Business Information Specialist/Assistant Professor, Purdue University Libraries, West Lafayette, IN
MSI, School of Information, University of Michigan, 2012
Created CrowdAsk (sites.lib.purdue.edu/crowdask), a crowdsourcing/reference help site at which students can answer one another’s questions
Photo by Patrick Heagney
The Business of Justice
Purdue University’s Ilana Stonebraker is on a mission to show students that a business education can serve as a powerful tool for social justice and meaningful change. Just five years into her career, the business information specialist has won numerous awards for her dynamic teaching and transformed the information literacy curriculum at her institution.
One major component of Stonebraker’s work has been the “Greater Lafayette Greater” course, which encourages students to think about how information can solve real-world problems. According to Purdue librarian Heather Howard, Stonebraker’s educational approach asks, “What if [business] students weren’t trying to solve the problems of a company but rather the problems of a whole community?” Students in this course are challenged to examine local demographics, best practices, and other factors to create a proposal that would help the local area. Proposed projects have included community gardens, day-care centers, and public art in bus shelters.
Stonebraker believes that “students must gather information in the spirit of transformation of their own actions as well as [those of] their potential firm, group, or community.” In this way, enhanced critical business information literacy helps students understand the impact their work can have on the world around them. Her focus on crowdsourcing and on flipped courses (online lectures before class time) also encourages active participation, critical thinking, and civic-mindedness. “Too much of higher education is combative, student against student,“ says Stonebraker. “I like to see my classrooms as a participatory culture, and I hope my students see that as well.”