As the world attempts to make sense of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, many Indiana University faculty had a closer vantage point to see history unfold: in countries that will be most directly affected.
Timothy Hellwig, director of the Institute for European Studies and an associate professor of political science at IU Bloomington, is in Brussels, Belgium, where the headquarters of the European Union and the European Commission are located.
“People are shocked here,” Hellwig said. “I was at a Brexit watch party last night. When we heard around 9 p.m. that Nigel Farage of the U.K. Independence Party was predicting a ‘Remain’ win, we were collectively relieved. This made it all the more surprising to wake up this morning to see what transpired.”
Nick Cullather, executive associate dean of the School of Global and International Studies, arrived in England with his family last week. In Manchester and the industrial north of the country, they witnessed strong support for Brexit. But they saw more support for remaining in the EU as they got closer to London.
“Polling had indicated a slight lead for ‘Remain’ until the end,” Cullather said. “People here are shocked, gathering in little crowds around the newsstands. Many are angry enough to buttonhole an American on the tube or the street to vent about how upset they are with the outcome.
“No one in the ‘Leave’ camp seems jubilant,” he added. “There isn’t a coherent vision for a post-EU Britain. In fact, Boris Johnson, the chief ‘Leave’ campaigner and the presumptive next prime minister, is out of step with the working-class voters who won the referendum.”
What happens next?
Ellie Mafi-Kreft, a clinical assistant professor of business economics in IU’s Kelley School of Business, has been in France during the Brexit campaign. She has been able to share insights observed more closely with MBA students enrolled in her class about the United States in the global economy.
“For the next few months, the world is going to be divided between those who benefit from the Brexit and those who won’t,” she said
Padraic Kenney, chair and professor of the Department of International Studies in IU’s School of Global and International Studies, is in Poland, an EU member country since 2004.
“The pessimistic version is that now there will be a rush for the exits,” Kenney said. “But Britain was always a special, reluctant case in the EU, and the loud calls for further departures will probably not be as popular in other countries.”
More than 17.4 million people in Britain voted in support of the “Leave” campaign, as compared with about 16.1 million people who voted to remain in the European Union. Financial markets worldwide have responded sharply, and many have questioned which other nations might leave the 28-member bloc of countries.
“An optimistic version is that now the rest of the EU will be able to regroup and emerge stronger,” Kenney said. “But this will require some thinking about what it is that unites the countries of the EU. Until recently, EU leaders assumed that they knew what this was.”
Winners and losers
The “Eurosceptics” and the nationalists clearly have altered the picture, according to the IU experts.
Mafi-Kreft believes the Scottish independence movement emerged as a strong winner. “They want their independence from U.K., not from Europe, and given that the majority of the Scottish voted to stay in the EU, a new referendum on Scotland the victory of the pro-independence is more likely,” she said.
She agrees with many who believe that Johnson, the American-born former mayor of London and currently a member of parliament, likely will become England’s next prime minister. But the vote also could have a political impact in France, where the anti-immigration Front National party could see its image and political potential “reinforced”; as well in the United States, bolstering the campaign of presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“Those who defended the Union in the mist of the Euro crisis and did everything to avoid the Grexit (Greece’s departure from the EU) and then the Brexit are now very fragile,” she said. “Francois Holland in France and Angela Merkel in Germany will have a hard time to renew Europe and regain the people’s trust.”
Kenney said the vote and support for anti-EU parties in so many countries suggests that it might be time for the EU to look within and reconsider how it is viewed by citizens in its member countries.
“A pragmatic EU, without all the lofty ideas but able to actually get things done, should appeal to most people in every EU country,” he said “If EU leaders try to play by the old rules, they may find their union weakening more and more.”
Observing from this side of the Atlantic, but with a unique perspective, is Lee Feinstein. The dean of the School of International Global and International Studies served as U.S. ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012 and advised secretaries of state and defense.
“It has immediate and longer-term economic consequences. But looking at this from the broader perspective, what it means is a setback for the effort that started after World War II to build a Europe whole and free,” Feinstein said. “The worst-case scenario of this dis-union is the return of geopolitics to Europe.
“The fracturing of Europe, the withdrawal from the EU of one its most powerful countries economically and its most militarily capable country, as well as a country that has a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, is something that’s not good for the United States,” Feinstein added. “The U.S. is stronger when it works with its allies, and when its allies are united — and the United States has no stronger, more like-minded partners than its European friends.”
Economic consequences of Brexit
Financial markets worldwide took a tumble in response to the news, but Mafi-Kreft sees other economic consequences. U.K.-grown products will become more attractive to the British as tariffs and taxes likely will be reinstated for the European agricultural products. But “it will be a hard hit on French agricultural industry as Britain represents their fifth (largest) export market,” she said.
