Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo senior Pamela Plain received the College/University Intern of the Year award from Indiana INTERNnet this week.

Pamela PlainPamela Plain

Plain, a health sciences major, was one of two students who received this award, chosen from 41 nominees statewide. She earned the recognition for organizing a breast tissue donation event in Kenya, as an intern for the Komen Tissue Bank (KTB) at the IU Simon Cancer Center.

She was excited to be nominated, and thrilled to win.

"I just thought it was an honor to be nominated, because everyone there had done such amazing internships," said Plain, 50, from Tipton. "When I won, I couldn't believe it."

Plain learned about the KTB – the only repository for healthy breast tissue in the world – when she volunteered as part of a civic engagement and breast cancer class with Jessica Henderson, assistant professor of health sciences. Plain and six of her classmates donated healthy breast tissue, which researchers use as they seek a cure for breast cancer.

During her time at the center, she talked to Jill Henry, chief operating officer of the KTB, about the Kenya project, offering her skills in international shipping to facilitate getting the needed supplies to Africa. KTB's goal is to collect breast tissue from women all over the world. They targeted Kenya because a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer is common there.

"I was a customs expert before I went back to school," Plain said. "I realized they didn't have a grasp on the shipping process, and this was a way I could make a difference.

"I started at the very beginning of the process, and did everything from packing the boxes, loading the container, and doing all the customs paperwork to send the shipment to Kenya. Even after my internship was over, I followed through on a daily basis, and made sure our shipment cleared customs."

Those who supervised Plain's internship said the award was well deserved, and no surprise to them.

"In our eyes, Pam is a rock star," said Henry. "The truth is, we really do not know what we would have done without Pam Plain this past summer. She performed a superior job spearheading the planning and logistics of packing and shipping all the supplies for the tissue drive we were planning in Kenya, and was able to harvest information about the process we never would have had otherwise. Pam outlined what she would accomplish, and how she intended to accomplish it, then delivered everything she promised."

She is especially proud that the shipment of medical supplies cleared customs in a week, saying it usually takes a month. In addition to items needed to collect tissue samples, the Komen Center sent vitamins, incubators, and other biomedical supplies to the Riley Mother and Baby Hospital in Kenya.

Henderson called Plain's work "an extraordinary accomplishment," and noted she had never seen an intern given responsibility of such magnitude.

"This project involved tens of thousands of dollars, superb communication skills and organizational skills, and an understanding of different cultures," Henderson said. "Pam's passion lies in helping others. She is exactly the type of person who we want in our field, and who we want to stay in Indiana."

Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke is proud of Plain's accomplishment.

"She is an excellent example of how a regional campus, like IU Kokomo, provides access to a college degree to a variety of students, in different stages of their lives," Sciame-Giesecke said. "I wish her the best in her next educational endeavor."

Tracy Springer, manager of IU Kokomo's Career and Accessibility Center, said Plain is a role model to other students, for understanding how important internships are for their future careers.

"Pam gained invaluable on-the-job experience from this internship, which will help her as she looks for employment and applies to graduate school," Springer said. "We encourage all of our students to seek out these opportunities, as Pam did."

Plain graduates in May, and hopes to find a job near Indianapolis, so she can begin working on her master's degree at the School of Public Health at IUPUI. Her goal is to earn her Ph.D. before she turns 60.

"I really feel passionate about breast cancer, so if there is a job I can do in breast cancer research, I would be thrilled with that," she said. "I also have a huge passion for cardiovascular health. I work at the Heart Center in Indianapolis, and I've learned that heart disease is the number one killer of women and of adults worldwide. I hope to funnel one of my passions into a job in the health realm, where I can make a difference."

Indiana INTERNnet, managed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, is a statewide resource for internship opportunities that has helped connect students and employers across the state since 2001.

For more information about internship opportunities available through IU Kokomo, go to

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — You might not expect to read a comic book in a college class.

Joe KeenerJoe Keener

But if you take Joe Keener's "Conversations with Shakespeare" at Indiana University Kokomo, you might read manga, or Japanese comic books —based on one of Shakespeare's plays.

Keener, assistant professor of English, includes modern movies and books as well as manga, alongside classic Shakespeare plays, to help students find a connection with them.

"The students don't expect to read manga, they don't expect to watch Scotland, Pa.," he said. "By upsetting the text a little, you get their attention. Giving students something unexpected is important. It makes the students think about the text, rather than just slogging through it because it's required."

It also removes the negativity sometimes associated with Shakespeare, because it is "required reading," he said.

"I find material that is more current, to help students connect to it," he said. "It makes it fun and worth reading. It is appealing to students, without losing the intellectual rigor. We get past it being valuable because everyone says it's valuable."

Keener connected with Shakespeare as an undergraduate, and continued to study his works as he earned his master's degree and Ph.D. His office, in the Main Building, reflects his love of the English playwright, filled with various editions of his plays, along with Shakespeare bobbleheads and action figures.

"Once you become known as a Shakespeare fan you get a lot of these things," he said.

Students in his "Conversations" class not only read the classic King Lear, but they also read Christopher Moore's 2009 novel Fool, which tells the same story from the fool's point of view. Or they'll read Macbeth, and then watch the movie Scotland, Pa., a 2001 movie that sets the play in a fast food restaurant in Pennsylvania.

