What Kind of Technology Do Undergraduates Want?


Messiah College participated in this survey

According to the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, undergraduates:

  • want mostly face-to-face learning environments.
  • want lectures, student presentations, question and answer sessions, and class discussions to take place in a face-to-face learning environment , as opposed to homework, exams, and quizzes.
  • really like degree audits and degree planning tools.
  • want Wi-Fi in the library and classrooms.
  • think that their professors do a good job in using technology to enhance their learning.
  • who have disabilities are not happy with, or upset with, their access to technology on campus.

Dig deeper here.

Out of the Zoo: “Finding a Calling in the History Classroom”


Annie Thorn is a first-year history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she will be writing a weekly column for us titled “Out of the Zoo.”  It will focus on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this column she reflects on how she brings together her passion for history and her passion for ministry. Enjoy! –JF

Like many other college freshmen, when I started attending Messiah College last fall I had lots of doubts–concerning my major, my future career path, and my calling in general. For my first semester I was enrolled as a history major with a concentration in public history. I knew history was something I enjoyed, and something I was relatively good at. I pictured myself working at the Smithsonian or a national historic site someday, doing research or designing displays or preserving artifacts.  However, fresh from a year serving as an intern for my youth group and a summer working as a counselor at a Christian day camp, I wondered if perhaps I would be better suited for ministry.

So what did I choose? Well, by the description of this column you can probably infer that I haven’t switched my major to ministry, but it turns out I didn’t stick with the public history track either. I actually turned down a different path entirely and decided to add a teaching certificate into the mix.

Despite the numerous times adults have asked me if I’m planning to teach with my history major, until this year I never once pictured myself going into education. As a high school student, I was ready to get out of grade school and run away as fast as my legs could carry me. I didn’t think I had enough patience to teach. I convinced myself I would never be captivating enough to hold the attention of 20-30 kids for an extended period of time.

Sometime after high school, though, the walls I had built against any aspirations to become an educator began to fall. Working with kids all summer and learning to keep their attention tore down a few bricks. Being told by several peers that I would make a great teacher destroyed a few more. What made them all come tumbling down, though, was my realization that becoming a teacher had the potential to combine both my passions–history and ministry.

If you’ve read the first installment of this column, you know that one of my favorite things about history is its ability to make the past come to life; by choosing history education over public history, I would still be doing that–except I would be bringing the past to life for kids in a classroom, rather than the general public in a museum. Pursuing a career in education will also allow me to practice ministry. No, I won’t be able to read scripture in class or evangelize from behind my desk (especially because I want to work in public schools) but I will be given the opportunity to represent Christ to my students, their parents, and my coworkers as well and as often as I can. I am a firm believer in the idea that ministry isn’t about the title–it’s about God’s love. If your goal is to show God’s accepting, forgiving, never-ending love to the people you work with, anyone can be a minister, no matter what their profession.

An Undergraduate History Club Goes to the AHA Annual Meeting

Humboldt State

AHA Today has posted a great piece on the Humboldt State University History Club’s experience at this year’s annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

Here is a taste of Blanca Drapeau’s article:

There we were. A small group of Californian undergrads, winter layers piled over our business casual attire, perusing the AHA 2017 annual meeting program over coffee and pastries. We discussed panels that piqued our interests, excitedly pointing out historians we’d read for our courses and asking each other about unfamiliar terms. Last year was my senior year at Humboldt State University and the second year I attended the AHA annual meeting with our History Club. I was president of our club and the only student attending who had gone to another annual meeting. A semester of planning and fundraising efforts all came down to one incredible short week in Denver.

Humboldt State has a well-established tradition of history majors attending AHA annual meetings. The History Club, which organizes the trip, is open to all students, but a vast majority of its members are in the history program. The club meets once a week to discuss historical topics and provide academic support. Our elevator pitch to new members always includes the opportunity to attend the annual meeting. (Last year, it was simply, “we’re taking a trip to Denver this year for a history conference.”) As soon as the fall semester begins, members who wish to attend the annual meeting start fundraising for the trip.

We generally take a multi-pronged approach to fundraising. Last year, for four days a week, we organized a snack table in our department’s building. HSU (Humboldt State University) also stands for Hills, Stairs, & Umbrellas—most days walking to and from Founders Hall to any other snack shop between classes is an undertaking—and the ease of access served our snack table well. In our experience, the table has proved to be a reliable form of funding for our group. We also applied for grants through our school’s clubs office, successfully receiving the maximum amount of funds granted each year. Additionally, we held rummage/book sales—our professors were amazing and donated boxes of books!

