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Outreach & Discovery

A Day in Washington D.C. – Advocating for Hamid Babaei

By Adrienne Wooster ‘19



The day before the presidential election, Professor Adam Braver, Grace Napoli, and I traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate for Hamid Babaei on behalf of the RWU Scholars at Risk Advocacy Seminar. Babaei, a former Ph.D. student at the University of Liege in Belgium, was arrested in 2013 by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence for his refusal to spy on fellow students. Since his initial incarceration at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison and his transfer to Rajai Shahr Prison, Babaei’s mental and physical health have been in serious decline. Furthermore, the charges against him of “communicating with a hostile government” and “acts against national security” are alarmingly ambiguous to all of those in the human rights community. Despite the politically charged atmosphere in our nation’s capital, our concerns were humanitarian, not political. We met with both Democrat and Republican Representatives to raise awareness of Babaei’s case. The purpose of our trip was to gather a sufficient amount of information to further our advocacy efforts.

Our first meeting of the day was with Congressman Lee Zeldin. As we walked to the Longworth building, the quintessential autumn day seemed oddly desolate. The colossal hallways leading to Zeldin’s office were deserted other than the occasional intern briskly passing by. An ominous sense of foreboding was undeniable. This aside, our meeting with Zeldin was relatively successful. With genuine concern, he suggested that we research whether there are any prisoners of conscience with U.S. citizenship at Rajai Shahr prison. He speculated that presenting Congress with Babaei’s case along with the cases of incarcerated U.S. citizens might motivate action. This advice was echoed by April Wells, an aide to New York Senator Gillibrand’s office. Additionally, Wells advised that we find Iranian groups in either New York City or California with detailed knowledge of Iran’s legal process who might be willing to help Babaei.

Around noon, the silence of the city was broken by the bustling of the lunchtime rush hour. As we walked through the Metro, it seemed as if every fragment of passing conversation was about the upcoming election. Street vendors displayed apparel, reading “I’m With Her” and “Make America Great Again.” Newspapers displayed big pictures of the two candidates, under passionate and bolded titles. The nervous barrage of political festivities made me realize the profound value of humanitarian work. While the polarity between parties seemed to be pulling people apart, we continued on our way, trying to better the life of an individual – politics aside.


Our meetings with the Lantos Commission and Scott Busby of the U.S. State Department were most inspiring. At the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, we met with Senior Democrat Fellow, Kimberley Stanton. Stanton advised that we work with Scholars at Risk to assemble an application regarding Hamid Babaei for the Defending Freedom Project, which aims to protect the intellectual and religious freedom of individuals across the globe by pairing them with a member of Congress. At the State Department, Busby, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, recommended that because of Babaei’s health concerns, we pursue a medical furlough.

There is much humanitarian work to be done during this socially and politically tumultuous time. It was heartening to see concern expressed during our meetings about Hamid Babaei by both Republicans and Democrats. In a world where fear and ignorance are abundant, it is crucial that empathy and common ground be found over issues of basic human rights. Despite what the future may hold, the RWU Scholars at Risk Advocacy Seminar students will continue our humanitarian efforts, defending intellectual freedom and expression.

From The Archives: The Fulton/Howe Collection: November

By Heidi Benedict, University Archives


The Archives would like to share a newly discovered item from the Fulton/Howe Collection. We have found many unpublished writings, including diaries, school work, commonplace books and copy books written by several family members. Marshall N. Fulton’s father, William Jewett Fulton, Sr., wrote this piece on the history of political parties. Unfortunately, the remainder of the document has not yet been found, but we do have additional notes he prepared on the subject.


I’d also like to highlight some significant family events that happened in November:


  • Herbert Marshall Howe and Mary W. Fell were married on November 28, 1871. Howe established Ferrycliffe Farm in 1877.
  • Mary W. Fell’s father, Joseph Gillingham Fell, was born on November 14, 1816.
  • William Jewett Fulton Sr. died on November 14, 1919.
  • Mary Howe DeWolf Fulton died on November 27, 2006.


For more from this collection: click here

Biennial Library Assessment Conference Held

By John Schlinke, Architecture/Art Librarian

How do you effectively measure a library?  Every other year since 2006 the Library Assessment Conference (LAC) has brought people together who are engaged in answering this question.  Sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries and the University of Washington, this year’s conference was held in Arlington, VA at the end of October.  Approximately 640 people attended to discuss and debate the many ways that librarians and others seek to assess the varied aspects of libraries.

Some traditional library data like book counts, gate counts, checkouts, and others have long been used as professional assessment measures.  These important data focus on measures of quantity and use but they can only provide part of a complete picture.  Responsibilities of current academic libraries typically include library instruction, exhibits and programming, research support, development of local collections, community outreach, digitization, preservation, and many others.  As libraries’ responsibilities have evolved, assessment practices have also needed to evolve in order to measure library effectiveness.

