to be home to the largest population in the world under democratic rule.

This country I talk about, my country, is not just India. It is also Pakistan.
It is also Bangladesh, and most definitely Kashmir too.

The people who bear these labels now were all the same people once. ALL these people, united, launched an unprecedented movement to claim an improbable victory. I am free today because of them.

Now, this incident in Mumbai has happened. It follows several other incidents before it. The list of jolts to end the Indian dream is endless. But I believe that these wake up calls can be prevented.

The Indian ideal is America's ideal too. In fact, it is more correctly a human ideal. In the global society we live in, diversity is mostly welcomed with open arms. We like meeting people different from us, with different values and different experiences.

I can't imagine how boring it would be to live in a world with only clones of me. But I do occasionally harbor biases, it is part of being human. Whenever I combat my own prejudices, I think of someone I know who did not evoke in me a negative attitude, and I use the memory of this person as a weapon to fight.

A library is a perfect nurturing environment for diversity. Knowledge is necessary for awareness. Awareness contributes to personal maturity. Maturity fosters the spirit of inclusion and tolerance.

I sometimes feel the efforts we make to promote diversity seem trivial against real world problems. But I like to think that when a student glances at a picture of a democratic activist in Iran, perhaps while paying for a cup of coffee, it adds one more face to keep in mind, to be recalled when Iran's infamous President appears on the news.

I wonder what was going through the minds of those boys as they made their three-day journey from Karachi to Mumbai. I wonder if they ever had a chance to meet any good Indians, Americans, Britons or Jews. I wonder which unfortunate encounter with a bad person made them wake up from the human dream.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Southwest Asia Online

Hey guys, just wanted to let you know that the online portion of our Southwest Asia Exhibit is now up and running! On this site, you can check out recommended books and films that we selected from our library catalogs, as well as watch the original video feeds from each of our five interviews with students from the region.You can check everything out here:

Let us know what you think!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Southwest Asia Exhibit

Despite graphs and fact boxes constantly unsticking and falling due to the humidity and changing temperatures outside, Sindhu and I can finally call our second exhibit a success. We have made a goal to raise the bar at least a little bit with every exhibit, and I truly believe we accomplished that. Instead of just tackling one country, we tackled nineteen--making up the region we referred to as Southwest Asia.
We gave brief demographics and interesting information about fifteen of the countries and then focused in on the remaining four: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Iran. One of our own librarians, May Jafari, is from Iran and generously offered to loan us artifacts from her home country for the display. We also received artifacts from Sindhu, Robert Harris and Kathleen Hanna. Also included in the display were sections on science, religion, student interviews and a timeline. We tried to have as many pictures as possible, and even had a photo collage at the top of the first display case.
Currently the fellows are working on developing our accompanying website for the Southwest Asia exhibit, on which we are hoping to place lists of movies to watch and books to read concerning the region. We will also be uploading the video feeds from each of our five interviews.
We hope any of you who have not yet come to see the display, do so and give us your feedback. We are always looking for new ideas for our future projects.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Forum on the Social Consequences of Immigration

Hey all! I attend the Fall Forum on the Social Consequences of Immigration on Monday, and I thought it might be something good to blog about so that our readers can know what us fellows are involved in outside of the library! As you may or may not remember, I want to go into immigration this was right up my alley!
This event was amazing. It was hosted by the Mexico Interest group on campus and co-sponsored by probably around 20 organizations, including one of the other organizations I am involved with, Amigos en Servicio. It lasted all day from 8:30 until around 5, and there were two keynote speakers, breakout sessions and panel discussions. I had the opportunity to meet immigration leaders from across the nation as well as the Senior Adviser for Latino Affairs to Governor Daniels and coolest of all, the Mexican Consulate!! Univision came and videotaped when the Consulate spoke, so that was pretty cool and also excited my journalism roots. (Again, you may or may not remember but along with Spanish, I am also a journalism major.)
During this conference I learned about not just social consequences but the impact immigration (legal and illegal) has on ethics, the education system, the field of medicine and the economy.
Attending events like these and learning about the Hispanic community not just in Indianapolis but in the country is so prevalent because of how large that community really is. One thing that many people don't know is that Hispanics have now surpassed African-Americans as the largest minority group. If that is the case, then we need to be learning all we can about this culture and this people so that we can fully embrace them and welcome them to our heartland.
And if you are interested, you can read an article about the large Hispanic population I mentioned above here.
Well that is it for me now, please feel free to email Sindhu or myself at our gmail account,, or subscribe to our blog! We love to get feedback.
Alise Cool