Honors College Students Research War and Memory
By Sydni Walker
COMMERCE, TX—Several students in the Honors College at Texas A&M University-Commerce have been working on the “East Texas War and Memory Project” since January 2012. This project focuses on oral history research regarding the concept of war and memory.
“Veterans and their families have sacrificed immensely to preserve the freedom and liberties that allow people to pursue a better life,” said Dr. Eric Gruver, Director of Honors Advising at A&M-Commerce. “We must collect and preserve the stories of these patriots and their families so that future generations appreciate the realities of war and its effects.”
The students started in Gruver’s spring 2012 War and Memory course, and they went on to take his fall 2012 World War II course taught jointly with Dr. Susan Stewart’s Honors Advanced Writing course. As a requirement for both courses, the students examined and summarized existing oral histories kept in the university’s archives and uploaded a condensed version with a summary guide online. The students did this in order to provide easy access to external researchers, so they can more easily find the information they want.
In the fall 2012 course, students used one oral history interview to produce a contextualized narrative story using transcripted quotations from the interviews. They are currently in the process of editing the stories for a manuscript. Several students are using the oral history work as the basis for their honors theses projects.
Also, six students are working as interns this semester with Gruver and university archivist, Andrea Weddle, on the oral history project. They are conducting additional oral history interviews with veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as well as other individuals who experienced war in different places.
“This project allows undergraduate students to do history, to come face to face with people who lived the day-to-day stories only vaguely described in textbooks,” said Gruver. “History becomes real and students gain a deeper, often emotional perspective of how history affects them every day.”
Individuals have donated a variety of items including photos, flags and documents. Students are discussing a possible donation of World War II-era letters from a family in Bonham.
Students are working with many faculty and staff to make this project a success, including: Dr. Susan Stewart, Associate Professor of Literature & Languages; Andrea Weddle, Head of Special Collections and Archives; Adam Northam, Digital Collections Librarian; Dr. Ray Green, Dean of Honors College; Gregg Mitchell, Director of Libraries; Dr. Mary Hendrix, Vice President of Student Access and Success; Dr. Hunter Hayes, Head of the Literature & Languages Department; and Dr. Judy Ford, Head of the History Department.
For more information on the East Texas War and Memory Project, contact Dr. Eric Gruver, Director of Honors Advising at Eric.Gruver@tamuc.edu.