Annual Meeting Preview: "Outside Support: Creating and Maintaining Community Outreach and Engagement"

This session takes place on Thursday, April 4 at the 2019 OAH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia and is endorsed by the Western History Association #AM2972

Chair and Panelist: Marc Dluger, Northern Virginia Community College
• Katherine Macica, Loyola University Chicago
Stella Ress, University of Southern Indiana
Adam Shprintzen, Marywood University
• Kacey Young, Northern Virginia Community College

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Let’s face it: today’s market driven educational system and its commodification of student learning presents unique challenges to non-STEM programs and disciplines that must confront increasing challenges to maintain their sustainability and importance in the college landscape. History is not immune to these threats and has suffered declining enrollment, lack of institutional support, and even program reductions.[1] Colleges and universities must build meaningful connections with their constituents through various partnerships at the individual level as a way to curb these realities. In our roundtable discussion, we will examine how some two- and four-year institutions of higher learning embrace their local communities through program partnerships, shared course objectives, and assignment-specific programming. Each participant on the panel - two four-year university faculty members at various sized campuses, a community college faculty member and assistant director of a public history and historic preservation career certificate program, a graduate student in public history and American history, and a community activist – recognizes the importance of including their local communities in history education. The partnerships they developed with local institutions and people instituted important communal ties, providing practical hands-on learning experiences for both students and the communities they serve. Each participant will share insight into the ways that each has incorporated these local communities into their student learning objectives. They may not hold the answers or solutions to address all of the critical issues facing the discipline, but this roundtable discussion will provide examples of what succeeded from their perspectives and how these bridges through local outreach demonstrated the importance of history education to a broader audience.

The variety of viewpoints and experiences from the discussion panel will provide attendees ideas and suggestions on how they can begin their own outreach endeavors. The panel’s chair, Professor Marc Dluger from Northern Virginia Community College, tailored specific course assignments for both his historic preservation and museum studies courses that allowed students to reach out to local historical organizations in order to nominate potential National Register sites and craft museum policy statements. Graduate student Katharine Macica, MA, Loyola University Chicago, founded the Public History Lab at Loyola for graduate students, providing them an opportunity to apply their public history skills outside the classroom, specifically with the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society (Chicago, Illinois) and becoming active participants in the society’s governing board. Professor Stella Ress, University of Southern Indiana, established a service-learning program with interpreters from Historic New Harmony near Evansville, Indiana, as a way for students to revise, expand, and update the tour manual used by those interpreters, while incorporating modern historiography and techniques in the process. Professor Adam Shprintzen, Marywood University, helped lead the way in creating a digital history project where students researched the anthracite industry in Northeast Pennsylvania, working with local archives to educate the greater community to the less-romanticized legacy of coal mining in the region. Grassroots community organizer, activist, and preservationist, Kacey Young, from the Purcellville (Virginia) Historical Society, utilized students from Northern Virginia Community College to help organize a local History Harvest and Museum project event, providing not just practical experience, but community engagement for those students, as well as working with interns to create digital and oral history projects. Each of these panel members utilized assignment, course learning objectives, and/or program goals to foster community engagement, showing how these partnerships were valuable to more than just their specific students. Community members learned to recognize the importance of these students and their passions for the local history. By sharing their experiences, the roundtable also will invite the audience to discuss their own first-hand experiences at looking beyond the confines of academia and give everyone a chance to reflect, learn, and incorporate these valuable lessons from their peers.


[1] For more, read: Jason Daley, “Why are fewer People Majoring in History?” Smithsonian Magazine (last accessed 1 December 2018; Rich Kremer, “UW-Stephens Point Eliminating 6 Majors in the Humanities to Address Budget Shortfall,” Wisconsin Public Radio (last accessed 26 November 2018); Benjamin Schmitt, “The Humanities are in Crisis,” The Atlantic 23 August 2018 (last accessed 26 November 2018); and Frank H. Wu, “The Crisis of American Higher Education,” The American Historian (last accessed 26 November 2018).


Marc Dluger, Northern Virginia Community College

Posted: February 20, 2019
Tagged: Previews, Conference, Around the Profession