Last modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Research & Creative Activity celebrates 25th anniversary
Magazine praised for its efforts to tell IU story, continue Herman B Wells' vision
"This is one of the best efforts that I have seen in my lifetime to interpret the true scholarly activity of the University." Herman B Wells in a letter to Kenneth Gros Louis, Jan. 14, 1981.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- "Just look at all of this," Henry Remak said, his bright wide eyes belying his 86 years of age, as he gazed out his sixth-floor office window at the breathtaking autumnal scene below.
"As a society, too often we neglect the lasting things in life," continued Remak, professor emeritus of Germanic studies, comparative literature and West European studies at Indiana University. "I'm talking about the joy we get from music, from art, from literature, from scientific research, those things that give our lives meaning and broaden our horizons. These things don't always get publicity because they're not very tangible, but they are the things that really make a difference in our lives."
It's why Remak calls Research & Creative Activity magazine, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall, one of the loves of his life. For the past quarter century, the magazine has shone a light on the internal workings of Indiana University -- workings that have made a difference in the lives of all who have come in contact with this storied 182-year-old institution. As part of the celebration, the magazine, which is published by the Office of Research and the University Graduate School, has unveiled a new look and revamped Web site (http://www.indiana.edu/~rcapub) designed to give the magazine a fresh way to tell the university's artistic and academic stories.
It's a relatively quiet celebration for a magazine that's in the business of promoting others but rarely gets a chance to toot its own horn, despite being among the oldest continually published university research magazines in the nation.
Since its inception in 1977, the magazine has served as a valuable tool for raising awareness of the importance of university research and creative activities among the entire university community. Remak, who sits on the magazine's advisory board, calls Research & Creative Activity one of the university's "best-kept secrets" because, as he said, "it gets to the core of what Indiana University, my university, is all about."
"That's why we scholars got into academia in the first place," Remak added. "This magazine comes extremely close to the heart of the university. And at the heart of any university is still its research."
Fittingly, the 25th anniversary issue includes an article written by George Walker, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School at IU, in which the longtime faculty member and administrator reflects on the opportunities and challenges faced by a major research institution in the 21st century. The magazine also features political scientist Elinor Ostrom, who appeared in the very first issue of the magazine and has conducted her research at IU for more than 30 years. Additionally, it includes a discussion of anniversaries written by folklorist Nancy McEntire, a feature on E-publishing, a photo spread on the 100-year-old Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, and the regular list of new published works by IU faculty members.
On a more practical level, the magazine allows one arm of the university to know what the other is doing -- an important task for a university that spans eight Indiana campuses and boasts over 96,000 active students and more than 445,000 living graduates.
"This is such a tremendous research university, not only in Bloomington but at all the regional campuses," said Research & Creative Activity Editor Lauren Bryant, who assumed her post in 2000 after serving as the managing editor of the Indiana Alumni Magazine. "There are thousands of interesting stories out there, and the greatest struggle is deciding which ones to leave out. Admittedly, we're just a drop in the bucket, but I hope it's a nice drop."
As with any publication that has been around for so long, the magazine has gone through numerous changes and a long line of notable stewards, including several of the university's most distinguished faculty members. What began as a 14-page, black-and-white magazine with just four articles and one primary writer has been transformed into a glossy 44-page snapshot of university life containing entertaining, journalistic-style writing, snazzy photographs and eye-catching graphics.
Beneath the gradual makeover has been a determined commitment among those who have worked on the magazine to telling the university's story in a fresh and exciting way and, moreover, creating a strong feeling of community among scholars from various disciplines.
"If you look at past issues, you'll notice quite a change," said Sarita Soni, professor of optometry and vision science and associate dean for research, who edited the magazine in the early 1990s. "Instead of just focusing on research, we started asking what the research meant to them (the faculty) and also what its significance was to the public. We also began examining how this research was being passed on to the next generation. In other words, by doing much more story-telling, we succeeded in making the magazine a little more human."
A concentration also began on more theme-based issues. The spring 2002 issue was devoted largely to the research pursuits and accomplishments of IU's Mathematics Department, and the spring 2001 issue focused on the university's music program. Bryant said she groups information that crosses her desk into loose categories, and sometimes, out of a particularly high pile, a theme may arise, such as next spring's issue on university research about children. "It's a theme that really interests me as a mother," she said, "but I think the public at large will find what's being done here at IU on this topic equally fascinating."
Eugene Eoyang, professor of comparative literature and of East Asian languages and cultures, co-founded the magazine along with former Dean of Research and Graduate Development Homer Neal. Eoyang, the magazine's first editor, said he believes that Research and Creative Activity serves a vital purpose in stimulating interdisciplinary research and building a sense of community among faculty. He also praised the magazine for its efforts to continue a vision of interdisciplinary spirit set forth by Herman B Wells.
"Wells continues to spoil us," Eoyang said. "He did something so unusual in giving a large institution personality and character. He also encouraged the development of important structures that continue to this day. Research and Creative Activity is one of those structures that has managed to develop its own momentum and become a valuable source of community and intellectual pride."
Remak takes pride in everything taking place at the university, which he came to as a student in 1936. He acknowledged, though, that the good works of his colleagues aren't always visible. Because of the tendency for university research and creative pursuits to be "hermetic," he said he is extremely grateful for the presence of Research & Creative Activity.
"It does what we all should be doing. It tells people that what we are doing at this university will enrich their lives. It makes a special effort to tell people, 'This isn't just about us. It's about you.'"
To view the online version of Research and Creative Activity, visit http://www.indiana.edu/~rcapub. For more information on the magazine contact Lauren Bryant, editor, at 812-855-4152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.