“London City will lose her status as the premier finance place of the union. The Frankfort stock market should profit from this,” she said. “The ‘financial earthquake’ will touch British banks first, as Barclays lost 30 percent of its stock value this morning and JP Morgan confirms it will relocate jobs out of England.”
U.K. automakers also will take a hit. “Most of the auto production in the U.K. is destined for export. Jaguar-Range Rover (recently bought by the Indian company Tata) estimates a loss of billions of euros on their profit, all due to higher border costs.”
As he welcomed 25 of Sub-Saharan Africa’s brightest young people to Indiana University on Monday, Teshome Alemneh cited two well-known proverbs about the power of education.
One proverb, from Alemneh’s native land of Ethiopia, simply says, “He who learns, teaches.”
The other proverb, commonly shared across the Democratic Republic of Congo, says, “Wisdom is like fire. People take it from others.”
As Alemneh shared the proverbs, many in the audience nodded in agreement or audibly voiced their agreement.
“Through the program, we hope that you’ll build technical capacity in areas such as community building, entrepreneurship, grassroots activism, leadership and volunteerism,” said Alemneh, IU associate vice president for international research and development.
Enthusiasm is high, not only among IU officials, but particularly among this group of young African leaders, aged 25 to 35, who were selected to participate in the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program.
They went through orientation and were formally welcomed to the IU campus at a reception Monday evening at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.
Over the next six weeks, they will learn how individual Americans shape U.S. society through community engagement, business development and governmental activity, and compare it with experiences and opportunities on the African continent.
They will learn from IU faculty at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the Maurer School of Law, the African Studies Center, Political and Civic Engagement, the Kelley School of Business and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
Visits are planned at Cook Inc., the Bloomington Herald-Times, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Indiana Department of Correction. They will learn more about workforce development offered at Ivy Tech Community College. They will also engage with staff at BioCrossroads and the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis.
On July 18, in celebration of Mandela Day, the fellows will engage in community service activities with Big Car Collaborative and other community organizations in Indianapolis.
Another part of IU’s far-reaching international legacy
Alemneh was joined by David Zaret, IU vice president for international affairs, who said IU’s involvement in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program is yet another example of how IU is engaged globally and helping to make the world a better place.
Zaret recounted a history that goes back more than 100 years, to the early 1900s, when IU faculty helped the Philippines to develop its public education system. After World War II, IU helped to found the Free University of Berlin, and has been active across Europe, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa in helping to develop or improve higher education institutions.
In 1965, IU helped Thailand to found the National Institute of Development Administration, which trains the majority of the country’s civil servants. This spring, Zaret and IU President Michael A. McRobbie traveled there to help NIDA celebrate its 50th anniversary.
About 15 years ago, IU helped to found South East European University in Macedonia. After the fall of the former Yugoslavia, various ethnic groups were engaged in a civil war. After the end of the conflict, the university was established with support from the European Union and the Ford Foundation.
It was the first university in Macedonia to offer instruction in Albanian, Macedonian and English. “It now has several thousand students, no more shooting and students are integrated. It is an example of the kind of thing that we try to do,” Zaret said.
IU also has been engaged in working on leadership development projects that promote managerial skills, economic and democratic reform and professional development across Africa – including in South Africa, South Sudan, Angola and Liberia.
Mandela Washington Fellows come from 18 African countries
The 14 female and 11 male participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program come from 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Nations represented include Angola, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea-Conakry, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe.
They include physicians, social entrepreneurs, advocates for the disabled and for women’s health issues, a management consultant, scientists and a school teacher.
Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their communities.
After spending four weeks at IU Bloomington and two weeks at IUPUI, the Mandala Washington Fellows will join their peers now studying at more than 35 other U.S. universities at a White House event in early August. President Barack Obama is expected to attend.
“As much as you will learn and enrich your experiences, the program also is designed in such a way that we also learn,” Alemneh said. “It’s going to be a two-way communication. We are also here to learn from you, as much as you are here to learn from us.
“You are the young leaders, the future of Africa.”
Millions of people are expected to tune in to tonight’s ABC broadcast of a miniseries about Bernie Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence for running one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.
Among them will be Noah Stoffman, an associate professor of finance in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, who suspects that some of Madoff’s victims will be watching as well.
Like other successful Ponzi schemes, Madoff’s took advantage of what researchers call an “affinity relationship.” Madoff is Jewish, and nearly everyone who was “invited” to invest with his firm was Jewish. Many were active within the Jewish philanthropic community.
In a new paper, Stoffman and two co-authors set out to study where Madoff’s fraud case left its deepest impact and on whom — not just among his direct victims, but also on how others viewed the trustworthiness of financial markets.
“The cost of a fraud like this is much larger than just the money that was lost by the victims,” Stoffman said. “We showed that about $430 billion was moved out of risky assets and into bank accounts as a result of this fraud. That has a huge potential economic impact.”
In other words, because of what happened to Madoff’s victims, their neighbors, friends and others in the same “affinity group” may have left perfectly good investments, costing themselves higher financial returns, at a time when returns potentially were very high.
