Going Global: Archival project seeks to document the history of IU East’s Study Abroad program

January 17, 2023 |

A new multimedia project at Indiana University East aims to track, catalogue and archive the international experiences of alumni and current students through the online application of StoryMaps.

The collaborative project, IU East Goes Global!, is published online and continues to seek input from IU East study abroad participants – including alumni and current students – through an online survey.

Faculty, staff and students from IU East’s Campus Library and School of Humanities and Social Sciences are working together to collect information for a StoryMaps project. Alumni and current students who have studied abroad can participate in a survey to help with the archive project.

Developing IU East’s StoryMaps
The archival project was set in motion by Campus Library Director Frances Yates as a way to celebrate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day—an informational day held in November which encourages school campuses and businesses to get involved in GIS education.

To brainstorm project ideas, Yates approached Aaron Comstock, assistant professor of anthropology, who teaches courses involving GIS and mapping. He has experience implementing StoryMaps software into his course curriculum. IU East archivist Jesse Whitton then joined the team to implement the collection of information.

Frances Yates

ArcGIS StoryMaps is a web-based application that equips users with a platform to share narrative text and multimedia content, providing a flexible way to organize content by time and location. The software is freely available through Indiana University with university credentials.

With the mapping tool as the chosen medium for the project, Yates and Comstock were still missing a crucial element: something to map. Fortunately, timing was on their side.

“[The project] coincided with promotions for spring semester study abroad opportunities, and so we connected with Study Abroad Director Julien Simon…” Yates said.

She added the virtual tool would provide a creative and flexible platform for presenting spatial data and texts to share unique experiences and stories.

Comstock said the StoryMaps project is fundamentally collaborative in nature, with the library and IU East School of Humanities and Social Sciences working together. He serves as the project GIS specialist and regularly uses the technology in his archaeological research.

Aaron Comstock

The StoryMap project started with an overview of study abroad and Global Classroom experiences, as well as an example of an in-depth StoryMap of the Guyana study abroad program led by IU East Professor of Sociology Wazir Mohamed in spring 2022. Comstock co-taught the course and traveled with Mohamed and students on the trip.

“We are all continuing to work on gathering data and expanding this project to incorporate as many past study abroad programs as possible,” Comstock said.

Gathering the Data
But curating an exhaustive history of IU East’s Study Abroad program is no small task. With over 300 students participating in the abroad program over the past decade, the project requires further assistance.

Through funding from the Campus Library and the IU East Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the project team hired student Stephanie Velazquez to assist with the archive.

Jesse Whitton

Velazquez, from Richmond, Indiana, is a sophomore majoring in sociology with a double minor in anthropology and fine arts. Under the guidance of Comstock, she is highlighting former study abroad participants, to feature their travels in the StoryMap.

While Velazquez has not yet had the opportunity to study abroad herself, she hopes to participate in the future, saying that she is inspired by the project to make her trip a reality one day. She would like to travel to Spain or Mexico, noting that she wishes to pursue a career with a connection to her heritage.

Whitton is reaching out to current students and alumni to gather multimedia content from IU East’s growing study abroad program. Terry Wiesehan, director of IU East Alumni Relations, is facilitating access and promotion to alumni.

“We would love for alumni to share their photos, videos, and narratives about their study abroad experience,” Whitton said.

Stephanie Velazquez

He added that with more than 300 participants in international learning experiences over the past 10 years, some students completed travel through two different courses.

“It is exciting to learn their stories and document them for the future,” Whitton said.

The benefit of archiving the study abroad trips online through StoryMaps is that it provides an interactive and fun way to share the travel experiences with others.

“StoryMaps is a great interactive tool that combines texts, maps, and other multimedia content to create an immersive story. Through StoryMaps, viewers can follow along as students recount their experiences of learning about other cultures,” Whitton said.

Yates said StoryMaps is one of the newer tools it has implemented and there are plans to continue to add technology in the future.

“We already use timeline software and other online tools that add interest and enhance the documentation of many historical events. Embedding a StoryMaps provides the opportunity to create a collection of memories, distinct within the larger archival record,” Yates said. “Librarians and archivists are always interested in curating and disseminating information in interesting and creative ways, to document the unique history of people, places, and experiences.”

How to Help: Alumni and Current Students Can Contribute to StoryMaps
Students and alumni who participated in IU East’s study abroad program are encouraged to complete a short survey about their past experiences with the international study program.

The survey can be found here: https://iue.libwizard.com/f/Global-Learning.