S4E34: Engineering Education Research Briefs with Dr. Ruth Streveler

Event Date: June 28, 2021
How can being an artist and a poet impact one’s life as a researcher? What are the common threads between seemingly disparate communities of practice? Chanel Beebe, artist, writer, social entrepreneur, engineer, and doctoral candidate in the School Engineering Education at Purdue shares her experience and thoughts about these questions.

In case you missed it! Thriving Across Boundaries - Part I

Episode Transcript

Ø   Dr. Streveler:  Welcome to the Research Briefs Podcast.  I’m your host, Ruth Streveler, Professor of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. 

In Research Briefs, we’ll speak with engineering education researchers about what their lives are like, what they are finding out, and how their research is being used. 

My guest today is Chanel Beebe, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Engineering at Purdue and a deeply interdisciplinary thinker and practitioner.

This is our second podcast with Chanel Beebe.  She is an artist, poet, and Ph.D. candidate in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue.  And you might recall from our first podcast, she shared her journey as an engineer, artist, entrepreneur, activist, and engineering education researcher.  And Chanel also mentioned her passion as a systems thinker.  And we have asked her now to use her systems-thinker mind to develop some intriguing ideas about how her identities developed and were interwoven.

The idea of identities is really a big topic in engineering education research but often the researchers are looking at other people’s identities.  So, they’re looking at identity development from the outside.  And it’s very exciting that today we can hear about identity development from the inside from somebody who is really very self-reflective.  

So, Chanel, thanks so much.  Ever since we did our first podcast a few weeks ago I’ve been just dying to hear what else you have to say.  So, thank you so much for coming back.  

v Chanel Beebe:  Thank you so much for having me.  I am really happy to be here.  Like you said, I’ve seen and done a lot of research on identity specifically in engineering and how those things are developed.  But it’s always a little limited based off of how you can connect with the person whose identity is being studied.  And I’ve always been reflective, so I’m really excited to talk about what I’ve seen in my identity development.  

I’m excited but also nervous because I’m still very young relatively but also a lot of these reflections I have not been able to share or research and document too deeply.  So, this is definitely one of the more emerging areas of my research.  So, I’m really happy to be here today.

Ø  Well, you’re very, very welcome.  I will say even as someone who is no longer young, a lot of these topics, if one discusses it about themselves, does put you in a very vulnerable position to share your innermost self. So, again, I want to thank you for your courage in doing that ‘cause I know it’s not easy.

v Yeah, so bear with me.  A lot of these conceptions, I think are, they’re new.  You know, they’re emerging and as much as they’re possibly grounded in research and definitely grounded in a lot of historical and cultural context they’re still very new for me in terms of describing them and giving them language, so the interconnections between them.  

Ø  So, we want to begin by asking you what would you see your various identities being; how you conceptualize them? 

v    Well, ethnically, I identify as African American and indigenous. Geographically,  I am American, but I mostly identify with being a Detroiter, born and raised in Detroit.  I have interesting relationships with the United States of America, both continentally and kind of internationally.  

But I am a Detroiter.  I do have southern roots.  I have ancestors that are translated from slave trade.  And I also have ancestors that are indigenous to this continent.  So, that’s kind of me ethically and geographically.  

Practically, I identify as a writer, an artist, an engineer, an educator, a researcher and a small business owner.  I think that would be the quickest way to summarize those things.

My more creative identities I’ve had since I was younger, but the rest of them I’ve kind of developed since I was 18 and up, after going to college and being able to practice professionally.  But I’ve been writing and drawing stuff since I was young.

Ø  So, how do you feel your creative identities developed, particularly, all little kids draw.  But there was something special in that now you can look back at that and say, “This was the beginning of my creative identities.”  So, I’m fascinated to hear more about that.

v I intellectually know that all of the cultures I come from have very rich storytelling, writing and expressive history.  I was exposed to a lot of that growing up.  I’ve been asked the question a few times around how did this painting develop?  And I realized that there’s been this constant evolution between the space of ‘I paint’ and ‘I am a painter’.  You know, like what happens when it becomes an identity and not just something you do sometimes.  

And even the same thing with writing.  I’ve been writing since I was young.  I think I talked about in the last podcast my mom always had paper for me.  So, I’ve been putting pen to paper or scribbling something for a while.  But eventually I started identifying as a writer and started putting on my website and describing it as such.  And my journey as a writer actually is a good example of kind of that evolving space.  

