About: From the Directors

Section 1


The Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) began in 2002 as a group of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Illinois interested in research on universities as institutions. Early on we agreed that universities and colleges are complex institutions with multifaceted and often conflicting values, commitments, and identities. We envisioned a collaborative, campus-wide project, dedicated to directing and supporting student inquiry on the university.

We had little idea of the many twists and turns this initiative would take, or the impact it would have. We knew it would grow and develop across theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary borders, but never could we have imagined it becoming a home for such innovative student research. Thanks to sustained interest from various campus units EUI is alive-and-well, and true to our history, still growing and changing.

At the heart of EUI are our courses: taught by faculty who have designed or redesigned classes with research on the university as the focus. To date, over 140 EUI-affiliated courses have been taught on six different campuses (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois State University, Parkland College, Ithaca College and Syracuse University). These courses are spread across diverse departments, ranging from Rhetoric and Kinesiology to Anthropology, Sociology, History, and Urban Planning.

From these EUI-affiliated courses, over 1,200 student research projects and presentations have been archived for public and/or EUI use via the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS), an online repository of research and scholarship of faculty, staff, and students of the University of Illinois.

In addition, EUI has hosted a number of special projects, most notably, an EUI faculty-student collaborative research project that culminated in a substantial report, “Ethnography of the Brown v. Board of Education Jubilee Commemoration." A second web-based project showcasing EUI research on race and diversity is on-line, as part of the Ford Foundation supported project, "Documenting the Difference that Diversity Makes". EUI Live offers a web-portrait of the first year of EUI student research. These projects represent the potential for EUI research to contribute to a self-reflexive university, cognizant of and engaged in its local, national, and global communities.

You will find everything you want to know about EUI here on our website. Be sure to view EUI In Short, a five-minute video summary of student inquiry, and to visit our on-line archive of student research (IDEALS).

Browsing through the EUI archive you might come across political science student Ashanti Barber’s ethnographic exploration into the “invisible boundaries that divide races at the University of Illinois” in which she concluded that the reluctance many students feel toward engaging with students of a different race reflects “a precarious position of stagnation” on campus, reinforced by, among other things, history, identity, voyeurism, and the “constant reinforcement of the practice of outgrouping.”

You might also chance upon Illinois State University anthropology student Joe Marino’s investigation of evangelism in university public spaces, in which he focused on the dialogues, reactions, and interactions that take place during the sermons of a local preacher. Although initially interested in documenting the outlandish confrontations between students and the evangelist, he later concluded that such events, and the debates they inspire, are in fact an important forum for public discussion outside the university classroom. Provocatively, he suggested that these "bizarre" exchanges taking place in university public spaces are perhaps more conducive to the free exchange of ideas and opinions than discussions inside the classroom.

EUI can take life on any college campus to foster student engagement, collaborative inquiry, and faculty development. We invite new collaboration and partnerships and welcome your feedback.

EUI is run by faculty co-directors, managed by our staff, and guided by internal and external advisory boards.

> Why Now? Rationale for EUI