The first rule of creating a website: things are going to go wrong. It will be extremely frustrating and confusing. Images will refuse to adjust just right or codes may not operate as they should. Google-fixing problems will be a common occurrence. There will be a very real possibility that the project will not turn out as anticipated. The necessary information to create a full narrative may not be readily available or else difficult to interpret. The second rule of creating a website: none of this will matter. Despite all the difficulty faced, and regardless of whether or not the project turns out as expected, the final product will still be a great contribution to history and technology. In the process of creating Mecca for Motorists: A History of Migration on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we experienced all these things and more. At times it was exciting, as though we were the individuals planning a great scenic highway that would forever change Western North Carolina. Indeed, we had grand dreams of building a magnificent website that would be robust, full of history, rich with voices of the past. At other times, it felt as though we were actually laboring to build every inch of every mile, limited by the tools and sources available to us. And, as with every project, there wasn’t nearly enough time to research and include every bit of information we found, or to create and develop all the pages we wanted. However, in spite of the difficult journey we had along the way, I am reasonably happy with the result of our hard work.

Much to my surprise, I was more comfortable with the technological part of this project than the history component. I came into Mecca for Motorists having already created one website, so WordPress was not overly difficult for me to navigate. I experienced many of the same issues that I had last semester, such as placing images on pages without messing up the text. For the most part, however, I remembered WordPress’ layout and easily created pages and set up the menu. For me, the most exciting thing that I learned was how to embed a YouTube video. I know this sounds relatively easy, but I had a lot of problems getting the video adjusted just right on the page with the text wrapped around it. This required me to search for a code that would allow for such an action. After finding the code that I needed, I had issues getting WordPress to accept it. Finally, at long last, it worked. This was my first real experience embedding anything other than a Timeline. As I indicated in my blog, I found this to be quite frustrating, so it was an especially sweet victory when I got the video positioned properly on the page. I also struggled quite a bit with Timeline JS. As a free tool it is great, but it didn’t always want to accept the links that I was trying to insert. At other times links that previously did not work would work just fine. Perhaps this is an issue that future students should be made aware of. Another challenging—yet rewarding—experience was with the footnote code. Initially, we were unable to get the superscript to link to the footnotes section at the bottom of the page. After some much needed help from one of our librarians, we found a code that created the needed link. However, this wasn’t a simple plugin that we could activate… it was a code that had to be entered manually for every citation. That being said, as long as the code was inserted correctly for every citation, this wasn’t an issue. The problem was making sure the code was correctly entered on each page for each footnote.

For future students, I would highly recommend a few things. First, getting a good grasp of one’s topic as soon as possible so as to avoid trying to take on too much. Second, it is also imperative to begin visiting the necessary archives early on and as frequently as possible. There will be many times when a source (or multiple sources) will be dead ends. Lastly, when setting goals, understand that however long you think something might take you, give yourself twice the amount of time, if not more. It’s technology. Something will go wrong. This advice extends far beyond the scope of academic projects such as these, and so I feel like I can take this experience—along with the hard-earned skills and knowledge that I have gotten from it—to help me become better prepared for the next endeavor that I undertake. And, as far as my future studies, career, and life goes, I fully intend on becoming an archivist. I think this has probably influenced how I approach archiving practices. It has also challenged ideas that I had about how archives operate. In many cases, there really is just one lone archivist who is buried in a mountain of sources that need to be documented, cataloged, and preserved. After spending these past few months working with Jackie, I have immense respect or her and the efficiency with which she operates. Should I ever find myself in the position of the lone archivist, I hope I manage as well as she has. When the day comes that I work at an archive, I will be sure to remember the experiences I had this semester. Perhaps I can use my successes and struggles to help a fellow researcher.

This course was challenging in many ways. It pushed me outside my comfort zone, dared me to write a type of history that I had never attempted, and tested my skills as a historian and researcher (as well as my patience). It also brought me in contact with a very interesting piece of local history that I was previously unaware of. This was certainly one of the more difficult projects that I have attempted, but I feel we created a decent website in the time we had. If anything, it is a great foundation that either Liz or I—or the next person who comes along—can continue building on.