When I think about how long I’ve been writing and how long I’ve been painting, I did a lot of it when I was younger.  Like you have to do it for school, I would recite other people’s poetry at church, so there was a lot of that practice happening.  But I was also just kind of writing and generating on my own.  It was kind of a think that was accepted for little girls.  There were a lot of different technologies and commercialism around like journals and diaries for little girls.  

But I eventually started sharing some of my poetry with my friends and family.  Not too deeply but I do remember one of the poems that I wrote in like fifth grade, my grandmother asked me to print it out and put it on her refrigerator.  So, I remember that being like, “Okay, not only does that mean something to me but other people appreciate it.”  She’s actually turning 70 this summer and I’m planning to rewrite that poem for her.  So, there was that familial kind of support of it. 

As I got older, I realized that poetry was something that was also performed to big stages as a function of Def Comedy Jams but also Def Poetry Jams.  There were a lot of places I could go online to watch people perform poetry and I loved it.  I would often kind of just binge-watch on YouTube different spoken work performers.  I didn’t really think about performing until I started going to watch live performances and I loved that.  I loved the energy of it, I loved even the conversations you could have with the poets afterwards.  

But the more I went to those events the more I realized that it was cheaper to perform than just to watch.  So, like the cover for the whole event would be like $10-$15, but if you performed sometimes you don’t have to pay the cover, or sometimes it’s like half the price.  And because I had been writing I was like, “I could do that.”  And I didn’t have much stage fright as a function of growing up in church and performing for different holidays or doing announcements.  So, the first time I performed, it was great.  It felt awesome.  The first piece I ever performed wasn’t that good and I remember after I performed the first time I was like, “I could write something else for this.”  I’m kind of realizing there’s a difference between writing for reading and for conversation and writing for performance.  

So, the second time I performed was a little bit more impactful and a little bit more intentional.  By that time, I had already started meeting and interacting with communities of practice related to writing.  So, there was this organization called the Detroit Poetry Society that had recently been formed when I started performing poetry.  And they had this huge network of young, old, experienced, and amateur writers that were offering workshops, a lot of different conversations off the mic.  So, that’s when I started really feeling like okay, I’m a poet.  I’m a poet because I write, I’m a spoken word poet because I perform.  And I know this and I have a reflections of this because I have other people who do it too.  

And then eventually, I realized that there was this other space that was kind of beyond personal writing, beyond sharing it with intimate friends, and even beyond just having a community of practice, there was this professional space where I can get paid to perform poetry.  I can get paid to write and perform certain things.  And that really solidified I think the poetry and the writer and the performer once I started getting paid to do stuff.  I think it solidified it, but it really solidified the professional side of it.  I think the personal and communal side had to come first for me to get to that place.  But I think for me it was a cool progression, but I don’t really think that everybody has to go through all of those different steps.  But for me that was it, kind of the personal, the communal, and then eventually the professional.

Ø  I know when we spoke before, you were able to actually put this idea of how you progressed into almost a model that has steps to it, and you’ve alluded to it here.  But I think when we first discussed it and you shared it, it was just like such an ‘aha’ moment for me that I’d like you to just really explicitly state the different steps again just so that people realize, “Listen to this.  It’s fascinating.”

v Yeah.  So, like you said, this is an emerging framework that I’ve been using to kind of reflect on what my identity development or even practices have been.  As of right now I’m calling it a “Practitioner Mandala.”  “Practitioner” because I think when you think about identity, we often want to assume that people are defined by what they do.  And to a certain extent that is true.  But other than what they do has its own realm of experiences, of practices and of behaviors.  And “Mandala” really because I love the idea of the imagery of mandalas.  I think they are really useful; but they also allow me visually and conceptually to have ideas placed on a map that is not necessarily exclusive in any sense.

Like when you think of a Venn diagram usually there are kind of distinct boundaries around these areas and you’re looking at the very discreet interlaps and overlaps between those sections.  With a mandala it’s just kind of spaces that you know overlap because the mandala implies symmetry.  Historically, they’ve been kind of four quadrants of kind of repeating designs.  So, the Practitioner Mandala to me is not, you know, I haven’t drawn a picture of it yet.  But I do have like the conceptual text and what I think goes in the different areas and I’m kind of excited.  Probably once I graduate this semester, I’ll be able to really get creative with what it means to me.   