Read the rest here.

A College Professor Reflects on the College Advice She Wish She’d Taken


Susan Shapiro, a writing professor at The New School, offers some advice to undergraduates:

  1. A’s are cool and come with perks
  2. Show up and speak up
  3. Class connections can launch your career
  4. Professors are people too
  5. Find your professors on social media
  6. You can socialize better sober
  7. You’re not stuck

Click here to see how Shapiro develops these points in her recent piece at The New York Times.

Stanley Hauerwas’s Advice to Young Christians on Their Way to College


I read this piece when it first appeared in 2010, but I read it again this morning with new eyes. (Thanks for calling it to my attention Marti Eads!) Hauerwas’s open letter to Christian young people heading to college is worth reading in light of the conversation taking place here and at The Pietist Schoolman about the relationship between humanities, Christian colleges, evangelical churches,, and American democracy.

It also hit home for me because my oldest daughter is heading off to college in August.

Hauerwas urges Christian young people to pursue an intellectual life in college.  He wants them to explore the questions that they will be exposed to in their liberal arts and humanities courses. Why? Because the Christian church needs them.

Here is a taste:

Don’t underestimate how much the Church needs your mind. Remember your Bible-study class? Christians read Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant as pointing to Christ. That seems obvious, but it’s not; or at least it wasn’t obvious to the Ethiopian eunuch to whom the Lord sent Philip to explain things. Christ is written everywhere, not only in the prophecies of the Old Testament but also in the pages of history and in the book of nature. The Church has been explaining, interpreting, and illuminating ever since it began. It takes an educated mind to do the Church’s work of thinking about and interpreting the world in light of Christ. Physics, sociology, French literary theory: All these and more—in fact, everything you study in college—is bathed in the light of Christ. It takes the eyes of faith to see that light, and it takes an educated mind to understand and articulate it.

Read the entire piece here.  It is a must read.

Term Paper Tips

It is that time of year again.  College students around the country are writing term papers.  I hope that some of them have been working on these papers all semester, but I imagine that a lot of them are just getting started, despite the fact the we are just about at the end of the Fall term.

If you need some last minute help on that history term paper, Adam Arenson of Manhattan College is here to help.  Check out his piece at History News Network: “How Your Term Paper Is Like an Episode of CSI.”

Here is a taste:

Keeping focused on the argument at hand. Television shows create and solve problems so well that they need to create dead ends and dismissed possibilities to keep viewers along for the ride.
Your research and writing process will have a lot of dead ends of on its own: hunches that don’t pan out, sources you can’t find, ways of framing the argument that turn out to be all wrong. Unlike TV, we generally don’t want to hear about them, but it is worth including a few of the alternative explanations that rival your argument, and demonstrate why your thesis is the one that will carry the day, not that idea the police captain at the desk insists is correct.
Condensing research into its most effective form. Do you notice how television shows ask for DNA evidence and get it immediately? Or say they will go through all the surveillance footage for the past three weeks, and then cut to the telling clip? That’s because they don’t have time to show you how long these procedures really take, between the actual labor and the lab backlogs (which are months, years, and even the equivalent of never-tested rape kits in some states). Skipping the tedium, and the waiting, and the uninteresting dead ends means that results magically appear: the perfect evidence for the search is revealed succinctly, and the chase moves on.
Your research paper should do the same thing. For a quality research paper, you will read lots and lots of things that aren’t relevant to your paper, and find evidence that isn’t quite good enough to make it into the text. That’s the nature of the business—so don’t put that dross in your paper. It can all go in your bibliography, and some can go in your citations as “For similar cases, see….”. Even an invaluable source will go on at length, and that isn’t an invitation for a long block quotation. Take the juiciest bits, string them together with ellipses, and keep moving.

Read the entire piece here.

Undergraduate Liberal Arts Conference: "The Examined Life"

Are you an undergraduate in the liberal arts looking for an outlet to present your work?  If so, consider submitting a proposal to “The Examined Life: An Undergraduate Conference in the Liberal Arts” to be held March 18-19 at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

While the conference organizers will take papers on any appropriate liberal arts topic, priority will be given to this year’s theme: “Being Political and the Politics of Being.”