Stoffman and associates, Umit Gurun of the University of Texas at Dallas and Scott Yonker of Cornell University, used court documents to get a complete list of Madoff’s victims and then created a map of affected areas. That was then used to perform a statistical comparison of outcomes, in terms of who invested in riskier assets versus cash deposits in banks.
In areas of the country where many of Madoff’s victims resided – such as the Northeast, South Florida and Southern California – they found a precipitous decline in the use of registered investment advisors, people who provide service to access financial markets.
At the same time, using data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Stoffman and his colleagues found higher levels of bank deposit activity in those same areas.
“We saw this shift in areas that were more affected by the Madoff shock,” said Stoffman, who studies the role of social interactions in investment decisions. “We saw a shift from risky investments to safe investments. Among those people who somehow are more exposed to the fraud, it affects their investment behavior.
“We can’t track person by person to see what they did with their money, but we have a sense in the aggregate that this money was shifted from risky assets to cash and probably ended up earning lower returns than it would have.”
The paper, “Trust Busting: The Effect of Fraud on Investor Behavior,” will be presented in March at the Conference on Financial Decisions and Asset Markets, hosted by the Wharton School’s Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research. It also was presented recently at a meeting of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Behavioral Finance working group.
They did find that the same people had more trust in investment advisors, who provide additional services – such as financial planning and tax services – face to face, and thus build a deeper relationship with clients.
In the past two decades, the Securities and Exchange Commission has investigated more than 360 Ponzi schemes, but the Madoff scheme dwarfed them all and provided the researchers with a good “testing ground” to study trust.
The Madoff case directly affected many geographically dispersed investors whose trust was shaken — as shown in the 113 victim impact statements, which mention “trust” 45 times. Because the fraud targeted a particular group of investors, Stoffman and his colleagues were able to study how trust shock was transmitted through social networks.
Stoffman suspects that the miniseries starring Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner may lead some to revisit the emotions they had in 2008, when Madoff’s actions came to light.
“It’s entirely possible that people who either had previously been affected, whose trust was diminished in the past, may be reminded now of this event, and it may well have another effect in that more people may want to shift their assets to something that’s less risky now,” he said.
Guest post by Karen Land, who normally writes at the Art at IU blog:
The Retail Studies Organization at Indiana University Bloomington has a special day in store Feb. 9. Its annual retail and design forum will feature a lineup of industry leaders from DSW Inc., Google, Kohl’s, Under Armour and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union.
Janis Shaffer, a faculty adviser for the organization, said the forum offers all IU students the chance to learn more about current industry challenges and opportunities.
“The executives will be speaking about intriguing topics, and they represent some of the most successful companies in the retail industry. It is a tremendous gift to IU students that they volunteer their time, talents and financial resources to come to campus,” said Shaffer, a senior lecturer in the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Design.
“Students leave this event with a newfound passion for retail every year,” said Alex Larson, president of the Retail Studies Organization.
Members of the organization also can sign up to attend small-group sessions with the visiting speakers. More information on these sessions appears on the group’s website.
Retail and design forum speakers
9:30 a.m. — Katherine Finder, vice president of product development at Kohl’s, “Brand Clarity and Connecting with the Customer”
10:45 a.m. — Julie Krueger, retail industry director at Google, “My Life Before and After the Internet”
noon — Panel discussion featuring all of the speakers
1:15 p.m. — Adam Peake, executive vice president of category management at Under Armour, “Marketing in a Global Retail Environment”
2:45 p.m. — Fred Bedore, senior director of business strategy and sustainability at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., “How Resource Scarcity and Technology Could Redefine Retail”
4 p.m. — Brian Seewald, vice president of transformation at DSW Inc., “Challenges in Operationalizing Innovation.”
Seewald, who assumed his present title in the DSW Office of Innovation in 2015, said retail customers now expect “omnichannel engagement.” In other words, customers want the ability to purchase goods both in stores and online.
“We realize now that ‘omnichannel’ is really just retail, that it isn’t something that differentiates your brand. The difference now is that we have to make that experience consistently excellent regardless of how the customer chooses to shop us,” he said.
“We have a few accomplishments under our belts, but there is a long way to go, and it is the most exciting work I have done in my career. I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be in retail.”
With more than 600,000 alumni, it’s understandably difficult to come up with a fairly short list of successful Indiana University graduates.
Many publications and news organizations are fond of such “best of” lists, where, once again, IU alumni are making their mark.
A “proud IU alumnus,” Gangwani earned a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science in the IU College of Arts and Sciences and a master’s degree in human-computer interaction design from the School of Informatics and Computing at IU Bloomington.
While at IU, Gangwani spent a lot of time at University Information Technology Services as a technical team lead and as a researcher in IU’s language and memory labs.