"You get a nice back and forth, and students can make more connections," Keener said. "It leads to some interesting conversations, such as 'Is this still Shakespeare,'" and 'How much of Shakespeare's text has to be included for it to be Shakespeare?'"

Keener has used this technique successfully before, in a class covering English literature before 1600. He aligns older texts, like Beowulf, with the 1970s novel Grendel, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

"This is literature that is especially hard for students to connect with, but juxtaposing texts can make them come alive for the students," he said.

This does not mean he is watering down the curriculum, he said, or that it is an easy class.

"You have to find a balance to maintain intellectual rigor," he said. "Some colleges teach only classics, while others have classes on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You have to reach a balance between adding modern books and maintaining that rigor."

During the semester, students also research to find other media that has a connection to one of Shakespeare's plays, and writes a final paper establishing that connection. This moves students further towards being their own teachers, which is Keener's goal.

"It has to be something unexpected, they can't use the obvious," he said. "Hopefully by the end, students are a little closer to teaching themselves. If I can make one student come out thinking differently than before, that, to me, is an achievement, and really is why I wanted to teach college. It's exciting to me to see them get it, and go beyond getting it."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Just below the three stars that form the belt on the constellation Orion lays a nebula described as a "stellar nursery," the birthplace of thousands of stars.

Campus in snowObservatory in snow.You can get an up close look at the Orion nebula, as well as other stars and planets, at the Indiana University Kokomo Observatory open house, from 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday, February 9.

Patrick Motl, assistant professor of physics, will begin the open house by sharing highlights from the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society, before beginning observations in the newly renovated dome, weather permitting.

"For viewing, we will have Jupiter, the Orion Nebula, and other highlights from the winter hexagon," he said. "The moon will be bright as well, in a waxing gibbous phase," meaning it will be about half lighted, but not quite full.

A nebula is a cloud of interstellar gas and dust. The Orion Nebula is unique, as it can be seen without a telescope or binoculars on a dark, moonless night. Most nebulae are difficult to see with just the eye.

Stargazers will be able to view the nebula and other highlights through the Observatory's telescopes, a six-inch Takahashi refracting telescope and a 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope mounted together. The Takahashi provides exceptionally sharp images of planets, while the Meade allows viewers to see fainter objects in the sky, due to its larger light collecting area.

The open house is free and open to the public in the Observatory, 105 E. Rebecca Lane. Free parking is available on campus.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Sandi Giver's heart for helping those in greatest need takes her to places most people fear to go.

Sandi GiverSandi GiverShe's lived without electricity and water in war-torn Uganda, providing a mother's love to teen girls rebuilding lives shattered by civil war. In the slums of India, she ministered to women forced into prostitution, helping them into dignified employment that allows them to escape poverty.

And she did all of this before her 28th birthday.

"I feel like my life sounds pretty intense to other people," Giver said. "To me, it's simple acts of kindness, and simple things nobody talks about, taking care of populations that are overlooked or people haven't talked about. I have taken extra effort to find them, or it's come across my path, and I've learned more. Anyone can do it, you just have to put the effort towards it."

Her bachelor's degree from Indiana University Kokomo made this possible, she says, teaching her the value of hard work, and providing leadership experiences in student government, Student Union Board, and speech and debate.

She was a full time student and held full time jobs, which let her pay her tuition and living expenses without student loans. After graduating, she was free to seek out the overseas volunteer experiences she dreamed of, rather than having to find a job to pay off college debt.

"I've always wanted to go overseas, and to experience something unlike America, where I could get to know the people, the issues, and how I could successfully empower them," she said. "IU Kokomo made that possible, because I wasn't financially in debt when I graduated."

She's now using her knowledge to prepare future Peace Corps volunteers to be safe while serving overseas, working for the Peace Corps Office of Safety and Security in Washington D.C.

Giver, from Peru, earned a degree in general studies, with a concentration on social and behavioral sciences, in 2008. After graduation, she spent four months in India, with Word Made Flesh, a faith-based organization that helps women escape brothels and find jobs with dignity.

She then served 27 months with the Peace Corps in Uganda, living in a primitive refugee camp, with no electricity. Giver taught life skills, communications, and relationship skills to young women in the camp, and helped many of them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, from being displaced or abducted during civil war.

"Going to a post conflict zone was so much different, when it came to building trust, and living in the camp," she said. "At the same time, I was able to build relationships with my girls, and with my teachers. I was able to learn more than someone who was in Uganda for two weeks. There were definitely some hardships, but I am thankful for the experience, and the work I was able to do in the community."

In her current job with the Peace Corps, Giver develops procedures, policies, and training to help volunteers reduce their risk of being sexually assaulted, or a crime victim. She also trains and equips staff to respond when a staff member is a crime victim.

"This is my first office job," she said. "Right now, it's good to be where I am, in a cube, outside of the chaos. Now I can step back and work on issues a little less directly. My heart has been, and is still, to work with marginalized people, when they don't have a voice. "

Giver plans to earn a master's degree in social work, preparing to work in community awareness and advocacy. She also would like to go overseas again at some point.

"I want to go when the moment is right," she said. "It might take a little time. I also see the value of working on issues at home, and in America."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.