University of Puget Sound
Independent Study: Honoring the Histories and Experiences of Racial Minorities of the University of Puget Sound
Faculty Advisors: Nancy Bristow and Doug Sackman
Study 75 hours minimum: 0.50 units
“The struggle of people against power is a struggle of memory against forgetting.”-Milan Kundera
Goal: In this project we will conduct historical research about the United States, Tacoma and the University of Puget Sound, in particular investigating how historical events and experiences have shaped the current experiences and demographics of students at the University of Puget Sound. We will specifically examine past and current moments and movements of student activism at the University of Puget Sound as the jumping off point for our study, which includes the founding of the Black Student Union (BSU), Coalition Against Injustice and Racism (CAIR), and Advocates for Institutional Change (AIC).
We will document our findings and share our research with the campus and Tacoma community through an online resource and a public presentation. We hope these outcomes will plant seeds of awareness about the historical context of racial minorities at the University of Puget Sound, within Tacoma and the United States. In the end, we plan to make our research publically accessible to the campus community through documentation on our online resource. Our online resource will document the process, findings and our personal experiences during our independent study.
Although the general outline of our project aims to scrutinize bounded historical events, our study is multidisciplinary because we draw from the approaches of discursive theory, literary theory and historical method to understand the intersectionality of how various experiences of students of color are interconnected and grounded in the history of the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma and the United States. While most classes and independent studies at the University of Puget Sound tend to focus and dedicate research to one method of research analysis, we intend to embrace our liberal arts education and critically combine the methods of discursive theory, literary theory and historical method in order to give voice to the experiences of student of color that have been made invisible due to the lack of record keeping and institutional racism.
We will be using archival and informative (interviews and oral) histories of former and current students of color in order to gain an understanding of their experiences. We believe that a desynchronized approach to understanding the history of students of color and their activism is necessary in contrast to a chronicle approach because the histories of students of color were forgotten. Thus it is necessary to parallel the public history of the University of Puget Sound to the histories of students of color in order to fill in the gaps of the University of Puget Sound’s entire history.
Thus, we will research events of student activism as a jumping off point in order to gesture to the past of how student activism emerged, based on the experiences of students of color at the University of Puget Sound. Our hopes are not to uncover all the historical experiences of students of color at the University of Puget Sounds but rather to gather a variety of historical information on how student activism was shaped. Another hope is to create awareness that converging and diverging stories of students of color are interconnected, counteracting the ongoing distortion that students of color have isolated stories, moments and groups that are not distinct from each other. We understand the historical boundaries of this study are large but our true goal is to provide and pass down a starting point for other students to continue this research in order to further our campus’ knowledge about the past and current experiences of student of color on this campus.
As mentioned previously, unlike other courses our study is multidisciplinary and constructively critiques the social, cultural and political aspects of the University of Puget Sound’s history. Our study challenges us to recognize how the perception of race situates itself within history and our everyday experiences at the University of Puget Sound. Unlike other courses, we will actively work to keep record of and document current events and histories of students of color that have been forgotten and add to the public knowledge of the University of Puget Sound.
In this study, we creatively and actively learn how to incorporate our multidisciplinary liberal arts education into discovering our own and others’ historical racial identities at the University of Puget Sound and how it fits into the larger narrative of race in the United States.The educational value of this project is that it furthers the University of Puget Sound’s understanding of the significance behind the histories of students of color, and how those histories shape current student experiences.
Objectives of Project:
1.) Main objective- Visual Display: commemorating the history of the University Puget Sound and Tacoma through an online resource with information about the process, findings (informative and archival history), interviews/oral history and pictures of our study. Potentially having a visual art work and organizing art with community (Fabitat (Contacts: Saiyare Refaei and Kenji Stoll), Hilltop Artists), or an online resource with information and pictures.
2.) Written report of the University of Puget Sound’s history in relation to its current demographic, delivered to the next university president-elect.
3.) Presentation to Campus community
*note all contact names listed have been contacted already and are people who plan to be apart of our project
Genesis and Justification:
As students of color at the University of Puget Sound who have experienced marginalization, we have incessantly wondered if previous students of color have had similar experiences. Thus, we began to wonder how our experiences at the University of Puget Sound are shaped by the University of Puget Sound’s history, politics, and culture. We understood that our current University of Puget Sound experiences are rooted within its history. However, due to the silencing and lack of record keeping of histories of students of color at the university, it has been difficult to find a way to relate our experiences to the past. As a result, we became frustrated yet driven, passionate and dedicated towards discovering and uniting the past narratives of students of color to our current experiences.
We have both taken AFAM/COMM 370 with Professor Dexter Gordon and a final assignment of AFAM/COMM 370 was to conduct an independent class project. AFAM/COMM 370’s independent class project involved conducting interviews, learning to navigate one’s resources at the University of Puget Sound and within the Tacoma community, planning and coordinating a student led project, and examining the historical and current experiences of racial minorities within the United States. Thus, AFAM/COMM 370’s independent class project has prepared us for our independent study because for our study we will use the multidisciplinary characteristics of African American studies at the University of Puget Sound. Further, it has prepared us to conduct historical research and organize as well as manage our future project.
Independent Study Philosophy:
The hopes of this study is distinct from other University of Puget Sound lecture courses because it aims to study and critique the historical narrative of the University of Puget Sound and network with the campus and Tacoma community. In addition, the study is meant to challenge the status quo of the University of Puget Sound through bringing to light past events that are not talked about in the University of Puget Sound’s current discourse.
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