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Arnold Grant Allows Students to Get Their Hands Dirty in the Archives
12.03.13 |
In a digital age, the opportunity to comb through hundreds of military reports, letters, diaries, maps, and photographs might seem archaic and tedious to some. Recent experiences, however, have allowed LVC student-researchers to recognize the importance and value of such tasks.

Under the auspices of the Arnold Grants for Experiential Learning, 10 students accompanied Dr. Michael Schroeder on four daylong research trips to the U.S. National Archives between 2011 and 2013, which participants have described as “mind-opening” and “transformative.” Work done during these trips have contributed to and enhanced Schroeder’s ongoing research on Nicaraguan history, more specifically the Sandino Rebellion, for which he has created a digital historical archive.

During the 2013-2014 academic year, Schroeder hopes to take nine additional research trips to the U.S. National Archives (in Washington, D.C. and College Park, Md.), the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.), and the Marine Corps Research Center (Quantico, Va.), during which students will examine hundreds of primary documents relating to the Sandino Rebellion.

According to Schroeder, the research trips have great potential for creating high-impact learning experiences. In addition, building mentorship relationships with individual student collaborators and encouraging them to participate in specific discrete research activities, like traveling to major repositories, is particularly valuable, he said.

Schroeder recently recruited English, history, and German triple major Nikki Wilhelm ’15 to participate in an upcoming research trip and warned her, “You should know that your participation in this project could result in your intellectual infection by the ‘archives bug’ and if you do, the probabilities become substantially greater that your life will never be the same again.”

Student testimonials have validated this claim. Erica Laufer ’15 visited the National Archives on Jan. 3, 2013, and noted that the trip impacted her in a variety of ways. “I feel the most important is seeing and learning firsthand the job of the historian, something that every history major at one point or another should do,” she said.

History students were not alone in benefitting from the hands-on experiences. According to Giovanna Ortiz ’16, a political science, Spanish, and international studies triple major, “There was never a moment when I felt that I had stopped learning, growing, and thinking…I feel as if I have gained a life tool that you cannot easily acquire from any textbook in an LVC classroom.”

Dylan Reed ’13 added, “This experience represents something that I will undoubtedly reference many times throughout my career.”

Though students describe the experience as being self-benefitting, Schroeder noted that they have been “genuine contributors” and their work, which includes taking an average of 500 photographs, scanning hundreds of documents, and developing transcriptions, maps, and spreadsheets, “is integral to the larger digital archive project.”

In addition to Laufer, Ortiz, and Reed, the Arnold Grant has funded archival opportunities for Josh Barben ’14, Megan Harris ’13, Genevieve Hugenbruch ‘14, Katheryn O’Hara ‘15, Dan Schramm ‘14, Callie Wendell ‘14, and Missy Zellner ’13.

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