But right now, the four areas are:  
Personal and Intimate Creation
Intimate Sharing – so kind of that level of not necessarily on stage somewhere but with family, with friends, with people you already know that may or may not be a part of a bigger community of practice, but they are part of your existing relationship space.
So, after those two, I think is the actual Community of Practice.  So, that’s when you’re engaging with people who you might not know personally, you might not have had other relationships with, but they practice similarly, a practice related to something you do.  So, for me with poetry that was the Detroit Poetry Society, getting in that community of practice.
And then the last quadrant area is Professional Practice.  And that is very different usually from the personal, the intimate, and the communal because now you’re dealing with the industries, the economies.  You’re dealing with trying to sell stuff, or even trying to get people to come to see your things, or to see how you’re engaging with whatever practice that might be.  And I think that’s a very useful framework, the Practitioner Mandala with the kind of four quadrants.

Lately, I’ve realized that there is possibly something in the center that is about exposure and inspiration.  That, I think, varies.  I know for me, like I said, I come from cultures where I was already exposed to the idea of writing, and the idea of expressing with color and those types of things.  But there are, you know, points in every quadrant of that mandala where there needs to be some exposure inspiration.  So, I think that putting that in the center would make the most sense.  And I know, for me, it almost kind of seems like there’s this spiraling, kind of journey where you kind of ping pong across the mandala and do different things and different steps.

I’ve already talked about my poetry journey.  But my art journey is kind of similar.  I’m kind of seeing those similarities is what made me like, there has to be something, some model here underlying.  The engineer was like, “I want to see it, I want to see it.”  So, for my art journey, it was my original exposure and inspiration was just kind of general curiosity wanting to express something.  So, I spent most of my life in the personal creation quadrant of art and really just creating because then there was something that I couldn’t express elsewhere.  

And I think I’ve talked to you about this before, but the creation really comes from the place where there’s something, a conversation with somebody else won’t solve, then I get into this kind of personal space.  And then, depending on possibilities, or how complete that practice is, then I think about sharing it with other people.  One piece that I did specifically, I call it, “Trapped in a Dream,” and it was one of the biggest pieces I’ve ever done, and I did it in I think it was 2015, but I had just started in my Ph.D. program, and as much as I had community in my Ph.D. program and back at home, kind of personal friends, I didn’t really have anybody who was going through all of those worlds at the same time.  So, I think I was having a lot of conversations, I had a therapist, I had friends, I had a lot of support groups, but there were a lot of things that I just couldn’t get into one conversation.  There were a lot of things that just couldn’t feel validated.

So, I started painting and initially I didn’t know, never really do I know that I’m like painting what’s on my mind.  Usually, I’m just painting, I’m not trying to embody or create some type of form that matches what’s on my mind.  But once I finished it, I was like, “Oh my God, this is how I’m feeling.”  You know, I created this very colorful landscape that had kind of muted contrasts in the back kind of showing that though things were different and changing they weren’t changing too much, you know, just kind of the shades and tones of things.  But the foreground was full of all of these very vibrant different figures and landscapes that almost didn’t necessarily seem like they fit on the same plane or on the same canvas, but they all had very different…like the color choices that I chose, and the contrasts were very different, but the texture of it was kind of similar.  And that one I really was like, “Okay, I need to talk to somebody about this.”  So, that was one where the personal creation kind of pushed me to I want to share this intimately.

And then a couple of years after I did that piece, I kept practicing and sharing my art.  I started sharing it online and doing different types of things like that.  But a few years later when I moved back to Detroit, I actually started seeking out artist communities like I had previously sought out poetry communities. And that was transformational.  That allowed me to not only continue to have conversations with color that I couldn’t have in person, but also to see examples of how other people had translated their lived experience and how they were carrying it in the world.   Some of them were in the professional practice space, but a lot of them had just deeper personal practices that I wasn’t aware of.  So, that community of practice shifted me back into the personal space.  And then also pushed me into the professional space.

And then eventually I was able to start hosting my own art shows, curating art shows.  In I want to say like 2019, I hosted an art show with like 70 pieces with 40 different artists.  And by that time, I’m sure my personal practice might’ve been a little less than it was before because there is time involved, but at that time I think I was a lot more secure in saying, “I’m an artist.”  Like I do this.  Not just, I paint, not just I have a website with art on it and this happens sometimes.  But I know artists, I’ve sold art, I can sell my own art, I can tell a story about art, I know I’m starting to get familiar with the industry of it.  