I have had students present at this conference before and I know that the organizers are definitely open to historically-themed papers and presentations.

 I heard the keynote speaker ain’t too bad either.

You have time to submit.  The deadline for proposals is not until February 10, 2016.  Learn more at the conference website.

Dispatches from the History Major: "I’m Done (Sort Of)"

I hope you’ve enjoyed “Dispatches from the History Major this semester.  I know I have.  Here is the last installment of the semester from Messiah College sophomore history major James Mueller.  We are currently in contract negotiations for next year.  Stay tuned.  –JF

I’ve officially completed my sophomore year at MessiahCollege, and it feels so good! After finals, it’s tempting to stumble home, curl up in the fetal position, and vegetate; however, I can’t quite do this yet. One reason I can’t rest yet is because I’ve made it a point to look back and reflect on this past year instead of letting everything I learned slip away over the summer. There’s a lot of material to sift through in my head (five history course, four language courses, and one Bible course) and unfortunately not nearly enough room in this blog to talk about it all. So if you actually want to know about what I learned, come find me and I’ll gladly tell ya all about ancient Rome, Tudor-Stuart England, American urbanism, historical and archaeological methodology, New Testament scholarship, and the difference between the French and Latin subjunctive moods.
One of the things I love most about my Messiah education is just how easy my professors have made it to go back and do this type of recap. Four out of my five history examinations required a full scale synthesis of all the material we had covered during the course. When you have four primary texts and a handful of outside electronic readings this is difficult work. Yet doing this type of synthesis actually leaves you feeling like you took something away from the course when it’s all said and done. It’s nice knowing I’m going to get a degree AND an education when I finish up here at Messiah – none of this “C’s get degrees” stuff.
Another thing that’s preventing me from vegetating after an intense finals week is my May-Term course. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to go on a three-week archaeological expedition to the island of Cyprus with Dr. David Pettegrew and a handful of other Messiah students. I’ve never traveled internationally before so doing all that laundry I ignored this past semester, packing, channeling my inner Indian Jones, and saying farewells to family and friends has been a mini- adventure all on its own. By this time next week I’ll be on my way to the Mediterranean!
To top off all of this craziness, I have to prep this week for a four-month stint in France. I’ve been accepted to study at the Sorbonne in Paris this fall, which I couldn’t be more excited about, however, I still have to buy a plane ticket and get the majority of my paper work done before I leave for Cyprus. Should I travel with Icelandair or Aeroflot (a Russian airline)? I think I’m going to go with Icelandair just so I can pretend I’m a Viking during my hour and a half layover.
And with that nerdy history reference I shall end my final dispatch of the semester. Perhaps in the future I’ll be able to let you all know how the skills I acquired during this year helped me out on my international adventures, but until then I want to thank everyone who read these posts, shared their thoughts in a comment, or encouraged me during my journey. I’m very grateful also to Dr. Fea for providing me with a space where I could wrestle with some of the things I’m learning about history and about myself. Finally, I would like to thank all the members of the Messiah History Department for all that they do – they’re awesome dudes!  
Have a wonderful summer everybody,


Dispatches from the History Major: "Race in America: The Messiah College 2105 Humanities Symposium"

James Mueller

I hope you are enjoying “Dispatches from the History Major.”  Here is the next installment from Messiah College sophomore history major James Mueller.  –JF

Last Friday marked the close of Messiah College’s 2015Humanities Symposium on the theme “Race in America.” Because of my involvement with the Center for the Public Humanities and the Digital Harrisburg Project, I had the opportunity to be pretty involved. Here are some of my highlights:

  • Attending the Genetic Ancestry ProjectDr. Joseph Huffman of the Messiah College History Department and two other Messiah College professors spent the summer of 2014 exploring the genetic make-up of about a dozen different Messiah student and faculty members. They presented their results via a student produced documentary and had the student and faculty members talk about how they felt about their “race” after discovering their genetic origins. This session completely changed my perception of racial categorization!   
  • Escorting high school students to dinner and to Michele Norris’ keynote lecture – The kids I ate with were fun, energetic, and excited to talk about race and what it meant to them. After our meal we went over to Parmer Hall and listened to Michele Norris give an excellent talk about her experience with race and why she started her Race Card Project.    
  • Presenting a talk at a session on the Digital Harrisburg Project – Rachel Carey (a junior history major at Messiah College and the heart of the Digital Harrisburg project) and I gave a presentation with Dr. David Pettegrew and Dr. Jim LaGrand (two Messiah History professors) in front of a packed classroom at Messiah’s Boyer Hall. We talked about the inception of the project, showed off some of its capabilities, and addressed a number of historical questions concerning race in early 20thcentury Harrisburg. It was a great opportunity to work on my public speaking skills and to use my historical skills outside of the classroom. Oh, and I also
    Michelle Norris

    that Dr Powers (the Dean of the Humanities at Messiah) and Dr. Fea can blow Twitter up like nobody’s business!        