To accurately measure an academic library is to assess all of its facets and see how those measures correlate with achieving the goals of the institution with which it is associated.  Assessment across the spectrum of library responsibilities requires a critical eye to select appropriate measurements, a variety of data collection methods (quantitative and qualitative), and a variety of data analysis techniques.  The Library Assessment Conference provided an opportunity to see concrete examples of how libraries are doing this work, as well as how they are presenting their findings to their communities in ways that are understandable and approachable.

After preparation and editing, the proceedings of the 2016 conference will be made be available via the Library Assessment Conference website.  In the meantime, the proceedings of the five previous conferences are currently available on the site.

OER Faculty Fellow Marcella Recher on incorporating OER into sustainability studies

by Marcella Recher



Sustainability courses are interdisciplinary in nature; they involve looking at interrelationships among contemporary environmental, social and economic problems.  Consequently, it is difficult to find a textbook that covers all these topics. It becomes necessary to rely on multiple books/resources when teaching sustainability studies courses. This past summer I looked for OER materials to include in a digital course pack for the SUST 101 Intro to Sustainability Studies course. I also sought out case studies to use in class to help students develop a more comprehensive understanding of how individual topics fit into the “big picture”.

Equipped with information from the OER workshop, I found several excellent sources for case studies on contemporary sustainability topics. I incorporated a number of case studies into the SUST 101 curriculum. I also created an OER course pack comprised of articles, websites, audio tracks, TED talks and excerpts from books maintained in the RWU online library. With the help of the IT instructional design staff, I made the course pack available to students on Bridges. As current events unfold, I will be able to easily add updated news and articles.

To date, I have received some favorable feedback on the case studies from students and plan to do more in-depth assessment of whether the students feel the OER materials supports their class work.



Marcella Recher Bio: After receiving her Ph.D. in Environmental Management from Vanderbilt University, Marcella spent close to a decade in industry consulting with Fortune 500 companies on a wide range of sustainability initiatives. She joined RWU as an Adjunct Faculty member of the Sustainability Studies program in Spring of 2016.


Source of image: adapted from the case Global Climate Change: Evidence and Causes  found at http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/collection/detail.asp?case_id=478&id=478

Description: The United States Capitol Building in Washington DC, framed with the Supreme Court columns.

Author: ©Michael Shake Source: Dreamstime.com, ID: 11882582 Clearance: Licensed royalty free.


OER Faculty Fellow Paul Webb on the Benefits and Challenges of Self-Publishing Open Content

By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarian


Last month’s article Sticker-Shock Sparks Faculty-Librarian Collaboration with OER provided our readers with a brief overview of the OER (open educational resources) movement and how RWU is not only a participant, but a leader.  Today we’d like to highlight one of our seven OER Faculty Fellows, Paul Webb, who is a Professor of Biology and has been at RWU since 1999. He teaches a number of biology and marine biology courses in the fields of oceanography, zoology, animal behavior, and animal physiology.  Like many faculty members, Professor Webb was having difficulty identifying a textbook that encompassed all of the content he felt necessary to teach his courses – a book without all of the “extra stuff”.  For his introductory level oceanography course he decided to take a bold and innovative approach: write and self-publish his own textbook under an open license.  Webb’s decision to publish his own textbook did far more than save his students from having to purchase another expensive textbook, it also encouraged an analysis of his pedagogy, allowed him the flexibility to pull content from his own notes and other open resources, and provided him with the autonomy to exclude irrelevant or extra content that often is included when a publisher enforces strict word count requirements.

Introduction to Oceanography
The process of creating OER may seem intimidating, and it does come with its own list of challenges, but with the proper support and planning, it is possible.  Let’s take a closer look at how Professor Webb published his own textbook. To begin, he gathered his own collection of notes which he used to teach the course over the years, identified areas which he needed to expand upon, located chapters from other open textbooks to supplement his original writings, and searched for illustrations and images that were free and available to use without restrictions.  Webb then identified a platform on which to publish his textbook, and settled on PressBooks, a user-friendly book writing software that allows authors the ability to easily turn a manuscript into an e-book or print book for a minimal cost to the author ($100).  With PressBooks, he was able to add content at his own pace, upload and add illustrations and images to accompany text, and share the book and individual chapters with his students via PDF and many other e-book formats for free.  Students can opt to print the entire book or just selections from it, and can work directly with the e-copy on their laptop or e-reader. Having the freedom to create and share his own textbook with his students has had many benefits, but we cannot ignore the challenges which the process itself has also posed along the way:

  • Locating quality public domain images
  • Writing chapters on topics he’s not as familiar with when he was unable to locate previously written content using other open sources
  • Properly citing open content
  • Wondering how this non-traditional contribution of scholarship in his field will be valued (or not) in the tenure/promotion process

