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Video Conferences and Representing the IAUNRC

By Michael Krautkraemer

 

In addition to in-person outreach and education, the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center also delivers content via video conference. I find myself having taken on responsibility for handling these video conferences this year and feel it appropriate to say a few words about the experience. Initially, I felt a little like I had just jumped into the deep end of a pool to try to figure out how to swim, but the process has gotten much easier the more that I do it.

We provide all sorts of content. I have given presentations on everything from the history and culture of Tibet, to Central Asian History, to Inner Asian Architecture and talked to people all over the world. Initially organizing the content was a bit challenging, but now I’m able to glide through presentations that can be back to back for an entire working day. Having done this a few times, I must say that I’m filled with a new respect for public school teachers every time I do so. Teaching a few sections a day can be draining, but I had never done five until recently and simply can’t imagine doing it every day.

Probably the most interesting thing, though, about doing these VCs (as we call them) is all the places I’ve gotten to “go” over the course of the semester. I’ve been a virtual lecturer in places as diverse as a Catholic girls’ school in Melbourne, the American School in Dakar, high schools in New York and Kentucky, and a brain health center in Las Vegas, among others. I think it is, in large part, this geographic dispersion that really makes me feel like I’m doing a good thing with these VCs. Not only am I able to share information about an area about which I am passionate, but I am able to bring a bit of the Inner Asian world to places as near and far as those that I have just mentioned.

It is strange, when I think about it, that, at least for all of the people I’ve talked to in the course of doing these presentations, I am the face not only of the IAUNRC, but, to a certain extent, Indiana University, as well. I would say that more than ninety percent of the time, I am the only contact with IU that the people receiving video conference content have ever had. While it may be unfortunate that I personally am the initial representative, I think it is absolutely great that the first association many of these people will have, at least on a personal level, is with a truly unique program that exists nowhere but Indiana. I think that these video conferences provide a great way to introduce that to not only the high school students that make up the majority of my audiences, but to the occasional retirement home and center for brain health that also crop up on my schedule.

I guess where I am going with this is that, by a kind of strange twist, I have ended up being the first point of contact, the first point of interaction between all of these places and Inner Asia, the IAUNRC, and Indiana University. I think that what we’re doing is, as the world continues to change and grow smaller and become ever more interconnected, increasingly important—people are simply going to have to interact with and deal with Inner Asia, particularly as economies in the region grow, and what we are doing at the IAUNRC is serving as a first gentle point of contact. We are representing a program that is unique not only in America, but in the world, and I am, honestly, quite proud to be the face of that interaction.