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A Fruitful Experience

An Excerpt from my Final Reflections on COPLAC

I believe I learned more about immigration in this class than I ever possibly could have in a typical on-campus class. I say this for several reasons. One reason is the way we were allowed to immerse ourselves in a very specific topic for an extended period of time. Another reason was that the subject was local to us, making it more engaging. Next was the method of research that was encouraged. Our research consisted of talking to real people, visiting related locations several times, reaching out to scholars and historians, and gaining access to otherwise inaccessible resources. Moreover, we were able to share the in-depth knowledge we were gaining on a public platform and in a creative way. Lastly, we were able to listen to similar personal stories from our colleagues all around the nation to learn the intimate immigrant histories in various states. This class approached content and pedagogy completely differently than the average college class and I was able to gain so much sophisticated information about local immigration histories from this unorthodox experience.

The immigrant/migrant group Patrick and I focused on was the Finns in Newport, New Hampshire. As I stated before, once we chose to study this group of immigrants, we became completely immersed in the subject. We visited Newport several times to hang out for hours at the library, to visit what was left of the sites we had learned about in our research, and to talk with locals of Newport about what they knew about Finnish history in their area. We took pictures, scanned primary sources, and on top of it all we had a great time. This brought our research to life. We connected with historians that studied similar topics, also invigorating our research. Patrick and I were in contact almost 24/7 sharing our thoughts and discoveries. By the end of the semester I really did feel like an expert in this subject. This is a foreign concept to me as most college classes simply scrape the surface of many subjects and have a focused paper or two, but that’s about the extent of it. In becoming an expert in this subject I felt like I was doing something important.

Studying and sharing information about the Finns of Newport, New Hampshire was important to us because the little bit of information that is out there already is extremely hard to access. By putting this on a digital platform and utilizing the technology of WordPress to make the platform engaging and user-friendly we made an otherwise fading history more visible. I genuinely have hope that this website will make a difference for others beyond just Patrick and I. In the future, I plan to post my lesson plans regarding the topic on the site as well, and I would be so pleased if even one educator used the lesson plans to teach students about niche local histories. Building that sense of community is so very important.

At the end of the day, this COPLAC class had its own unique culture and community that could never be repeated or replaced. I have made valuable connections with people from a diverse array of backgrounds and from many different locations. All of these individuals have proven themselves to be reliable, respectful, and intelligent. I have developed a relationship with someone on my campus whom I probably would never have had a friendship with otherwise, and we have hopes to potentially seek grants to continue our research on the Finns in the future. The nature of the conversations in this class were supportive and robust, and product of the intense research and blogging is an impressive website that I am proud of. I genuinely could not be more pleased with this experience and I will be forever grateful.

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The End of the Road

I never thought that I would work on building a website. I mean, I am a history major after all! Our business is in dusty archives with old books, giving uninteresting lectures on the events and people of the past; or so other people have told me. Before this class I knew that some brave historians were moving to doing work on the world wide web but I never imagined I would be among them. The act of building this site and working with WordPress to fine tune the aesthetic of it is one of the things I foresee myself using in the future. This project also presented me with my first opportunity to go to an archive (albeit a nontraditional one) and work with primary sources in my hand. Working to distill which sources were useful and which were simply fun to look at was a skill I built up over the course of the semester with the help of my incredibly competent partner, Kristen. I honestly do not know what this project would be without that woman.

A great joy from this class was interacting with people from all around the country. My fellow students in this class were a constant reminder that there is a world outside of North Carolina. Another great thing about this class being so interdisciplinary was that everyone was from different majors. Seeing how others conducted research and how different their approaches to studying history were from my own was fascinating and a reminder that there are ways of thinking outside of my own. Watching the presentations I felt incredibly lucky to have been able to watch these ideas grow over the course of the past three months and to see how far we have all come.

Thank you to my classmates and professors for this inspiring ride!!!