Introduction to Oceanography


These challenges (and others) are common among anyone who opts to create open content, whether it be a textbook, course pack or other academic ancillaries.  As librarians, we do our best to investigate how we can work together with faculty to support these types of challenges as well as celebrate the successes and contributions that are made to the OER movement.  Roger Williams University is incredibly fortunate to be able to call Professor Webb one of our own.  His hard work and dedication to not only his students but also to his academic colleagues around the world cannot be overlooked.  Thanks to his new textbook, students and faculty worldwide will be able to apply the 5 R’s of OER:

Introduction to Oceanography

Retain – Make and own copies

Reuse – Use in a wide range of ways

Revise – Adapt, modify, and improve

Remix – Combine two or more OER

Redistribute – Share with others



Our next article will highlight Marcella Recher, an adjunct faculty member in the Sustainability Studies program at RWU and another one of our esteemed OER Faculty Fellows.


Images courtesy of Paul Webb

From The Archives: The Fulton/Howe Collection: Marshall Enters Brown University

By Heidi Benedict, University Archives


One hundred years ago, in September 1916, Marshall Fulton left his family home in Keokuk, Iowa and moved to Providence, Rhode Island to attend Brown University. There he spent a great deal of time with his Uncle Frank. In Marshall’s diary for 1916, he describes his experiences and emotions during his first year at Brown. Included here are three entries from his diary:  September 20, the day he left home; September 25, the day he registered for classes, and September 27, his first day of classes. Marshall gave the valedictory address at his graduation from Brown in 1920. The Archives holds his correspondence with his parents, diaries, and a scrapbook from his years at Brown.








For more from this collection: click here

Sticker-Shock Sparks Faculty-Librarian Collaboration with OER

By Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarianpicture1

Typically, it goes a little something like this:  A student arrives on campus, prints his course schedule and then takes a walk to the bookstore to see what reading materials his professors may have assigned for his courses.  The panic that often ensues from the sticker-shock is very real and far too common.  For students studying in the United States during 2015-16, the average cost of textbooks for just one year at a private four-year university like Roger Williams University was $1,249 (source).  With exorbitant prices like this tacked onto already high tuition costs, it’s no wonder that librarians across the nation are investigating whether or not OER (Open Educational Resources) could be the answer.

So what are OER, and why is the library getting involved?  OER can be identified as teaching, learning and research materials in analog, digital, and interactive mediums that are free of any copyright or license restrictions.  OER are meant to not only alleviate the financial burden of student learning but also to enrich and revolutionize it.  Faculty utilizing OER now have far more flexibility in selecting whole or individual chapters of open textbooks (free) in addition to searching through online shared banks of interactive lesson plans, media, journal articles and more to create custom and engaging learning environments that encourage students to be active learners both inside and outside of the classroom.  It isn’t always easy to locate and evaluate quality OER that fits within the confinements of one’s syllabus, and this is where the RWU librarians have stepped up to collaborate with the Center for Teaching & Learning, Instructional Design, and 7 faculty members in all different disciplines wanting to make a difference in their students’ lives.

Stay-tuned for an inside look into all 7 of our faculty fellows’ experiences working with the library and OER.  We’ll showcase how each individual chose to incorporate OER into his/her fall semester courses and how they plan on assessing the benefits of access and student learning throughout.  The emergence of OER in higher education is creating exciting opportunities for faculty to reassess their pedagogical practices and engage students in deeper intellectual explorations of subject content.  Follow along and get inspired!


Advocacy Seminar Students Take the Hill

By Maggie Daubenspeck, Connections Intern


In mid-March of 2016, five members from the Advocacy Seminar class and their professor, Adam Braver, visited Washington, D.C. to advocate on behalf of the seventy-two-year-old Mohammad Hossein Rafiee Fanood, an imprisoned scholar and chemist in Iran. The Seminar works in collaboration with Scholars at Risk to serve as case minders on behalf of international scholars who are imprisoned for issues directly correlated to violations of their freedom of expression. Maggie Daubenspeck, Abby DeVeuve, Diandra Franks, Jen Gonzalez, Grace Napoli, and Adam Braver scheduled a total of thirteen meetings to be completed in a single day.


Tuesday Evening – March 15, 2016

The team arrived at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at 10:00 pm, successfully navigated the Metro, and made their way to their Dupont Circle hotel. Being surrounded by the sights and sounds of the city made their mission real: they were in the nation’s capitol as participants of the democratic system—there to talk to members of congress and other officials about an issue of great importance.

But could they have an impact?


Wednesday Morning – March 16, 2016

The day’s first hitch was the late breaking announcement that all Metro transportation would be suspended due to maintenance. This news forced the group to have to rejigger their transportation and logistical planning. Somehow that seemed part and parcel of a day of advocacy in D.C., always being ready to rethink, readjust, and refine expectations.

