This semester, #bsuenglish Professor Aimee Taylor developed and organized an alternative final project for her ENG 104 class that focuses on archival research of Ball State’s history. With it, she hopes to immerse her students in scholarly research and unravel ageless inspiration. She will also be attending a conference this May where she plans to shed light on this exemplary work she is witnessing from her first-year students.
Ball State University will soon be celebrating its 100th anniversary, but one English class is already getting a head start. They are looking into the archives from 1917, the year the university’s land was purchased, to now. The professor behind this project is Aimee Taylor, who the English Department hired this past fall. She has experience with archival research at her alma mater, Bowling Green State University, and decided to apply this technique to her ENG 104: Composing Research course. For the course’s final project, students must compile research in their selected time period and connect their findings to the central question: “How has Ball State changed?”
Many of her students were intrigued by this twist on a typical research assignment. Out of her four sections, she was met with some adversity that led to necessary accommodation for her students’ passions. While she has provided an alternative assignment in those cases, she is enthused by the fifty or so students who did choose to move forward with the history project. Professor Taylor broke up each of her four sections into one of the 25 year spans since 1917, and has already watched her students flourish within these time periods.
Professor Taylor allowed her students to first explore the Digital Media Repository, or the digitized archives, before she required them to dive into more complex research. The archives include texts, catalogs, daily news, student publications, and donated photographs and videos. Yet a lot of her students aren’t looking at institutional content, such as how Ball State spent money or how populations changed; they are looking at how Ball State has changed in ways that they can relate to. Students have been able to relate many of their finds to their majors, extracurricular activities, and personal backgrounds.
In one of the research project’s preliminary assignments, one of her students made a connection within her position at Ball State’s student-run radio station, WCRD. This student looked into the radio station’s archives and was able to use that information to advance her involvement in the project. She was able to unite her passion for the radio station and the class project and gain insight into an area for which she has a tremendous passion.
These are the experiences that Professor Taylor has sought to initiate. She motivates her students to experiment with different types of content collection while immersing them in new environments because she values these skills. Projects like these are what revise attitudes toward scholarly research and rejuvenate students to learn. It is through archival research she has certainly found a unique way to connect students to their university, history, and each other.