A&M-Kingsville History Classes Travel to LBJ Library, Holocaust Museum for Unique Field Trips Aimed at Engaging, Offering Research Opportunities to Students
KINGSVILLE - April 15, 2009
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Both trips funded by university’s Quality Enhancement Plan
Two undergraduate history classes from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, led by their instructors, left the campus in late March and early April for field trips that widened the borders of the traditional classroom.
The 15 students of Methods of Historical Research, taught by Dr. Roger Tuller, associate professor of history, traveled to Austin March 25-27 to do hands-on research for term papers within two special collections at the University of Texas at Austin. The students spent nearly half their trip studying within the Briscoe Center for American History and the Benson Center for Latin American Studies. In addition, the class went to the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum and the Bob Bullock State History Museum.
“In terms of course goals, I wanted to show them the operations of world-class archive collections, and to help them ‘break the ice’ in using these kinds of repositories to conduct primary research,” said Tuller. “Most undergraduate history majors don’t have this kind of opportunity.
“The South Texas Archives is a wonderful regional collection, and director Sandra Rexroat has gone out of her way to accommodate my class while she was moving the archives into the library, but I wanted to expose our students to resources outside South Texas that are still relatively easily accessible.”
Tuller said the idea for the trip came about, in part, when he heard South Texas Archives would be closed during this semester, when he would be teaching the Methods class. Also, Tuller said that he heard from students he took to a professional conference last year, who wished they would have had access to more research sources outside of the area. He attended that conference with Dr. Brenda Melendy, professor of history, who suggested Tuller apply for funding for the trip through the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which ultimately covered the cost of the trip.
The QEP supports faculty members that strive to give undergraduates a mastery of general education and knowledge of their major field; critical thinking and problem-solving skills; civic awareness; and ethical responsibility.
Melendy herself was teaching a history class this semester made possible through the QEP, World History since 1500. A theme of world history, according to Melendy, is genocide, something she also discusses in the course. Melendy said she wanted to give a concrete example of that theme as represented in a fashion outside of textbooks. The way she decided to do that was a field trip to the Houston Holocaust Museum April 2.
“My goals for the trip were student engagement, student engagement and student engagement,” said Melendy.
“Specifically, give students a new perspective on the Holocaust, an event that they usually have only general knowledge about. Secondly, stimulate students’ critical thinking in asking them to analyze how the material is presented, in asking them to try to determine an argument that the museum is espousing. Third, impact student retention by giving students a chance to better know their colleagues and by taking students out of South Texas to see something a little different.”
Both faculty members said their trips succeeded in the achieving the goals they had for them.
“All students expressed that they learned things about the Holocaust that they had no idea about previously,” said Melendy. “They all considered it to have been a valuable experience. At the end of our two-hour perusal of the museum exhibits, the students had the chance to hear a Holocaust survivor tell about some of her experiences, and I think that had a deep impact on them as well.”
Tuller said, “In the end, traveling to the archives in Austin became a genuine ‘enhancement’ to the course, just like the QEP title. All of the students were exposed to these major repositories and their operations, and the majority were able to conduct research there. The feedback I received from the students was overwhelmingly positive. Their main ‘complaint’ was that they wished for more time for actual research!
“If I were able to offer the course as a QEP again, I’ll try to accommodate that request, and work in a visit to the State Archives, which weren’t open to our group due to construction.”
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