And like I said, both of those, the artistic journey and the poetry journey, all have those kind of four or five pieces in common.  The personal practice, the intimate sharing, the community of practice, the professional, and then some type of exposure or inspiration that kind of pushes you around the mandala.  

I think it’s also perfect too, because if you think about the idea of somebody bouncing between different quadrants, even of like a boxing ring or something, it definitely reflects the emotional experience of it.  Because it’s not a linear pathway.  And you never really know what you’re doing and where you’re going; you’re just kind of being tossed with momentum.  But it’s necessary.  I’ve seen so much of my survival, and even so much of my success be fortified and nourished by the stuff I’ve been doing as an artist and as a poet.  

And there’s a similar mandala for my research development.  But I think they were all kind of happening at the same time.

Ø  So, you know I’ve told you how fascinated I am by this statement that you would go to painting when you needed to express things that a conversation couldn’t solve.  And you spoke a little bit about that in your other example, but I’m so fascinated by it I want to ask you to unpack yet a little bit more.  

So, when you go to a painting do you sit down and say, “I need to paint about this to reveal something to myself that I’m working through?”  Or do you just say, “I have the urge to paint,” as you explained kind of with “Trapped in a Dream,” that you had this urge to paint and then later you looked and you said, “Oh my goodness, this painting is reflecting this.”  So, does it happen that you intentionally try to work through that or is it something you realize later you’re just kind of compelled to paint, or does it happen different ways at different times?

v It definitely happens different ways at different times.  I think, more often than not, I just feel the urge to paint and I’m not necessarily sure why.  And then usually through reflection, or even through the process of creating it I then become intentional.  Like all of this reflects this, let me try this.  Or all of this doesn’t reflect this, but I’d like this to go this way.  So, more often than not, that’s the creation that I’m feeling.  

There are times though where I’ll see other artwork, or even read, or hear music that makes me want to try things differently or try to intentionally create something that looks like this.  More often than that though I think is I’m trying to create something that feels like that.  I don’t have any formal training in terms of like figures or realism.  I could draw a person in a building if I tried and really spent some time on it, but that’s actually not what I’ve enjoyed about my creativity.  So, usually it’s less about trying to create something that exactly replicates something in reality or something that is like very stringent to whatever the original idea was.  But more so just giving it space to evolve and if it still feels like how I felt when I started or connected to it then I kind of keep going.  So, it really depends.  

Ø  It sounds like both your art and your writing have been spaces where you’ve expanded and nourished your skills with communities.  And you talked a little bit about flipping back and forth between the different spaces of the mandala.  Should we bring now engineering and researching into this and discuss a bit about how you feel those might overlap and interact?  

v Yeah.  I think there is almost infinite overlap between those identities and that idea is based both on how it feels but also there’s a lot of research says that we don’t experience our identities in vacuums.  That they either intersect, but there’s also research that talks about identities occurring as assemblages, kind of pair it next to each other and interacting.  I think that’s very much how I see it.  

I don’t ever stop being a writer or an artist whether I’m teaching or doing research, collecting data, or even writing grants.  I’m always thinking about the story I’m telling, thinking about the conversation I’m trying to start, and I’m thinking systemically really about how to pull from these different toolkits to address whatever the issue is, or to address whatever the goals are.  

And I think because the writing and the painting was there initially, as I developed as an engineer and as I developed as a researcher all of those steps through the engineer practitioner mandala and the steps through the researcher practitioner mandala were informed and connected by what was happening in the art and writing mandalas.  And I remember that was a struggle; that wasn’t an easy kind of think to carry even though I don’t think I was very conscious I was carrying those things.  

But like I said, I’ve been painting all my life, but it wasn’t until I got to undergrad in engineering that I was painting every day.  And towards the end of my engineering, I started sharing with my friends, mostly because by that point most of my friends were engineers and they didn’t have a lot of artist friends, and they were like, “Oh my God, that’s amazing, tell me more.”  So, there was that push and pull where I often felt that my painting was something that made me different from my colleagues and from my peers but also like it wasn’t something that I could stop doing because it was so healing and so helpful.  You know, just going from problem sets that are full of numbers and figures and things that you don’t hear about to just colors and seeing how they feel.  So, I think that was influential in my development as an engineer in the first place.  

