Campus News

Program brings history students to campus

Sharonda Richards, a recent graduate from Paine College, discusses her research project with Summer History Fellow members at the Special Collections Library. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski)

Five students from other colleges in the region spent July at UGA, living on campus and experiencing the work of professional historians firsthand.

The new program, launched by the history department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and funded entirely by donors, provided an opportunity to share UGA with these students and to build better relationships with their institutions.

The focus of the History Fellows Summer Workshop was to create broad new inroads for students from Georgia and beyond who are underrepresented on campus, which may include groups such as women in STEM, older returning students, military veterans, first-generation college students and others. 

The new program was supported by Kay and John Parker, with a commitment of three years. A UGA alumnus, John Parker graduated in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history.

The first year’s cohort, all from HBCUs, represented a discipline-specific opportunity for recent graduates and undergraduates to immerse themselves with UGA faculty members, engage in primary research activities and learn about the profession while experiencing campus life at a major research university.

“They looked at primary source materials—letters, old organizational records—as well as newer tools like digital history resources,” said Chana Kai Lee, program coordinator and associate professor of history. “We designed the experience as a scholar training program focusing on how to analyze sources, how to conceptualize large-scale projects and eventually how historians express themselves, orally and in writing.”

Five faculty spent two to three days with each student in hands-on workshops. With associate professor Diane Morrow, students examined and learned how to read slave narratives. Assistant professor Steve Soper led a workshop on contemporary issues surrounding mass incarceration, its history in Georgia and a comparative study of the practice in Italy. Professor John Morrow led a section on World War I and the history of African-American service members. Associate professor Akela Reason shared her expertise in material history, the “study of things,” and public history, the work of historians outside of academia in museums, parks, archives, documentary films and community-based projects.

“As a history major, I had familiarity in studying some of the topics, but some faculty members provided a new insight into past historical events that I had never learned,” said Andrea Stokes, a rising junior at Tuskegee University. 

Lee, author of a biography of civil rights leader Fanny Lou Hamer, worked with the students on life writing.

“They learned about how to create an oral history, how to interview and integrate digital resources,” Lee said. “Overall, we shared a lot with the students, and I wanted them to get exposure to various sub-fields of history, not just African-American history but to have a full sense of what they could become should they choose this career path.”

The students lived on campus July 2-27 and enjoyed the full experience of UGA students.

“My experience here (was) nothing short of amazing,” said summer fellow Sharonda Richards. “Living on campus, I have become accustomed to the wide open space and life on a huge campus, being that I graduated from (Paine College) a small school in Augusta.”

“The workshop has been a truly eye-opening experience,” said Layla Tatum, a Tuskegee student interested in public history. “After learning about UGA’s Master of Arts in social studies and the numerous assistantships available, I have been heavily considering pursuing a graduate education with the university.”

Lee said that because she was focused on the academic aspects of designing the program, she had perhaps underestimated the impact full access to the UGA campus experience would have on the students.

“It’s been quite an instructional experience for me—instructive to learn about how we can bring students to campus from elsewhere, and to see the effects that we could have beyond what we thought about as we wrote the proposal,” Lee said.