  • Harrisburg Giants Extended Trailer Preview – I unfortunately did not have the chance to attend this session because of work, but I’m sure Messiah students Jonathan Berry Wolf, Kyle Kull, and Scott Orris did a great job! They gave their audience a sneak peak of a documentary they have been working on about the Harrisburg Giants (a mixed-race baseball team which played in the American Negro League during the 1930s), and even had four members of the Giants come and talk about their experience on the team.
The Symposium was fascinating, challenging, and utterly exhausting; juggling two jobs and my course work didn’t help things either. I’m looking forward to next year’s, but for now I’m thankful for a reprieve after such a crazy week. Is it sad that writing a 4-6 page source analysis on Suetonius’ De Vita Caesarum is going to be relaxing? 

Dispatches from the History Major: "Surviving Coursework"

I hope you are enjoying “Dispatches from the History Major.”  Here is the next installment from Messiah College sophomore history major James Mueller.  –JF

Up to this point, I’ve praised the benefits of studying history, disparaged the modern mentality towards collegiate education, and discussed some of the opportunities the Messiah College History Department offers to its students. But I realize I haven’t given you much of an insider’s view concerning what life as a history major is like at Messiah.  So let me say a few words about my coursework this semester:
My spring semester is pretty light.  I took a three-week intensive French 201 course last January, and I will be taking another three-week intensive archaeology course on the island of Cyprus this May; so that leaves me with 12 credits between February and May.  Here are some of the things I have learned in my courses so far this semester:

Course: Tudor-Stuart England (1400-1700)
  • If you’re a king, try to avoid having six sons – it makes succession a mess.
  • The destruction of the “Great Chain of Being” and the rise of entrepreneurialism/individualism in early modern England destroyed village life, increased poverty, and indirectly encouraged the first English welfare system (note: I know there were positive side effects as well, but I wanted to highlight these issues because they are contrary to the popular western perspective which glorifies individualism).
  • If Kings and Popes solved their problems by playing “rock-paper-scissors” we would have fewer churches.    

Course: French Culture and Language (French 206)

  • There are WAY more francophone countries than I ever imagined.
  • The subjunctive can be tricky; it would be nice if it was easier.
  •  J’aime beaucoup la langue et je la veux continuer dans l’avenir ! 

Course: The History of Ancient Rome
  • There are major source problems with Suetonius’ writings, but boy is his emperor-gossip entertaining.
  • The morality of the Roman people was a persistent concern for many of Rome’s greatest emperors, senators, and politicians – Emperor Augustus even tried to enforce laws to eliminate adultery and divorce among the aristocracy.
  • Emperor Caligula and the Joker from Batman would be fast friends if they ever met in an alternate universe.    

Course: Urban History
  • There are some interesting thoughts out there about the relationship between cities and Christianity (Tim Keller’s ideas are especially challenging for the suburbanite believer).
  • Placematters. Cities are worth thinking about because of the cultural and historical things they can tell you about a society.
  • Jane Jacobs proves that experience and good prose can outdo theoretical city planning any day (albeit, her solutions to city planning problems are a bit provincial at times).

On Wednesday I’ll post a piece on Messiah’s History on the Bridge website about how being a nerd has made me a better history major. If you want to see how I think things like games, movies, and role-playing intersect with the intellectual sphere, check it out! 

Call for Undergrduate Poster Proposals: Pennsylvania Historical Association

Call for Student Research Proposals 
Pennsylvania Historical Association 2013 Annual Meeting
October 17-19, 2013 Gettysburg, PA

Recognizing the importance of introducing the next generation of scholars and teachers to the best practices of the profession, the Pennsylvania Historical Association is pleased to announce the inclusion of a poster session for student research at its 2013 Annual Meeting. Proposals must list a faculty mentor and may include up to three students per proposal. The proposals may consist of topics focused on any historical theme, period, or methodological approach related to the Mid-Atlantic region. Students will be expected to conduct original, primary source-based research, preferably in an archival setting, during the course of their project along with significant secondary source analysis. The committee will also consider projects that address innovative techniques for teaching Pennsylvania History at the K-12 level.

