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Jason M. Kelly grew up just outside of Philadelphia. He completed his undergraduate studies at Penn State and then moved to California, where he received his PhD in history at the University of California in Santa Barbara. He moved to Indianapolis in 2004 to join the faculty at IUPUI.

Dr. Kelly is a professor of history and director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute. He is the author of The Society of Dilettanti: Archaeology and Identity in the British Enlightenment (Yale University Press, 2010) and the lead editor of Rivers of the Anthropocene (2017) and An Anthropocene Primer (2017). He has authored dozens of articles in scholarly journals, including the American Historical Review, American Anthropologist, Journal of British Studies, Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, and the American Journal of Semiotics.

He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Royal Historical Society.

His interdisciplinary research examines the intersections of art, science, and society in eighteenth-century Europe; the deep history of human-environment entanglements; and the social context of contemporary art practice.

Hey, Jason. What a resume! You are a busy man! Thanks for taking time to talk to us about your interest in Kurt Vonnegut and your work with the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Let’s start with this question: We hear you are a global expert on water. That seems “Vonnegutian.” Tell us about your involvement in clean water.

Ha ha! Yes, it’s definitely “Vonnegutian.” I often think how prescient Vonnegut’s book Cat’s Cradle is when it comes to environmental concerns.

Much of my work on water has focused on collaborating with scientists, social scientists, humanists, and artists. I think that this is an essential task. The environmental challenges we face can’t be solved simply through engineering ourselves out of our problems (Vonnegut constantly emphasized this fact). Environmental conditions are inextricably connected to social beliefs, norms, and practices. If we want to find solutions to environmental challenges, we need the expertise of deep thinkers from many backgrounds.

Right now, I’m working on a few projects related to water, some here in Indianapolis and others further abroad in places such as Britain, India, and Australia. In Indy, I direct a project that works with folks in our schools of science and public health as well as community organizations to study lead in drinking water. Associated with this, we have been running an oral history project and will begin a series of community reading groups focused on environmental issues.

When in your life did you first get to know the work of Kurt Vonnegut?

It feels as if Vonnegut has always been around, at least since high school, but it was in graduate school when I really started reading his work. Vonnegut’s critique of war particularly resonated with me. In some ways, he reminded me of my grandfather, who, like Vonnegut, served in World War II and understood the heavy toll that war exacted on soldiers and civilians alike.

What is your favorite Vonnegut quote and why?

It’s not really fair to ask me what my favorite quote is. There are too many. But, I’m going to go with “We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.” It’s the epitaph on Kilgore Trout’s grave from Breakfast of Champions.

I think that Vonnegut gets at a profound truth here: the recognition that we are all interdependent and that both our individual and our collective well-being is predicated on our commitment to others.

How did you get involved with KVML?

While I’ve worked with KVML on a few projects over the years in my role as director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, I just recently joined the board. I am particularly excited about working with KVML in programming–developing workshops and lectures and finding ways that our institutions can work together to drive creativity, foster learning opportunities in the community, and amplify the intellectual and humane legacy of Kurt Vonnegut.  

What are your hopes for KVML as we move forward?

I see KVML as a central spot for local and visiting writers and artists–a space that cultivates diverse talent and draws leading thinkers from around the globe. 

Kathi Badertscher, PhD

Director of Graduate Programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
Kathi Badertscher, PhD, is Director of Graduate Programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Dr. Badertscher teaches a variety of BA, MA, and doctoral courses, including Applying Ethics in Philanthropy and History of Philanthropy. She has participated in several Teaching Vonnegut workshops and is a member of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Dr. Badertscher has been a guest speaker on ethics in philanthropy, including at the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners – Indianapolis Council; Association of Fundraising Professionals – Indiana Chapter; and Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, Tianjin, China. In 2019 she received IUPUI Office for Women, Women’s Leadership Award for Newcomer Faculty. In 2019 and 2020 she received the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Graduate Teaching Award.
Dr. Badertscher’s publications include “Fundraising for Advocacy and Social Change,” co-authored with Shariq Siddiqui in Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, 5th ed., 2022; “Insulin at 100: Indianapolis, Toronto, Woods Hole, and the ‘Insulin Road,’ co-authored with Christopher Rutty, Pharmacy in History (2020); and three articles in the Indiana Magazine of History: “A New Wishard Is on the Way,” “Evaline Holliday and the Work of Community Service,” and “Social Networks in Indianapolis during the Progressive Era.” Her chapters on social welfare history will appear in three upcoming edited volumes on the history of philanthropy, including “The Legacy of Edna Henry and Her Contributions to the IU School of Social Work,” Women at Indiana University: Views of the Past and the Future, edited by Andrea Walton, Indiana University Press, 2022 (forthcoming). Dr. Badertscher is also the Philanthropy and Nonprofits Consulting Editor for the forthcoming Digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Elizabeth Van Allen, Indiana University Press, 2021. Dr. Badertscher is an active volunteer in the Indianapolis community. At present, she is a Coburn Place Safe Haven Board Member and a Children’s Bureau/Families First Brand and Marketing Advisor. Dr. Badertscher holds the MA in History from Indiana University and the MA and PhD in philanthropic studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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