And then when it became time to become a researcher, I had just so happened to have really gotten into poetry right before I came to grad school.  And that, I think, completely transformed the way I even understood what research could be.  Because not only was I learning about all the practical technical methodology things and the kind of industry of academia of how you write and how you tell stories and how you synthesize data, but also was writing and performing on different stages in different places and watching how certain pieces worked in Indiana but didn’t work the same in Detroit.  And stuff that worked in Detroit only worked at the Black Culture Center in Indiana but not in my department in Indiana.  

So, I started thinking about how do I translate the stuff that obviously matters to me because it’s coming out in my poetry, it’s coming out in my work, but I don’t necessarily have a language for it in my research?  And the poetry I think was the first place that I got to kind of saying this is what bothers me about the world, this is what I love about the world, this is what I want to see more of, this is what I want to see less of.  And the more you practice talking about that when it comes time to develop a research agenda or to come up with a research question, that language is kind of already there.  ‘Cause I have poems about gentrification, I have poems about the disparities in education, I have poems about how black men are treated, or how our spirit of design is coopted.  So, I have all that language somewhere and I have communities of people who talk about it in different ways.  

So, when I found myself developing as a researcher it just kind of felt like another version of that.  A little less fun because artists and poets have a more interesting way of talking and a more interesting way sometimes of planning events and doing collaborations.  But still, you know, people are fundamentally creative.  So, I found myself in my research collaborations and as I’m developing networks of researchers pulling from the interactions that I’ve had with artists where I’ve done a lot of shows, I’ve done a lot of very complicated deadlines.  And that’s not much different from trying to get a publication out.  There’s a lot of stuff that comes up, people have kids, people have goals and problems, the stuff is due at a certain time.  So, I think they all kind of push each other.  

I really, I can’t prove this, but I can almost guarantee that each of the kind of big milestones I’ve made outside of my community I probably wouldn’t have been able to make them had I not had my creativity.  Like I said, in undergrad the painting was healing because that was before I had really figured out how to go to therapy and how to talk about stuff.  And in grad school the poetry and the community were survival.  Had I not found the Black Culture Center and had people to practice poetry with and practice as I’m getting these big words, like these words that are bigger than the words I’m using in the Detroit poetry scene, I need somewhere to talk about them, and Purdue’s poetry group was specifically black people and black undergrads who were also learning these really big words at the same time.  So, we’re practicing, and we’re making them rhyme, we’re making analogies, we’re making metaphors and that made it all feel a lot lighter, right?  Because intellectually to be doing a research as a black person, as an indigenous person, as a woman one of the things that affects all of those demographics really, really heavy.  You know that cognitive bandwidth is just dead, and you can’t explain it.  As much as I love my friends and family there’s only so much I can explain how messed up today was.  I need somebody to just give it.  

But the poetry community allowed us to have that moment where even though you haven’t shared exactly what your day was today, I can tell from the language you’re using in your poem and the people you reference in your poem, some stuff happened.  And it became very healing and very necessary.  And I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished; I was ready to go probably every other week when I first started grad school.  I think we talked about that a few times in my first year.  But once I found the Black Culture Center it was like, “Ahhh, all right I can do this.  I can persist, and if I can't I can go over there and have some conversations and come back.”  So, I don’t think they exist without each other really at all.  I don’t know research without poetry, I don’t know engineering without design and art.  And that’s that assemblages thing, they all fit together.  

Ø  Right, right.  Now you’ve mentioned this work healing you, but I know you’ve also mentioned a few times you feel that you are actually developing an identity as a healer.  So, would you want to talk a bit about that too?   

v Yeah, that’s a beautiful connection.  I can’t really think of any type of origin of feeling like the healer.  I come from, you know, the black matriarchy, which is very loving, right?  So, I was raised and I also, with my mother and my grandmother, I saw my father very regularly; he was a very active part of my life when he didn’t live in the house.  And then probably a couple of days out of the week I would go stay with my paternal grandmother.  

In most of the houses I lived in there were women, and it took me a while to realize that people close the door when they went to the bathroom, ‘cause I didn’t have to do that.  But as a function I think of being in so many maternal spaces I just started to understand that a lot of the purpose of being is to support other people being.  I think I got that from my grandmothers, and I think they got that from their grandmothers but also from our Christian upbringing; the idea of kind of sacrificing yourself for whatever else the people might need.  So, I think growing up it was always there.  And as I got older I was able to kind of peek at it a little bit and see the parts of it that I didn’t think were healthy.

