By Ryan Hedrick
Professors Rongqian Ma and Allan Martell are first year ILS faculty members this year. We caught up with both of them a few months into their time here at IU to ask a few questions about their thoughts on IU, Bloomington, and their work so far.
Dr. Ma completed her PH.D. in Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh (2022). She has a M.A. in East Asian Studies (2016) and a M.L.I.S. in Library and Information Science (2017) from the University of Pittsburgh. She also has a B.A. in Chinese Classics from Renmin University of China (2014). Dr. Ma’s area of research revolves around examining visual representations and visual technologies in the contexts of humanities research and digital archives.
Dr. Martell completed his PH.D. in Information at the University of Michigan (2020). He has a M.S. in Digital Media from the Georgia Institute of Technology (2012), and a B.A. in Social Communications from Central American University (2008). Dr. Martell’s area of research revolves around how societies negotiate social memories of violence, the role of information curation in shaping such memories, and possible frameworks to promote more critical, nuanced memories.
Question: Coming out of your doctoral program or post-doctoral work, what drew you to IU and why did you ultimately accept a faculty position here?
Rongqian: My research interests lie at the intersection of digital humanities and visualization, and I chose IU because the Luddy School is an intellectually engaging place with many potential collaborative opportunities to develop and extend my research interests in these areas. In addition, the massive, quality research and teaching resources and support available at IU have given me confidence in growing as an excellent researcher and educator here.
Allan: I grew up in a city. While I have always loved the people, the sounds, and the rhythms of urban life, I actually was looking for a quieter environment closer to nature. Bloomington offers me that. Besides, since I did my Ph.D. in the Midwest, I felt IU would feel somewhat familiar. During my job search, I was intentional in looking for an environment that would challenge me intellectually while also valuing my research. IU gave me both.
Q: After being here for a few months, what are your thoughts on IU and Bloomington? What are your favorite spots you have discovered on campus or in town?
Rongqian: I have quite enjoyed my time in Bloomington. I like its relaxing, friendly, and quiet vibes and have been enjoying exploring the beautiful nature as well. My favorite spots on campus are the Dunn Woods and the Café at Eskenazi Museum of Art. I also enjoy visiting Bloomingfoods regularly and exploring the wide variety of international cuisine in town.
Allan: So far, my favorite restaurants in town are Turkuaz Cafe on 3rd, Samira on 6th, and Viva Mas in College Mall. As for nature, I am fascinated with all the trails in and around Bloomington. I still have to visit Lake Monroe but it’s in my plans.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your first few months of teaching at IU?
Rongqian: One thing I enjoyed the most about teaching at IU is my students’ enthusiasm for learning. Students in my class have been very engaged with class discussions and activities. They are open to new ideas and critical thoughts, always eager to express their thoughts about course materials, and willing to contribute to a participatory classroom. This is my first time teaching as a professor, and I feel I could not have asked for a better class. I also appreciate all the generous teaching support I have received across the campus, ranging from the heartwarming Survival Prof Box, teaching workshops at CITL, to the individual discussions with supportive colleagues. Knowing that I can always seek advice and support from these resources gives me more confidence in teaching.
Allan: IU students have a strong work ethic. They are hardworking, committed to their learning, and ready to push back intellectually, which I appreciate.
Q: What is something you would like for students or fellow faculty members to know about you? Any interesting hobbies or talents?
Rongqian: I love music and grew up playing Guzheng and Guqin, two traditional Chinese string instruments. And because of this, I very much look forward to the vibrant music scenes at IU! I also enjoy yoga, bouldering, and hiking (when I am not encountering snakes); they help me unwind. I am a big fan of traveling and like exploring different foods and cultures along the way.
Allan: I love Mediterranean food. I can prepare a decent lentil soup, toum, and tabbouleh. I’m also into languages. I’m a novice to Japanese and French and would love to find conversation partners. I commute by bike, and I joined the local cycling club… I just need to get an actual racing bike though.
Q: Starting out as a new faculty member, what are your goals and what do you hope to accomplish during your time here at IU?
Rongqian: My goals as a new faculty member are to explore the exciting research opportunities offered at IU and to grow as an excellent researcher. I hope to continue my research at the intersection of digital humanities, digital curation, and visualization, but also to expand my research horizons and views. I strongly believe in the promise of interdisciplinary work and perspectives, and I aim to use my time at IU to further deepen my engagement in interdisciplinary research collaborations.
Allan: Through my research, teaching, and service, I hope to promote an information science approach to the study of social memories of violence. My goal is to develop interventions based on digital curation and participatory design to promote more critical, nuanced memories; and I aim to train students to work with these approaches in cultural heritage institutions.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself that perhaps I did not ask about?
Allan: I am into fantasy literature and historical fiction. These days I mostly listen to audiobooks while I commute.