Research for the project need not be completed by the May 15 application deadline, but the proposal abstract should convey a clear understanding of the historical and scholarly context of the specific subject matter. We encourage students currently working on projects to submit their proposals as soon as possible. The program committee will inform applicants and faculty mentors of their proposal’s status during the summer, with a project completion check to be confirmed by September 15. Student participants are required to be PHA members at the time of the conference (note: there is a special PHA student membership rate of $30.00).

Proposal Due Date: May 15, 2013
For additional information or to submit a proposal, please visit the 2013 PHA Annual Meeting website at http://sites.google.com/site/pha2013meeting/

Questions may be directed to Dr. Allen Dieterich-Ward at ajdieterichward@ship.edu

Tips for Undergraduates in Search of Research Opportunites

As a professor who does research, I really like the approach of this article.  An undergraduate encourages his fellow undergraduates around the country to pursue possible research opportunities with their professors.  Though professors cannot always pay undergraduates, they are almost always interested in working with students on their research projects and may be even willing to create titles (such as “research assistant”) that can be used on resumes and vitas. 

If you are an undergraduate, check out Thomas Frank’s suggestions for landing a research opportunity at your college or university.  Here is a taste:

Ambitious college students know that they should be working to differentiate themselves from day one.

A great way to bolster your resume, make meaningful connections, and stand out is to get hooked up with a research opportunity at your school.

Doing research as an undergrad is especially important if you plan on going to graduate school, where letters of recommendation from professors are ever-important.

You may already realize the value of a research position, but if you don’t, take a moment to consider the benefits. In some cases, on-campus research positions can double as a paid job, providing you some extra cash that you can use to pay down your loans or use on the weekends.

Even if a research position isn’t paid, the work you do will be valuable to a professor. You may not enjoy working for free, but as personal branding expert Dan Schawbel says, it’s about them, not you.

Helping a professor out and doing good work will enable to you to build a great relationship with them, which can open doors for you in the future.

Let’s say you’re sold on the value of a research position. Now you’ve run up against another roadblock: how do you go about getting a research position? Here are three innovative techniques for you to try: 

1. Put on a smile and ask
The first one is really just a good tip for life itself: Ask.
Seriously, you can just ask your professors about research opportunities. Take the time to get to know them, tell them about your goals, and ask them if they have any research opportunities or have any professor friends that do.

This semester, I asked the head of the IS department of my school about independent study opportunities — he immediately had a project in mind for me.

Your professors are some of the most well-connected people at your school, so they will be one of the best sources of information you can find.

Read the rest here.

Hail to the Humanities!

Dartmouth College

Katie McKay is a first-year student at Dartmouth College.  She has not declared a major yet, but she is pretty certain it will be in the humanities. Writing in The Dartmouth, McKay describes her classmates who think humanities majors are a joke.  In the process, she makes a very compelling case for a humanities education.  Here is a taste:

Why are the humanities deemed useless? I have taken courses in English, art history and women’s and gender studies, and I found that these demanded more of me than my other, more “practical” classes. Humanities develops the skill sets necessary for success beyond Dartmouth. I learned to observe, analyze, think critically and write. Each of these skills allows one to develop into an effective and productive worker and prepares one for real-world tasks.

In fact, humanities prepare students for an additional requirement of the work force: creativity. Success in any field requires ingenuity and originality of thought. Humanities courses prepare students to assess existing arguments and push theirs one step further. Students develop the natural curiosity necessary to ask the right questions as well as the analytical and creative skills required to solve them.

Dartmouth considers itself a liberal arts college, yet there is a stigma within the student body against anyone who is too involved in the liberal arts. Students feel pressure to abandon their passions altogether or add minors or double majors that will allow them to be more “useful” in the work force. Many students perceive those interested in humanities fields as less intelligent than those interested in physics or calculus. Even during orientation, when students were required to attend lectures, the majority of the lectures focused on medicine and science, while the remaining ones were very broad. No lecture focuses specifically on students looking to pursue humanities.