But the parts of it that were also a part of me, right, and the parts of my caring nature that weren’t just passive; it wasn’t just that I in general wanted people to be okay or in general wanted piece in the world, I specifically wanted to contribute to somebody’s life being better, or somebody’s life being easier.  And I started articulating that when it was time for college applications and stuff because that’s when people ask you why you do what you do.  But way before that I was doing a lot of volunteering, being involved in church, and really thinking about like how do I use what I have from the schools that I’m in to help other students who don’t get to go to the schools I go to.  

And very quickly I started teaching at an early age in Sunday Schools and those types of things.  But once I got to college that’s kind of when the rubber hit the road and I realized that some needs and some communities can’t necessarily be addressed by just a good lesson plan, or a good painting, or a good poem.  A lot of these things are connected to various systemic historic issues, very intergenerational traumas.  

And that’s when I started getting a lot of more interested in healing and what that meant and what that felt like.  I had concept of it from Christianity growing up, but I started to get into like anatomy and medicine studies; but also, really into the chakras and the energies that comes with the body and how first internally I could tell what healing I hadn’t done before I started to figure out what healing was keeping people from being able to do or be however they wanted to be.  And I think by the time I graduated undergrad I had gotten a little bit better at articulating that in a community of practice.  

So, if we think about that practitioner mandala, I think for me, as a healer, the personal and the intimate was always kind of there.  In college I got a lot more intentional with the personal healing.  But once I graduated from college, I was able to find a community of practice around that type of healing.  So, it was both people who were holistic healers who did like reiki and all those types of things, but also people who were kind of cultural healers and were doing very intentional programming that was targeted in specific areas of my neighborhood and focused on expanding fundamental knowledge bases that weren’t taught in school.  So, that type of healing; so not just the physical but the intellectual healing.  And that very much informed what I then decided to go to grad school for.  

Because by that time I had acknowledged that I had a lot of privileges, I have a lot of advantages and a lot of things that I’ve been able to heal and work on as a function of my experience in my education, as a function of my traveling, as a function of being in Fellowships and getting grants. I’ve met different people, been able to buy different books, and had the time to just sit down and think about these things.  But there are a lot of people who don’t have that time who are still solving really relevant problems.  

So, I became very concerned with not necessarily how can I heal them, but how can I help them figure out what healing might be necessary, how can I point them in the direction of healing resources that might be useful?   And because, for me personally, I had experienced engineering and design thinking as something that could be healing, as something that could be social mobilizing, something that could be changing, I was like I want to figure out how to genuinely, authentically, appropriately use design thinking, use everything I know about how processes work to change the experiences of people who are oppressed, who are hurting from things that no amount of personal reflection and therapy could fix.  

Because there’s a lot of work to be done internally in terms of responding to all these differences systems of oppression.  But there’s also a lot of tangible systems work that needs to happen that people don’t necessarily have the space to think about if they’re still dealing with the day-to-day manifestations of those systems.  

But I think that healer identity is one that kind of pulled all of the different mandalas together and kind of helped me to determine in all of these different spaces what next decision makes the most sense, or what investment, what next application, and what next collaboration do I do with the idea in mind that my ultimate goal is to provide some type of healing or transformation or bettering of the situation.  And it just makes all of life kind of feel like one big, or multiple big systems thinking problem where there are these interconnecting processes happening, these interconnecting iterations of trying this solution, and trying that one, and hearing from this; all of that is always happening for me which is really exciting.  It’s hard to describe but it’s really exciting.

Ø  Yes, yes.  It’s kind of like you were talking about the center of the mandala and so healing could be the center, the inspiration.

v Yeah, I like that.  I can’t wait to actually write this up. 

Ø  Yes, you need to.  

v I need to get these degrees first. 

Ø  So, Chanel, you discussed kind of in your thinking what is next for you and how you’re conceptualizing your identities as you go forward.  Are there some examples of projects that you have worked on, or are going to be working on, that you’ve used to kind of pull these identities together or used aspects of your identities to accomplish?

v Yeah, there are a few.  I’ve been trying to make space both for each of those different practices to grow on their own, but also to make sure I’m giving space to feed each other.  Last year I was able to start a project that really allowed me to cross-pollinate or cross all the different skills and all the different practices.   

I started a magazine in June of 2020 and that was incredible.  It allowed me to blend the artist and the storyteller but also the activist who really thinks there’s topics and information that needs to be shared.  So, I had the idea to do it originally by myself but that’s not really the world worked.  And as I was complaining about how much work it was, one of my friends was like, “You have graphic design friends, you have people, why don’t you do this?”  So, publishing the magazine was its own kind of mandala where I went from like I can do this myself, okay I’m complain and share it with my friends, to actually let me find some community to help.    