Udell graduated in 2011 with a degree in entrepreneurship from the IU Kelley School of Business. He got involved with music as a student and briefly pursued his own career as a performer before getting involved in management and promotion.
After graduation, he worked for a year as the chief marketing officer for Campus Candy before founding the music label Th3rd Brain.
As part of Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” Gangwani and Udell find themselves among interesting company.
A big part of IBM’s Bluemix
Since receiving his master’s degree in 2013, Gangwani’s been involved with cloud computing at IBM, leading its business strategy, design execution and product quality activities.
As offering manager, he leads multi-disciplinary product development teams within IBM’s $9 billion cloud business and was a pioneer in designing IBM’s cloud developer platform, Bluemix, which the company launched via a $1 billion investment.
Bluemix has since become the largest open-source deployment in the world. He joined IBM in 2013 as part of the company’s first wave of designers, which is now 1,000-strong. His work has been recognized in numerous outlets, including The New York Times.
Colin Allen, former director of undergraduate studies at IU Bloomington’s Cognitive Science Program, met Gangwani and his family in 2007 while the fledgling tech leader considered transferring to IU from another university.
“Tarun and his parents were a bit nervous about him studying something as eclectic as cognitive science, but he was determined, and it certainly seems to have paid off,” said Allen, today an IU Provost Professor of cognitive science and history and philosophy of science.
Allen added that Tarun himself credits his IU education for “giving him an advantage at IBM by providing a broader vision about what is desirable and possible from technology.”
Using what he learned at Kelley to “Play Hard”
Others with Udell in the music category of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 include Jon Batiste, bandleader for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”; Leon Bridges, an old-school soul singer whose debut album “Coming Home” generated a lot of buzz; pop star Selena Gomez; DJ Snake; and Krewella, a duo Th3rd Brain manages.
In early 2012, Udell co-founded Th3rd Brain, which he says is “dedicated to collaborating with artists to define their vision and develop a strategy to market it.”
His most successful clients are sisters Jahan Yousaf and Yasmine Yousaf, who today make up the duo Krewella, whose 2012 EP “Play Hard” rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Radio Airplay chart.
Last summer, they performed with Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow and Fergie on “Love Song to the Earth,” an all-star collaboration to raise awareness about global warming.
Udell’s firm also manages other popular electronic dance music acts Zhu, Gallant and the Danish/Norwegian duo Pegboard Nerds. Since graduation, he’s been back on campus for Recess, a music and arts festival for college students just a few years removed from his days at Kelley, who are budding entrepreneurs participate in a pitching contest similar to “Shark Tank.”
“Our goal is to not be everyone else. Our goal is to be different. Our goal is to build our own lane and every artist deserves that customization,” Udell said at last year’s International Music Summit’s “Engage” conference in Los Angeles, where he was joined by music industry leaders Chuck D. of Public Enemy, Seth Troxler and Quincy Jones.
Tatiana Kolovou, a faculty member at the Kelley School, jokes that she was Udell’s first professor. He had her 8 a.m. business presentation class as a freshman in the fall of 2007. She became one of his mentors and they’ve remained in contact.
She noted that Udell is skilled at networking and that at age 26 he has contacts in the music industry that rival those twice his age.
“He’s had his own lane since he was a freshman in my class,” said Kolovou, a senior lecturer at Kelley. “There’s something special about him. He’s very creative, moves fast and he thinks out of the box. He’s also very intuitive, which is a huge asset in his industry.
“I have always said that he’s our next Mark Cuban.”
Like many of his Indiana University faculty colleagues, David Stringer has had a lot of final papers to read lately, by the 66 students in his Language Hotspots and Biodiversity class.
However, unlike many of his peers, Stringer has had something else to read: letters from another group of people impacted by his course — 8- to 10-year-olds at local elementary schools.
Many of the children wrote to thank Stringer and his students for coming to their schools to talk about destruction of the world’s tropical rainforests and how it affects the people living there, their cultures and their languages.
“I really got affected when you showed us places that had a lot trees cut down and it made me think I want to stop people cutting down the rainforest,” wrote one fifth-grader. “Maybe we could fund a project for replanting so many trees and eventually grow a forest.”
Another student told them, “I never really thought about this, but humans are endangering humans.”
Stringer, an associate professor of second language studies in the IU College of Arts and Sciences, took his students to seven Bloomington elementary schools in November and December: Binford, Childs, Fairview, Templeton and University schools in the Monroe County Community School Corp., The Project School and St. Charles Boromeo School.
His students showed a vivid and colorful slideshow of people – particularly children – and some of the wildlife now being affected, such as birds of paradise, tree kangaroos, Pinocchio frogs and the newly discovered Yoda bat. Classroom discussions with the kids, mostly fifth-graders, followed.
Developing a sense of awareness of biocultural diversity
Stringer first became acutely aware of the issues involved when he spent a year studying in South America, including several months in the Peruvian Amazon.
