Two PSU students presented the results of their undergraduate research projects at the 55th annual Missouri Valley History Conference (MVHC) in Omaha, NE, on March 1, 2012.
Ariel Yager, a BSED-History & Government major, presented “The Modern Woman at College in the 1920s: Thelma Fowler Renfro at Pittsburg State.” Sylvia Rusk, BA-History (2011), presented “African American Maternalism and a Life of Civil Rights: Marguerite Mitchell Marshall, 1911-2002.” Both projects were based on primary source materials held in the PSU Archive.
“History undergraduates don't often get the opportunity to do actual, primary-source, archival research,” says Dr. Kris Lawson, Assistant Professor of History at Pittsburg State University.
“Typically that kind of research happens at the graduate level. Students taking history at PSU have several unique advantages that allow it to happen early.”
According to Lawson, PSU benefits from having a quality archive.
“We have a terrific archivist (Dr. Randy Roberts) who is willing to spend extra time and effort and allow the students to have access to even un-processed records. In addition, our classes are small enough to allow for individual instruction, which is exactly what primary-source research requires.”
Sylvia Rusk, one of the students involved, echoes this.
“As an undergraduate student, it is a great experience to be able to work in the archives with such amazing stories and artifacts to be found down there,” Rusk says. “It really makes you feel like you are on the job or you just got a huge grant to work on a research project. With such a warm and personable staff, PSU's archive really became a place where I always wanted to be, because it’s a really special department. I feel truly blessed to have been able to tell Marguerite Mitchell Marshall's story to so many people because her life (to me) was a wonderful and amazing journey.”
Lawson sums up the educational effect this has on our students.
“The end result is that we have students who are able to do the work of real historians and tell meaningful stories that have been hidden for many years. And, the students who take this experience into graduate school or onto the job market have the very tangible advantage of being able to say ‘This is how History is done.’”
The MVHC is a regional conference that PSU History faculty have been attending annually since 1971. Ariel and Sylvia attended this year along with three faculty members - historians Daley, Lawson, and Shaw. This year’s MVHC program included presenters from the Midwest and universities as far away as California, Maine, and Virginia.
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