Ø  And that’s “Bitten,” right?

v Yep.  So, as a function of those collaborations we started “Bitten Magazine.”  It is a quarterly print and online magazine focused on sharing relevant stories for oppressed populations in a beautiful way.  And that has been incredible.  I think it has allowed me to take some of my research ideas and figure out how to describe those both visually but also more succinctly; but also allowed me to start collaborating with people who I might not have been able to collaborate in an academic research sense, but who are doing a lot of really cool things in the community research kind of way.  So, that’s one of my favorite projects right now.

I’m also seeking kind of different research opportunities that will help me continue to develop as a qualitative researcher.  I’ve really enjoyed doing interviews, doing focus groups, interacting with community spaces.  So, I’m looking for stuff that allows me to focus on cognition, or social problem solving and really look at that space between institutions and communities.  ‘Cause I think both places are the most generative in terms of letting all these different identities cross-pollinate.  It’s a little easier to do that when the space is already cross-disciplinary.  

So, I’m really excited.  I kind of think, I mentioned this the last time, I think the sky is the starting point for a lot of this stuff.  And I’m realizing as much as there are journeys and there are different ways to become professional or become successful, that I really can’t do this wrong as a function of how genuine I think I’ve been to choosing the work and choosing the topics that I’m working on.  I can’t mess it up.  You know, even if stuff doesn’t go entirely one way or another way, I still find myself satisfied.  So, that’s really exciting.  

Ø  Well, I do encourage people to go to your website, ChanelBeebe.com because I know I’ve been blown away by looking around it and thinking, “How can somebody so young do all of this work?”  It’s just really amazing. 

v My website is a beautiful scrapbook too. 

Ø  It’s a great thing.  So, we always end again with advice, and you had some from your first podcast.  But given what we’ve discussed here I’m sure you’ll have some additional advice for the listeners.  

v Yeah.  I think first, just understanding that identity and skill development is not unidirectional or even bidirectional.  It happens in a network, it happens in a system, it happens in a spectrum in a very mucky space.  And I think the more that we can understand that both as people and also as researchers interested in those things, the more we can try to attack issues that are affecting different identities from a lot of different perspectives as opposed to just trying to identify one pain point.  Because pain doesn’t really have the onset just like the identity.

I think also, the idea that community is needed for growth of identities of these practices.  I know for me that was profound because I grew up very, you know, an overachiever, very kind of self-sufficient.  I was also an only child, so it was baked pretty deep.  But as I got older and as I started doing this work in real life, I realized that nothing develops in a vacuum, nothing develops in isolation.  And as much as I can become really good in my house by myself, I can't replace or fabricate the experience of talking with other people, the experience of learning from other people.  I think that is important because a lot of people, especially people who might not identify as an artist or as a poet or as an engineer or as a researcher, they always feel like, “I need to just go and figure out how to be this by myself.”  But it’s a teaching thing, it’s a community thing.  So, I think that’s important.

And then lastly, just probably the idea that cross-disciplinary teams are amazing; they produce really interesting results.  They take a lot of work to set up, they take a lot of work to maintain and because of that I think they are often shied away from.  But when I think about the really big problems facing the communities I care about and also kind of humankind at large, they’re going to require cross-disciplinary teams.  So, I think as we start to change our perspectives and really begin to enjoy the chaos that’s a part of working cross-disciplines I think we can do a lot deeper and more meaningful work.

So, that’s my advice.  Consider the whole space of identity, the spectrum possibly of mandala, don’t forget the community, and be okay with the chaos of cross-disciplinary teams, they’re amazing.  

Ø  Well, Chanel, you’re amazing too.  

v Oh, thank you.  

Ø  Thank you so much for being willing to share so much of yourself and your ideas.  It’s very, very beneficial and enlightening.  

v Thank you so much for having me.      

Ø  And I know you’ll continue to do wonderful things.  You’re right, you can’t mess it up.

v Yeah, I put it on record now, so I’ll have to do it.

Ø  Yes, and I think that’s a great place to stop. 

Research Briefs is produced by the School of Engineering Education at Purdue.  

Thank you to Patrick Vogt for composing our theme music.  The transcript of this podcast can be found by Googling “Purdue Engineering Education Podcast.”  And please check out my blog, RuthStreveler.Wordpress.com