“While I used to see the questions of endangered languages and endangered species as separate, I’ve become convinced that language revitalization in traditional cultures needs to be tied to ecosystem conservation,” he said. “If we are going to stem the current tide of mass extinction, we need to develop awareness of biocultural diversity as a unifying concept.”
He believes it’s important that people at a young age develop a sense of wonder about the beauty and diversity of life on Earth – both linguistic and biological. It’s also crucial that they are aware of the fragility of nature.
“I have kids of my own, and I wanted to leave them with a message of hope,” he said. “In a really fundamental way, the future of bicultural diversity is in the hands of people younger than you and me. … What really got me was how intelligent some of the responses were and how advanced they were in the grasp of these concepts.
Over the fall semester, Stringer’s students examined linguistic diversity and biodiversity in the context of the current global mass extinction of languages and cultures, and how language revitalization can be tied to ecosystem conservation.
“When the College of Arts and Sciences announced a call for proposals for more interdisciplinary courses for freshmen, I saw this as a great opportunity to develop what I believe may be the first course at a U.S. university to examine biocultural diversity from a linguistic perspective,” he said.
“I also wanted to raise awareness of cultural and biological sustainability among freshmen, before they choose a major, so that some of them might later consider taking advantage of more specialized courses in related area such as linguistics, anthropology, ethnobotany and environmental studies.”
Benefits of the course to IU and elementary students
One language disappears every two weeks, he said, comparing it to “a library of traditional knowledge going up in flames.” Over the next 50 years, nearly half of the 7,000 languages spoken today will vanish, and within 100 years, that figure is expected to grow to more than 90 percent.
“There are multiple pressures on indigenous cultures. Some of it is social, acculturation policies by governments, but our focus has been on one of the main offenders, which is rainforest destruction,” Stringer said.
Every minute, about 55 acres of rainforest around the world are cut down.
Many organizations in the past decade have tied together biodiversity conservation with the maintenance of language and culture. During the semester, Stringer’s students interviewed Luisa Maffi, co-founder and director of Terralingua; and Regina Harlig, a Bloomington native who is a senior manager at Conservation International.
This semester, Stringer’s students examined 45 grassroots projects in the Amazon, the Congo and New Guinea and discussed what made some of them successful and others less so.
Lucy Fischman, principal of Binford Elementary, said the student presentations enhanced her school’s efforts around science and social studies.
“I think elementary students respond very well to college-age students. They are young, friendly faces, and our students look up to them. We love taking advantage of having IU right down the street,” Fischman said. “This project has the potential to grow into a deeper collaboration, between our students and Dr. Stringer’s students, with extension activities after students view the presentation.”
Stringer, one of about 100 IU faculty members in IU’s Integrated Program in the Environment, said the benefits of the project for his IU students are obvious.
“If you can explain these ideas to a 10-year-old child, it means that you’ve understood them yourself,” Stringer said. “I think creating a project where students had to explain ideas of biocultural diversity to children really helped their own understanding of these concepts for their studies at IU. It worked both ways.”
When the course is taught again next fall, Stringer expects to partner with NGOs to create an essay and poster competition for the elementary school students. The IU Office of Sustainability awarded him a $5,000 grant to help create the course, and he hopes to continue to develop the outreach initiative for children in the local community.
From the age of 3, Carol Claxon Polsgrove has been a person between two worlds.
As a child, she accompanied her parents from Kentucky to West Africa, where they served as Baptist missionaries. After a dozen years of growing up mostly in Nigeria, she returned to the United States, where many people thought that experience to be strange.
“I did my best to pass as American without ever quite succeeding,” Polsgrove, a retired Indiana University professor wrote in the introduction to her new memoir, “When We Were Young in Africa, 1948-1960” (Culicidae Press).
“When my mother asked me in her last days, ‘Do you appreciate your African childhood?’ I replied with cruel honesty, ‘Yes, but now I don’t belong in America.’”
In the weeks following her mother’s death, Polsgrove wrote she poured out her memories and explored “the childhood I had tried to put behind me.”
This is her fourth book. Her others as an IU scholar are “It Wasn’t Pretty Folks, But Didn’t We Have Fun Esquire in the Sixties” (1995), “Divided Minds: Intellectuals and Civil Rights Movement” (2001) and “Ending British Rule in Africa: Writers in a Common Cause” (2009). She is a former editor at The Progressive and Mother Jones.
It is her first book for a more general audience. “I’ve always hoped that one day I’d write a book that friends would actually want to read and not simply professional historians or journalism people,” she said with a laugh during an interview.
While very readable, “When We Were Young in Africa” is not a lightweight reflection. Over 160 pages, she presents a complex coming-of-age story amid a contrast in cultures that framed her views of race, social justice and religion.
