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Diversity Fellows Investigate University History

Diversity Fellows Investigate University HistoryLast fall, the GW Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center staff partnered with the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion to establish the University Archives Diversity Research Fellows program. Four students—Eden Orelove, Tasha Dorsey, Dominic Amaral, and Isabel Garcia—received funding to research the histories of diverse populations at GW. By utilizing materials from the University Archives, the Fellows were able to work on year-long projects that uncovered new information about nonacademic staff, women, veterans, and international students at GW.

Developed to offer the campus community an opportunity to delve into the history of the university, the fellowship program allowed researchers to use the GW Hatchet, the Office of the President Records, the Board of Trustees Minutes, Office of the Provost Records, and other University Archives materials as primary sources under the guidance of faculty advisors.

Graduate student Tasha Dorsey chose to research the history of nonacademic staff members at GW in order to pay homage to her grandmother’s work as a custodian. She examined issues of the Foggy Bottom News and the GW Hatchet, which provided her with a history of working class and immigrant communities in Foggy Bottom, as well as life stories of policemen, firefighters, small business owners, and postal workers. A 1904 issue of the Cherry Tree yearbook was one of the only publications that included photos of GW’s janitors.

Veteran Dominic Amaral, BA ’14 researched the history of GW veterans from 1900-1950. By using photographs, articles from The Hatchet, rosters of military names and inventories, and fraternity rosters, Amaral compiled a detailed timeline of GW’s military history. He also analyzed how war had an impact on the makeup of the student body, military student organizations, racial tensions, campus support for GW veterans, and the effects on the university over time.

Graduate student Eden Orelove opted to focus her work on women at GW. During her research, she found that the student organization Columbian Women raised money to purchase a gram of radium for Marie Curie. She used student publications, the GW Encyclopedia, student organization membership records, and firsthand accounts from participants in the Original Thirteen, the organization that became the Columbian Women. Her research also drew on the writing of suffragists and proponents of coeducation.

Senior and international student Isabel Garcia studied the development of English as a Foreign Language and changes in GW’s approach to creating a community for international students. She located brochures dating back to 1978 that were aimed at recruiting international students, and photographs and certificates further allowed Garcia to highlight the work of English as a Foreign Language Professor Emeritus Christine Meloni.

A $7,500 grant from GW’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion is funding the program for the 2014-15 academic year and will enable three students to develop research projects of their own design in the University Archives, culminating in a public event in May 2015.

“This project validated our belief that there are stories in the archives waiting to be discovered, and students can help us find and share them with GW,” said former Public Services and Outreach Librarian for Special Collections Jennifer Kinniff. “We look forward to the prospect of light being shed on more untold stories.”

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