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Final Reflection

When I first heard that my teachers had recommended me for COPLAC I felt very honored. I haven’t taken a lot of history courses yet because I’ve been focusing on my other major, so that I left a significant enough impression on my professors to be recommended felt very special.

My first month or two in COPLAC was extremely overwhelming. The sheer amount of different ways of communicating information was horrifying and confusing. Initially there was Zoom for class meetings, Emails, Slack, WordPress, Hypothesis for leaving comments, and Twitter. Aside from email, I had never used any of these other programs. To have to use and check all of these platforms on a regular basis was a huge amount of work, more than I felt I had signed on for. For at least a month I considered quitting because it was too overwhelming. Honestly the only thing that kept me in the class was because I was friends with my partner and didn’t want to let her down.

We eventually gave up Hypothesis. I only used Twitter two or three times because it was too much of a hassle and I could never remember to tweet. I also didn’t see the value in it. I also never used Slack much unless I received a direct message or was told to look at the class channel for resources, although I do see that it could be a valuable platform to use. Overall, I would suggest not using Hypothesis or Twitter. Neither of these things added anything of value to my experience in this class and made it more complicated than it needed to be.

After we started settling into the research portion of the class and the technology issues settled down, I felt much better. Forcing myself to use resources like the archivists, local history society, and public library, that I don’t usually use in research projects was very helpful to me. This class made me seek out new sources of information and become more comfortable using them. It really helped me to develop my researching skills.

It was interesting to work on this research project this semester because in another class I was also working on a local history research project. Many of the skills and tools that I was learning in one class could be used in the other. Research trips made for one class could also be used to dig up research for the other. My partner for COPLAC was also in this history class. We could shift between working on the different research projects and even use some of the same resources.

Being able to talk to other students from across the country was a really fun experience. I enjoyed getting to know students from other areas and hearing about their experiences and local histories. It was also fun to listen to Dr. Dunn and Dr. Turner debate the merits of barbeque. I’ve never had a class taught by two professors before, so this was another facet of the experience. They each brought different ideas, areas of expertise, and personalities to the class. It was sun getting to know both the professors and the students.

The most significant thing I took from this class was the research experience and the digital tools. While we were creating our blogs, we had to try out different digital tools and see what would work best; which ones were better for the story we were trying to tell, and which ones we could actually use with some degree of proficiency.  We ended up using Timeline JS and Google My Maps. I had never used Timeline before, but found it to be a very useful program. Interestingly, my professor for my other research project required us to use Timeline, so my prior experience with it in COPLAC was very useful. I ended up having a lot of problems with it because it’s not the easiest program to use and can be very glitchy and sensitive. It does create a great timeline and I can see how you could use this tool to create very unique projects. Google My Maps was another cool tool that we used on our blog. I had never heard of it before, although I do use Google Maps a lot. It was a bit difficult because I had to teach myself to use it and then teach my partner, but once I got the hang of it I discovered how versatile it can be. It’s a great tool for a big project like this. I’m already using it for a personal project. My friends and I are studying abroad in Europe next semester, so we have been using it to chart out where we’re each going, where we can meet up, and places that we all want to go. This is an extremely helpful tool not only for academic purposes, but also for everyday life.

The start of my COPLAC experience was very rough. I experienced some miscommunication, confusion, and an extremely overwhelming amount of new technology that I was expected to use that I feel did not add to my experience. I really enjoyed the project as a whole, and learned a great deal about research and how to find local and online resources. This experience will be very useful to me in future. I also liked meeting people from other parts of the country and sharing in their research experiences and getting to know them. I learned how to use many different technologies and digital tools, some of which I will continue to use in future. Overall my experience with COPLAC has been one of positive interpersonal interactions, gained experiences in the field of local history and online research, and learning how to use a wide variety of digital tools with varying degrees of usefulness.

