(Photo by Janet Rogers)
Dr. Jane Greer
Department: English Language and Literature
EUReka Course: English 123, True Lives: Autobiographical Acts and Artifacts
See Dr. Greer's Syllabus.
How was teaching your EUReka class different from other similar classes you've taught?
I have always loved introducing upper-level students to archival research, particularly related to the rhetorical practices of girls and women. In taking first- and second-year students into the archives, I realized that I would need to do more scaffolding and provide these novice researchers with some guided assignments to help them select the primary materials they would want to work with and to begin analyzing them. Additionally, I scheduled several class meetings in Special Collections at Miller Nichols Library, so I could be more hands-on as students began working with primary sources. I also relied more heavily on the fantastic staff in Special Collections, including Stuart Hinds and Teresa Gipson, as teaching/mentoring partners for the students enrolled in the EUReka class. My students found them to be invaluable resources as they worked on their projects.
How did teaching a EUReka class allow you to more tightly intertwine your research interest and your teaching responsibilities?
Through my EUReka students, I learned even more about some of the amazing holdings in Special Collections, including materials related to the race riots in Kansas City in 1968 and the diary of Marc Hein, who documented his training schedule as a marathoner alongside the medical treatment he was receiving as an AiDs patient in the early years of the epidemic. My students also brought new questions and new insights to archival materials with which I was already familiar. For example, I have published on the early volumes of the diary of Pat Huyett, a woman who graduated from Shawnee Mission North H.S. in the 1960s, but two of my students gravitated toward later volumes of Huyett’s diary in which she describes her struggles with mental illness and her experiences as patient at the Kansas State Hospital. Their investigations and analyses certainly extended my sense of Huyett’s commitment to autobiographical writing and how she changed as a writer through the decades.
Perhaps most importantly, though, seeing how novice researchers interacted with primary texts has underscored for me the importance of recovering and reinterpreting local histories and helping people understand their own lives as part of a more expansive human narrative. I almost always left our class meetings with a renewed sense of the importance of the kind of research that has been at the heart of my academic career.
What do you think your EUReka students benefited from being exposed to undergraduate research early in their academic careers?
I saw a lot of variation in how students benefitted from taking the EUReka class I taught. A couple students have, I think, decided that archival research is for them! Based on our class, one student submitted a proposal to participate in national workshop on rhetorical research, and another student hopes to use archival research as way to ground her work as a fiction writer. Another student told me that she felt her greatest gains in the course had to do with drafting and revising a longer paper (8 to 10 pages) than in any other class she had ever taken. Still another student decided that she would donate to Special Collections her own scrapbook, which documents her experiences in an African-American sorority here at UMKC. She hopes future rhetorical scholars and historians might benefit from her work. Because first- and second-year students are still figuring out where they might want to go with their academic careers, I think the outcomes of a EUReka class will be more varied and instructors have to be open to all kinds of ways that students might benefit from such early introductions to authentic research and inquiry.
What advice would you have for colleagues thinking of offering a EUReka course? Do it! I had a ton of fun introducing the newest members of our university community to the kind of research that I love.
As I re-think my class, I will be re-doing the course calendar. In the first version of the course, I made the research project the focus of the second half of the class, thinking that I need to lay down some fundamentals and do an “easier” project with the students first. The next time I teach the course, I’ll take the students to the archives during the first week of class--the students were so jazzed to be there. And we’ll finish the course with an assignment/project that allows them to do more reflection on their research experience. With that adjustment, I’m hopeful even more students will develop projects they want to submit to the Symposium of Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship and/or will want to work on beyond the confines of our class.
I’d also encourage other faculty to look for teaching/mentoring partners to help EUReka students along. For me, the staff in Special Collections were amazing, and my students really developed important intellectual relations with them.