Humanities courses are deemed less “serious” than courses in math and sciences, which unfortunately deters many students from getting the most out of their liberal arts education. The distributive requirements in place certainly encourage students to take courses outside of their comfort zone, but they do not prevent students from stigmatizing those who actually enjoy earning their distributive requirement for literature or art. If you are interested in the humanities, you should not cave to pressure from others. Instead, follow your own desires.

HT: Peter Powers via Facebook

Jubilee Recap

Every Winter thousands of college students converge upon the Pittsburgh Convention Center for an event called Jubilee. (This year it shared the Convention Center with the Pittsburgh Auto Show). Jubilee is run by CCO (formerly the Coalition for Christian Outreach), an organization committed to helping undergraduates grow in their faith and think Christianly about their world.

This was my second visit to Jubilee.  The organizers asked me to offer a seminar on how Christians should approach the study of history.  I think they know that I will go anywhere to discuss the ideas found in Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation and my forthcoming Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past

On Friday night I attended the opening plenary session.  Someone from CCO convinced “Kid President” to send a video greeting to the conference-goers.  It was great.  Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books was honored for his faithful service to the CCO and Jubilee.  And Anthony Bradley of The Kings College gave a phenomenal talk on what it means to be created in the image of God.

After the session I wandered through Byron’s book exhibit.  I chatted a bit with my old friend Bob Robinson about his new non-profit organization, (Re)Integrate (check it out).  I also bought a couple of books–Marilynne Robinson’s When I Was a Child I Read Books and Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture.

Much to my surprise, my history session on Saturday was packed with history majors, history buffs, and students who were just trying to make sense of how to get more out of their required history classes.  I discussed some of the theological resources available to history students of faith and how the study of the past can teach us virtues necessary for sustaining a more vibrant democratic society.

After my session, I went to see my friend, former groomsman, and Wheaton College theology professor Vince Bacote conduct a seminar on Christianity and politics.  Vince warned against letting a disgust over the culture wars deter participation in political life, especially at the local level.  It was a great session.

Due to responsibilities at home, I did not get a chance to attend the Saturday evening and Sunday morning sessions, but I am sure they were good.  The CCO puts on a real show each year in Pittsburgh.  Jubilee is a wonderful venue for college students to connect their faith to everyday life.  I hope I get to return one day.

The 2013 Paul A. Stellhorn Undergraduate New Jersey History Award

Are you an undergraduate who has written a paper on some aspect of New Jersey History?  If so, you may want to polish the paper up and submit it for the 2013 Stellhown Award.  Here are the details:

The Stellhorn Award recognizes excellence in undergraduate writing about New Jersey history.  It commemorates the career of an outstanding and much-loved historian of New Jersey, the late Paul A. Stellhorn.

In 2013, there will be one or more awards  two categories, one for course or seminar papers, the other for senior theses.  Awards will consist of a framed certificate and a cash award.  The sponsors will present the award(s) at the New Jersey Historical Commission’s Annual Conference in November 2013.  The New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance will invite the recipient(s) to speak about her, his, or their work at one of the Alliance’s 2014 meetings.

Submission Criteria

• Papers or theses may be about any subject in New Jersey’s history. They need not be nominated by history professors.

• Nominated works should be truly outstanding in all respects (see evaluation criteria, below).

• Senior theses are eligible for the award and will be judged separately in their own category.

• Papers or theses must be nominated by the professors for whose courses students wrote them or who mentored the thesis or served as one of its readers.  Students may not nominate their own papers or theses.

• Papers or theses must have been written by undergraduate students attending colleges or universities during calendar 2011, 2012, or 2013.

• Papers by graduate students are not eligible unless a student submitted an undergraduate paper about New Jersey history during 2011, 2012, or 2013.

Email nominating letters and papers by  June 1, 2013, to acrelius@optonline.net, or surface-mail nominating letters and four (4) copies of each paper by the same date to Richard Waldron, 150 Flock Road, Hamilton, NJ 08619;  609.468.3824.

Evaluation Criteria

A paper or thesis submitted for the Stellhorn Award will be evaluated on the basis of its narrative strength, the thoroughness of its author’s research (mastery of sources and the standard forms of historical citation), and analysis of the paper’s subject, including its historical context.  A nominated paper should, therefore, tell a good story, explain its  subject’s significance and how the subject changed over time, and  utilize a broad array of relevant primary and secondary sources.

Evaluators are historians the sponsors have chosen for the breadth and depth of their knowledge of New Jersey and American history.