“In this memoir, brimming with the sounds and smells, the voices and spirits of over 60 years ago, Polsgrove comes to see the unity that links the two continents of her life and, in doing so, to embrace her becoming as it shapes her ongoing,” said George Ella Lyon, Kentucky’s poet laureate, in a comment written for the book’s cover.
Polsgrove writes about growing up with parents who weren’t prosperous, but in their 30s took a “big leap” and in 1948 went to Africa for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. Taking a ship across the Atlantic to Ghana, and then known as the Gold Coast, was “an adventurous thing to do,” she said in the interview.
In subsequent years, her family lived on mission compounds in Nigeria, where she was not as involved in local life as she had been in Ghana. She and her brother also struggled with health issues. As a teen, she attended a boarding school for missionary children.
She returned to the states and attended college in North Carolina and earned a doctorate at the University of Louisville. She taught journalism at universities in Kentucky and California and retired in 2008 after 19 years at IU.
A story many years in the telling
Polsgrove said this is a book she’s been trying to write for decades. “I would write memories down and I would keep them in a file. It wasn’t until after my mother died that I felt really free to write the story.
“Probably I’m not alone in this, among missionary children, that I carried some resentment that we grew up in such different circumstances from the people that we would ultimately live among; that is, other Americans,” she said. “Going through this process of writing the book and getting to know my parents in a different way, really as a historian, was healing.
“I understand what the church meant to my parents, as well as I can, and I respect what it meant to them, so I don’t feel resentful or hostile toward my growing up in a religious family,” she added. “I think it has a lot to do with the sense of social responsibility that I feel and the ways that I have been political in my life … My parents were really motivated by desire to do some good for the world.”
She found resources at IU’s Lilly Library to be invaluable. Her parents, Emma and Neville Claxon, regularly wrote “voluminous accounts” in detailed letters to family members in Kentucky, who held onto them.
Her mother put 685 of those letters into chronological order and donated them to the Lilly Library. After her mother’s death, Polsgrove and her brother donated another 5,000 items from their parents’ days as missionaries in Ghana, Nigeria and Benin.
“I was able to draw from my memories, but also put those together with the daily accounts of what Mother wrote home,” Polsgrove said. “They were almost like journals as a way to connect with the folks back home and the life they left behind in Kentucky.
“She was very frank and forthcoming and I knew her well and I would say she told what was happening as she saw it,” she added. “It was very helpful to have the letters.”
As a result, Polsgrove decided what her story would be as she went along and found new insights and understandings of what had happened to her. Her memories weren’t like “pebbles or marbles that you pull out of your pocket,” she said.
“I had to understand the story and what it meant and the relationship of this child to the life that I later lived,” she said.
It has been decades since she has been in Africa, but Polsgrove said she feels a kinship when she encounters Nigerians. “I haven’t been back in a very long time, but I know that there’s a part of me that was shaped in those surroundings.”
Paul Palmer Jr. II admits that as a 10-year-old growing up on the west side of Indianapolis in 1977, he used to evade theater ushers so he could stay for multiple screenings of “Star Wars.”
Like so many people, including me, he would go back to see the movie anytime someone would take him.
“In the first month, I literally saw ‘Star Wars’ 30 times, at least,” said Palmer, a lecturer in marketing and an MBA diversity coach in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “Every time you saw it, something different blew your mind.”
Today, Palmer has a unique perspective on the Dec. 17 release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens“: He was a senior brand manager for Hasbro Inc. and its product line for episodes I and II of the classic science fiction franchise in from 1999 to 2003.
“It was crazy,” he said. “We had an opportunity to be a part of the rebirth, for the next chapter in truly an evergreen saga that resonates with fans and moviegoers across a broad spectrum around the world. It was exciting that I could be part of something that I was passionate about 20 years earlier.”
After earning an MBA in 1996 from the Kelley School, Palmer went to work for consumer products giant Procter & Gamble as a brand manager. The “big kid at heart” left for Hasbro two years later.
He initially worked on several special feature girls’ items — “anything that poops, pees and eats food” — including the McDonald’s Happy Meal Doll. He also worked on dolls and action figures for the movie “Titanic,” the Spice Girls, My Little Pony and Pokémon.
From My Little Pony to “Star Wars”
In spring 1999, a few weeks before “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” opened, Palmer was invited to join the team working on the franchise’s toys. He worked with “Star Wars” products until he left to explore other opportunities in another Hasbro division in 2003.
Palmer led the marketing and product plans while managing key licensor relationships with Lucasfilm, Walt Disney and Cartoon Network. As such, he had early access to storylines and initial film footage of “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones,” to help decide what characters and items would be among the toys for young fans, those young at heart and collectors.
While working on products for “Episode II,” met with members of creator George Lucas’ team, particularly Howard Roffman, head of licensing for all Lucasfilm properties. Members of the team were on the set during filming to “make sure that we get good ideas from the movie that would turn into toys.”