But by 9:15am, the entire team was sitting down in the office of Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) in the Rayburn Office Building. The idea of meeting with congressional members on the Hill initially may have been intimidating, but once in action, the group was ready, relaxed, and motivated. After all, a man’s future was at stake.

The team then split up into two separate groups to tackle a series of morning meetings, toggling between House and Senate offices at the Hart and Cannon buildings. While scrambling to different meetings in different buildings was initially confusing, the students soon became experts at navigating the legislative passages, making sure to include small breaks for team meetings to discuss all they were hearing, and continually strategizing for upcoming conferences. Before lunch, Team One met with Representative Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), the staff of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Senator Bob Menendez (R-NJ). Team Two focused on an extended meeting with a law clerk from the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Throughout the morning meetings, the students were met with mixed reactions, particularly on strategies specific to addressing human rights issues in Iran. What became more and more clear: most members were willing to lend some form of support, but they preferred someone else to take the lead.


Wednesday Afternoon – March 16, 2016

The entire team attended a meeting at the State Department with Democracy, Rights, and Labor (DRL). This meeting proved to be very informative as the group sat down with the Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby, Foreign Affairs and Near Eastern Affairs Officer Matthew Hickey, and Iranian Affairs Officer Emily Norris. In addition to helping the team further understand the relationship between the nuances and complexities of human rights in Iran and the case against Dr. Rafiee, the meeting also introduced new speaking points to present in the day’s remaining meetings on the Hill.

By far, the most promising meeting of the day came at the end of the schedule. Following a spirited and up-tempo meeting with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and his staff, the team left Senator Whitehouse’s office with a strong indication from the Senator that he would draft a letter in support of Dr. Rafiee’s release. Finally, the students had found a representative willing to take the lead.

Other meetings to round out the day included the staffs of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ).


Wednesday Evening – March 16, 2016

With all the meetings finished, the exhausted but happy team met over dinner to discuss and compare the details from the various meetings, as well as the overall experience. A plan was set up to send out follow up emails, and to write a final report for Scholars at Risk about the findings, allowing the parent organization to engage further with some of the representatives, as needed.

By 10:15pm, the team was in the air, and en route back to Rhode Island. A full day of meeting directly with government officials about Dr. Rafiee’s situation made the students feel hopeful that the case would receive the much needed attention that might help contribute to a positive outcome—further highlighting the responsibility of those who live in cultures that are granted freedom of expression to speak up for those who don’t have that right.

Preservation News from the Archives

By Heidi Benedict, University Archives


As this week is Preservation Week, the Archives would like to share some of the projects from the past academic year:

Quill 1961-12-15-1

The Hawks’ Herald: For more than 5 years work-study students have been digitizing student newspapers, from as far back as 1961 when it was called The Quill. At this point almost all the student newspapers through 2011 have been completed. You can access them on the library website at http://docs.rwu.edu/student_pubs/.


CyberViewX v5.14.25 Model Code=58 F/W Version=1.13

Slide Collection: About 7 years ago , the Archives inherited an extensive slide collection, including shots of campus buildings, aerials, and Commencement. These slides have now been digitized.



Campus Renderings: In 2003 the University architectural illustrator Gary Barron created hand-drawn pencil renderings of campus buildings. Megan Lessard, Archives and Digital Services Specialist, created digital copies of these drawings for the Archives. The original drawings hang in Facilities.


Yearbooks: Work-study student Victoria Ramos has been using the copy stand to photograph yearbooks for preservation purposes only. She has completed digitizing yearbooks from 1970-1980. Those wishing to view yearbooks must still visit the Archives to do so.

Contact Heidi Benedict if you’d like access to the slide collection or campus renderings.

American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference

This January, New England Librarians were very fortunate to have the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference in Boston. Highly motivating and energizing, this conference offered 11,700 attendees from across the country hundreds of venues for engaging in a conversation centered around ALA’s new public awareness campaign, Libraries Transform ™ . Workshops, programs, discussion groups and speakers focused on the many ways that libraries transform lives in the communities they serve with an emphasis on what libraries do for and with people. Sessions included topics on diversity and inclusion, digital content and ebooks, innovation, leadership, trends, changes in facilities and services, library advocacy, and community engagement. In the exhibit hall, more than 450 exhibitors demonstrated the latest technologies, products, and services for providing innovation in our libraries.

The Speakers and Lecture series was a conference highlight. The Authors Forum featured documentarian Ken Burns and authors Mark Kurlansky and Terry Tempest Williams. The Speaker Series offered impassioned talks from Senator Cory Booker, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, designer Isaac Mizrahi, bullying activist Lizzie Velasquez, civil rights activist Mary Frances Berry, and Chelsea Clinton.