Course project reflection: From the Professor
The second offering of the required Research Methods in African American Studies course, posed an opportunity for me as the newly arrived Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies and the Race and Pedagogy Institute. AfAm 201, is a required course for students obtaining the major. I was tasked to ensure that students understand the methodologies used for completing research on topics and persons related to the Black experience. In taking on this challenge, I decided to ensure that after gaining the theories, paradigms, and methodologies, that we as a class would embark on completing such research. One of the most important aspects to being the leader in one’s story, is to ensure that the story is archived and accurately done so. With the lens of African American Studies, the class would begin the archiving, in digital format, of the African American studies program at the University of Puget Sound.
I truly enjoyed watching the students respond to the archival images and written documents in a way that only they could. Surprises around each corner, of the historical everyday social nuances that have long since faded, and have been replaced. But most importantly analyzing the surprises collectively to direct them to the appropriate understanding of why something was the way it was, and further why they may not know about it now.
I most enjoyed the exposure to the archives with my students. I too received my own insight and experience as our AfAm Liaison Librarian, Lori Ricigliano, consistently provided us with sources and tools to engage fully with what we were working with. I enjoyed seeing my class collaborate. I also appreciated the use of this digital archive as a tool to showcase the various levels of finalizing a visual presentation. Editing is one of, if not the most, essential component to writing or presenting a final organized and understood project. We often times are more concerned about getting the project completed, but do not realize that nothing is truly complete unless the process is complete. My students will leave this 201 section and realize that, there is so much more to do, and what they accomplished was a major beginning.
As a class we had grand plans, but as many researchers, on all levels, realize time and time again, sometimes our desires are more than what time and resources will allow. I plan to continue this digital archival work with my future 201 courses. It is important work, and it is an experiential learning approach that also aids in fulfilling an AfAm major’s civic duty.
Dr. LaToya T. Brackett is a Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies and is a part of the Race and Pedagogy Institute.