Sponsors: The Stellhorn Award’s sponsors are the New Jersey Studies AcademiAlliance; the New Jersey Historical Commission, New Jersey Department of State; Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries; the New Jersey Caucus, Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference; and the New Jersey Council for History Education.

Messiah College Student Builds Historic Walking Tour App for Industrial-Era Hershey, PA

Check out this article on Messiah College senior history major Megan Keller.  For her senior honors thesis Megan developed a mobile iTunes app that directs users on a historic walking tour of industrial-era Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Her project reflects a renewed emphasis on civic engagement, public history, and digital history in the Messiah College History Department.

History student creates Hershey mobile app

For most people, Hershey, Pa. means delicious chocolate, thrilling amusement park rides and the philanthropist Milton Hershey. However, for Megan Keller ’13, the real story lies deeper than the tourist attractions and candy bars. The story of Hershey, engrained in its rich history, provides a deeper look at the industrious workers that brought this town its fame. Keller found a way to intertwine this story and her Messiah College education to develop and produce a mobile application that narrates a historical walking tour through downtown Hershey. 

As a history major with a social studies certification, Keller took many classes that challenged her to engage in public history, a process that makes history more accessible to an average person. For her public history class last fall, Keller was challenged to consider an exhibit that would bring history to anyone. Keller knew she could take it one step further than doing something traditional and expected like building a Colonial exhibit.  

Sitting in a study room in Boyer Hall, Keller stared down at her iPhone and began to consider the power of the applications. She realized how many people she could reach by developing an app that delivered history to users. She researched and proposed the development of a public history app for a Hershey tour. During this stage of planning, Keller determined how expensive the process would be, what kind of software it would take and what type of research would be necessary. 

As an employee of Chocolate World and a life-long resident of Hershey, Keller picked her hometown as the destination for her walking tour. By living in the community, she believed she could bring a meaningful perspective and tell the story of the workers and factories that worked so hard to build the town. In doing this, Keller hopes to not only offer a chance for tourists to engage in Hershey’s history, but also give back to her community. 

Given a chance to turn her dream into a real app, Keller chose to use her proposal for her departmental honors project. As the first history student to do her honors project with an electronic medium, she spent the summer reading books about writing an app and practiced by making mini apps on her computer. After formally presenting the project in December, Keller’s app was shipped off to Apple in mid-January. 

Throughout this process, Jim LaGrand, professor of American history, served as Keller’s advisor. He helped with the historical aspect of the project and encouraged her in the midst of challenges. When going through the legal hoops and working out the audio bugs, Keller greatly appreciated LaGrand’s confidence and reinforcement. 

“Megan is ambitious and forward-thinking. She realizes that for the discipline of history to fully realize its goals, some historians have to think carefully about how to reach public audiences with historical scholarship,” says LaGrand.

For the technological component of the project, Keller mostly taught herself and received some advice and coding help from Jon Wheat of Information Technology Services at Messiah. In doing so, Keller walked away with a valuable new skill set, as well as an understanding of how to write clearly for a broad audience. 

The app, named iHersheyTour, leads users through a mile walking tour of downtown Hershey. Giving walking directions and full audio narration, the tour takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half to complete. The free app will be available on all Apple products in early February.
In the near future, Keller plans to create a website and blog that supplements her app and serves as a history resource.  She would also like to continue to engage in public history by developing additional mobile apps. 

“It’s wonderful she’s already doing this as an undergraduate. Her project showcases impressive research and communication skills that could be implemented in many different ways in the future,” says LaGrand.

Watch Megan’s honors thesis presentation:

Check out this short interview with Megan at “The Virtual Office Hours:

Lepore: "How to Write a Paper For This Class"

Harvard history professor Jill Lepore offers some “fishy” advice on how to write a history paper. Read her instructions (for the fish stuff) or read my synopsis below:

1.  Ask a good question.  (i.e. “What does the Revolution look like from a losers’ point of view?”)

2. You can change your question based on what you discover in the process of doing your research.

3. Start analyzing your evidence when you have enough of it (in the primary and secondary source variety) to answer your question.

4.  When you come up with a good title, start writing.

5. Make sure to balance argument and story throughout the paper

6.  Make an outline

7.  Think hard about what will appear on the page and what will appear in a footnote.

8.  Your paper is finished when you have stated your case and finished your story.