His team created more than 60 action figures, lightsabers and vehicles. But its biggest success was an interactive toy version of the R2-D2 droid, which was named toy of the year in 2002.
“We looked at doing a C-3PO, but because of the way he’s physically structured and because of the gait by which a droid would have to walk, it was going to be difficult to execute that toy in the manner he needed to be,” Palmer said. “The technology didn’t exist and would be too costly, so we went with the R2-D2.”
They worked with a design team in England to develop the technology to bring the 18-inch R2-D2 replica to life.
In 2002, he returned to his hometown to participate in Celebration II, an official “Star Wars” convention at the Indiana Convention Center. There, he was joined by Carrie Fisher, who reprises her role as Princess Leia in the new movie; Peter Mayhew, better known as Chewbacca; Anthony Daniels, who is C-3PO; and Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”
Lessons for current Kelley students
In 2010, he returned to the Kelley School as a faculty member and serves as a mentor for students in the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. Students in his marketing classes appreciate his career anecdotes, but he doesn’t dwell too much on his experience with “Star Wars.”
Among the lessons Palmer shares is an appreciation that “Star Wars” is one of the few franchises that resonates today as much as it did 38 years ago. He noted that its popularity has “transcended” at least three generations: adults and their children who saw the original three movies, millennials who grew up with the second trilogy and young people who will travel to a “galaxy far, far away” next week. They include Palmer’s two children aged nine and 11, “who are excited.”
In 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion, a marriage of two marketers who appreciate the significance of fan experiences. “I tell students watch out, this has the opportunity to rewrite any of the records that exist — not only just first-week box office but total movie box office,” he said.
But the bar for satisfaction can be set so high that anything less than a blockbuster smash will seem like a failure. As compared to when he saw the initial “Star Wars” movie repeatedly as a child, because it was “so new and so fresh,” today’s audiences have been seeing previews and leaked photos for nearly a year.
“The expectation now is that this movie better be mind-blowing and take me to places where I’ve never gone before, or people will feel dissatisfied. It cannot be good; it has to be great,” Palmer said.
Palmer is concerned that the price points for many of the current “Star Wars” toys are higher than they should be, remembering the royalties and profit projections from Hasbro days. The fact that the new “Star Wars” video game, “Battlefront,” is available only on new Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles limits “the opportunity for people to engage in the saga and the fantasy” (There is a PC version, too.)
“We forget that times are still tough for many people in this country, so asking Mom and Dad to buy a new videogame platform and invest that deep in the franchise could be a stretch,” he said.
In between his time at Hasbro and when he returned to Kelley, Palmer led the alternative card business at American Greetings, where he was instrumental in developing a successful partnership with comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. That project was the grand winner of the 2007 American Greetings Chairman’s Awards for Innovation.
“I’m amazed at the direct impact that a faculty member can have on a student,” he said of his current role at Kelley. “To just see students learn and thrive and grow and come out of their shell and start understanding the potential that’s there never gets old.”
Over the past 17 years, Owen V. Johnson has pored over hundreds of letters and articles written by the acclaimed journalist and Indiana native Ernie Pyle. He’s spoken with many of the writer’s family members and friends and walked in his footsteps.
As a result, it’s almost as if the retired Indiana University journalism professor knew Pyle personally. In fact, Johnson said he’s even had some people tell him that he “spends far too much time with ‘him.’”
Johnson’s new book, “At Home with Ernie Pyle” (IU Press), draws upon some of those letters and brings together Pyle’s writings about Indiana and its people during the first half of the 20th century.
Growing up in the state of Washington, Johnson had read several books about and by Pyle and like many people was an admirer of his work for many years. But it wasn’t until 1998 that an assignment for students in an IU intensive freshman seminar helped him realize the value of re-examining Pyle through his personal letters.
“I had heard that there were some Pyle letters in the Lilly Library, so I created an assignment where the students had to read a couple of letters – one during peacetime and one during wartime – a couple of columns – one peacetime and one wartime – and an article in some kind of popular publication like Life or Look magazine,” he recalled.
“They came back and they were really excited,” Johnson added. “These letters also showed another side of Pyle that they hadn’t imagined. Some of them were very raunchy, very honest and very direct.”
As a result, Johnson began working on a book about Pyle’s personal correspondence. But after collecting copies of more than 1,300 letters in more than 3,000 pages of manuscript, he realized the project was too immense.
Pyle remains the best-known journalist produced by the Hoosier state. Many remaining members of the “Greatest Generation” – veterans who fought during World War II – still fondly recall how Pyle told their stories. His death by a Japanese machine-gunner in the waning years of the war in 1945 on Ie Island, just west of Okinawa, sealed that legacy.
“We had these myths about Pyle,” Johnson said. “Supposedly he was praising the heroism and how we were fighting for such a good cause, but he didn’t really write that at all. He was just presenting the experience from the perspective of ordinary soldiers and sometimes from people like Generals Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower.”
