Assistant Professor of Philosophy
When I first started out in college, I loved so many things it seemed impossible to choose just one major. I loved my French classes where we poured over Camus and my English classes where we delved into questions of human freedom and guilt in Dostoevski’s Crime and Punishment. But then again I also really loved my mathematics courses and I was passionate about the environment. Growing up near the shores of Lake Erie I could not help but to be concerned about the assaults faced by aquatic ecosystems. I did end up majoring in mathematics at Hillsdale College, but there was only one discipline that let my gypsy heart cover everything from Existentialism to Logic: Philosophy. I took my first philosophy class as part of my core curriculum courses having very little idea of what it would be like. I quickly grew to love the discipline named after the love of wisdom. Whatever sparked my curiosity—from the nature of justice to the beauty of art—there was always some philosophy that would cover it. So I added philosophy as my second major and opted to continue with graduate studies at Purdue University.
I knew that I wanted my research to connect to the real life concerns of average people. I figured that if you wanted to make the world a better place, you had to think about where the power was concentrated. When injustice occurs in the world or when the environment is ravaged, how does it happen? Who or what has the power to make things better? That is what got me thinking more deeply about business ethics. Nearly everyone engages with business, whether it is for one’s livelihood or just trying to buy food. But how many people have thought about what moral obligations arise because of their participation in business? As a kid growing up in Michigan, I was painfully aware of what globalization meant. The other kids at school would come in with story after story of parents having been laid off. Then I went to the World Trade Organization Protests in Seattle in 1999. People from all over the world gathered to question the structure of the global economy and its governing bodies. There were teamsters marching hand in hand with environmentalists. Ecofeminists like Vandana Shiva were literally giving lectures in the streets about how and why environmental problems were connected with the injustices faced by poor women around the world. I had never before seen so many people with so many different passions all united together to fight for social justice. I knew with certainty from then on that I wanted to do my research on the nature of corporate moral responsibility in a global economy. I have since published several articles in business ethics, including the media ethics of infotainment, purported corporate rights to free speech, the value of green chemistry, and the best way for businesses to respond to boycotts.
Prior to coming to USI, I taught at Minnesota State University, Mankato and at Muskingum University in Ohio. Wherever I am, I always enjoying teaching students and engaging in moral debates. I am excited for students to learn to think for themselves. My hope is that critical thinking and dialogue will help students to understand more fully what their moral obligations are when it comes to making the world a better place.
Assistant Professor of History
At USI, I teach a wide variety of courses in history, ranging from History of the Middle East to the Silk Road. Occasionally I am asked about my background, and this inevitably requires clarification beyond the initial answer. My Ph.D. is a double major in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. What do each of these terms mean, and how do they relate to my research interests?
Near Eastern Languages and Cultures is the more obvious of the two in a general sense, for most people have some idea of what the Near East is. Specialists in Near Eastern studies, however, often focus their research upon one of two broad categories of Near Eastern history: the pre-Islamic period, consisting of the ancient societies such as ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, or the Islamic period, the study of the Islamic society in the Near East from the seventh century onwards. I have focused on the latter; however, I have an abiding interest in the history of the Near East in the centuries before the rise of Islam as well.
Central Eurasian Studies is a large and diverse department unique to Indiana University. Central Eurasia as a geographical term refers to the vast heartland of the Eurasian landmass, encompassing modern countries from western China, to Mongolia, the former Soviet Union, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe. However, the departmental focus is on the indigenous peoples of this region rather than modern peoples such as the Chinese or Russians. Specialists in such areas as Turkic, Mongolic, Tibetan, Hungarian, and Finnish have their departmental home in this program. Within this large department, I specialized in the history and culture of the Turkic and Iranian peoples of Central Eurasia.
Almost as far back as I can remember, I have been interested in the different peoples and cultures of the world. And with my wide-ranging interests, the natural outcome for me was to focus my research upon the interactions between these different peoples. To do this, I needed to choose a general area. I suppose that I was drawn to the area I ended up working on because I had always been especially interested in the Middle East, and it seemed to be (and still does) that most people have spent more time considering how the peoples of the Middle East interacted with the peoples of the Mediterranean and Europe than the peoples of India, Central Eurasia, and China. The evocative symbol of the “Silk Road” was becoming a more popular topic of study, but few scholars approached it from a Central Eurasian or Near Eastern perspective. So, I had found my area.
My research began with wide-ranging readings of primary sources from many different traditions about Central Eurasia and the Silk Road. I wanted to understand the processes by which the Islamic world and the peoples of Central Eurasia (and beyond) learned about each other, and exchanged information and goods. By starting from the sources, I was able to note areas of interest for further inquiry. This led me to investigate the commercial and cultural role of specific trade goods which I kept finding in Islamic literature. The most important of these is the animal-derived aromatic substance musk, which had a great prestige in medieval Islamic society. The research I have been doing for the past several years all stems from this project. I have dealt in great detail with the musk trade and its impact on Islamic society in my dissertation. It is my intention to publish a revised version of this work as a book.
This research has taken me in a number of unexpected directions. First of all, I never expected to find myself working on the history of musk, and with it, the history of perfumes and aromatic substances in general. Second, I had no idea how involved with the literatures of Asian lands such as India and China my research would become. Every time I tried to draw a boundary, I found a connection to something beyond. This has become a guiding principle of my research: looking for links and relationships. In this way, I hope to help show that the world’s history was a complex network of interrelations connecting peoples throughout the ancient and medieval worlds.