On this, his first book about the person who many deeply associate with journalism studies at IU, Johnson worked with staff at IU Archives and the IU Lilly Library and students in The Media School. It reveals Pyle as much more than a Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent.
The book contains all the columns he wrote when he was in Indiana and others about the Hoosier state and its people he encountered elsewhere. Some are well-known and others hadn’t been reprinted since their original publication.
“Together, they tell us about his family and about the lives of people in and from the state. More than one might have expected, Pyle found Hoosiers in other places, so much that he noticed it,” Johnson wrote in the book’s introduction. “These columns and Pyle’s life mirror Indiana’s change from a primarily rural, agrarian society to a modern, industrial one.
“They are important because Pyle grew up in Indiana, found his standard there and respected it all his life.”
Pyle studied at IU from 1919 to 1923 and left a semester early to accept his first job as a journalist. He returned in 1944 to receive the first honorary degree of humane letters ever presented by IU.
“At Home with Ernie Pyle” contains chapters about Indiana cities Indianapolis and Evansville, as well as about the artists’ colony of Brown County. He writes about politics and politicians, writers and artists and frequently his family and people in his hometown of Dana.
Today, Pyle is memorialized with a museum in the small Vermillion County community, and at IU with a lifelike sculpture in front of Franklin Hall, the future home of The Media School. Pyle’s name also is on the building where journalism has been taught at IU for six decades.
This new collection of Pyle’s Indiana writings includes a chapter about people with IU ties; it contains just one article about his visit to the Bloomington campus after leaving to begin his career.
“Pyle wanted to remember IU the way it was. He wanted to freeze it in time because what he learned here and what he did here was so important to his formation,” Johnson said.
Johnson hopes that “At Home with Ernie Pyle” will be followed by other books, including a thorough look at the writer’s early formative years, a topic not emphasized in previous biographies.
The 408-page book is now available from retailers as well as from IU Press.
Black Friday has come and gone. While many shoppers again camped out for the deals, most gift buyers have feasted on the special sale prices throughout the month of November offered online. Many others were content to wait until Friday to hit the mall or go online today, Cyber Monday.
Retailers have decided that it’s fine for shoppers to spend Thanksgiving feasting on turkey and dressing, watching football and spending time with their families.
The nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, which for years set the bar for everyone by opting to offer the deals on Thanksgiving Day, offered “pre-Black Friday” deals and competitors followed suit.
“It’s interesting that we’ve found equilibrium as opposed to that march backwards into Thanksgiving,” Talbott said, describing how retailers responded to customer sentiment about the holiday.
Rather than feel pressured to begin the holiday shopping season earlier in their stores, retailers have been taking advantage of the digital domain to generate sales though the month of November and even in late October.
“They’ve realized that the way to handle early shopping is not so much with physical locations but to utilize the Web,” he said, adding that operationally it’s more profitable.
Outdoor outfitter REI generated some buzz when it announced that it would be closed on Black Friday as well as Thanksgiving. The company suggested through its “#OptOutside” campaign that its customers spend time with friends and family.
But REI is not Wal-Mart, Target or Sears. Unlike those companies, it is a co-op not owned by shareholders.
“They can get away with it because the people they are answering to is not Wall Street,” Talbott said. “It’s their customers and their employees. If a traditional corporation walked away from Black Friday sales, they would probably see a 1 to 2 percent drop in their November numbers and they would be crushed by Wall Street.”
While “Black Thanksgiving” may be as unappealing as leftover turkey to many, Talbott isn’t sure whether customers will reward stores that remained closed on Thursday. That’s a tough question to answer.
In previous years, much has been written about the “battle” between traditional brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers. Talbott said it’s time to declare that war over — customers today like shopping in both settings, especially when traditional retailers effectively use the Internet.
“We shouldn’t even be talking about ‘e-commerce’ anymore; it’s just ‘commerce,’” he said. “Today, the single largest location for most traditional brick-and-mortar retailers’ is their website. They are just as interested in online sales as the traditional pure-play guys like Amazon.
“And Amazon’s opening stores, so it’s just retail again.”
Companies have realized that there is value in having a tangible element of their brands, said Talbott, a former top executive at two apparel merchandisers.
“In some cases, it’s probably cheaper to acquire customers by building an appropriately sized physical space – in many cases just a showroom – than keyword and SEO marketing on the Web today, because the Internet is a very, very crowded place right now,” he said. “There have been studies suggesting that strategically placed physical locations can create a groundswell.”
Earlier this month, Talbott and the center released the latest survey findings in the FINdex, a fashion innovation index based on what college-age female shoppers are saying. The survey found that brick-and-mortar stores remain the most important places for these women to shop.
“Clearly these women embrace the evolving nature of retail today and are channel agnostic in terms of their choice of shopping destinations,” Talbott said. “The type of product or the particular purpose of the shopping trip likely drives the selection of store versus Web.