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Final Thoughts

When my academic advisor, Dr. Amber Johnson, first informed me of the opportunity to take this class, I honestly had no clue what I was getting myself into (of course I filled out the application anyway). In a similar fashion, when I found out that Maggie and I were accepted to partake in the course, I was excited yet still rather clueless. However, Maggie and I had been in classes before (being in different tracks within the same overarching major), and the topic seemed very interesting to me, so I went into it with high hopes. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. While this was, in some ways, one of the most difficult classes I have taken during my undergraduate years, it was perhaps one of the most rewarding as well. I was no stranger to research upon beginning the Cultural Crossroads Journey with my classmates – having completed research papers as well as an in-depth content analysis project for my Research Design and Data Analysis classes – but the emphasis on outward facing research allowed me not only to stretch outside of my comfort zone, but to think about why I was doing this research and for what purpose.

When I first began the course, I was slightly overwhelmed with all of the components to it – the tweeting, the blogging, the research, the Zoom meetings – but I was also intrigued by the Digital Learning aspect of it. Zoom itself was a frightening prospect at first, since I had never used it before, but I found I quickly got the hang of it and even enjoyed using it (audio lags and strange noises and all). Putting faces to names was fantastic, and I loved getting to know people from all across the country (as well as hearing the stories of their communities as the semester progressed). The small class size allowed for ample interaction between all of us, which I appreciated. Overall, the beginnings of the class reassured me that I could indeed navigate technology (to an extent) and sparked an interest in looking in-depth at Kirksville, which I’m sure was the goal.

The research project itself was, as always, easier said than done though (or perhaps easier conceptualized than carried out is a more apt phrase). Surprisingly, Maggie and I immediately knew the topic we wanted to explore. This part is usually the most time consuming for me when completing a research project. Upon thinking about the migratory movements in Kirksville, however, I thought it would be very informative to look at Congolese migration (and since Maggie was in my Research Design and Data Analysis classes, I knew this was a topic she had previously studied). We both agreed on this research topic, then set out to gather some interviews from people in the Kirksville community. This, as I’m sure you know, was where the problems began. The infuriating institutional red tape – ahem, I mean the lovely IRB approval process – held us up in our research endeavors for most of the semester, but we finally gained approval to conduct audiovisual interviews in November, the month we would be presenting our website. After four rounds of approval-seeking, we were only able to complete a fraction of the interviews we wanted to, but we are certainly considering the possibility of extending this research into our final semester at Truman. While The Great IRB Wait of 2017 was probably our biggest obstacle, we also spent a significant amount of time trying to format our website, which caused us some grief at times. In spite of my complaining, the research process wasn’t all bad by any means. After all, we were able to get funding for our project through Truman. We also were able to learn so much from other students in our class, and I really enjoyed facilitating the interviews once we could actually conduct them. It was a long, hard, often stressful process, but definitely worth it in the end.

Something unique to this course that I appreciated was the digital/technical aspects included throughout. Whether it be Zoom, WordPress, TimelineJS, StoryMap, Twitter, Slack, etc., I felt like my overall use and understanding of technology improved (which was nice, considering I am usually woefully inept at all things technology outside of the realm of social media). Working with all of these tools inside and outside of class was a great experience and certainly one I will take with me throughout my career and life.

I think my favorite part about the whole course was to see everyone’s final product (not that I didn’t enjoy the steps along the way). I just loved seeing how everything came together and how everyone made sense of their copious amounts of information they no doubt collected on their given subject. Again, in the spirit of outward facing research, I am eager to see how these projects will make an impact on their given community. I think there is tremendous potential for each project to shed some light on the history of a place and its people, which can only be beneficial for the community in the long run. This digital archival work is something that will become increasingly important in the future, not only in the discipline of history, but other social sciences as well I’m sure. When I think about our project, I am eager to see how it is used as a community education tool as well as a resource to find community notes, ESL class schedules, etc. We have already garnered some interest in our project by presenting our website at the most recent Community Meeting, and we have people who have contacted us with an eagerness to participate and contribute to our project.

Overall, this course (while at times stressful) was wonderful. The deep commitment to research combined with its exploration of digital tools and resources made it stand out among the classes I have taken previously. I cannot think of anything I would really change about it, because I thought each piece of the puzzle was fairly helpful and vital in some way. I’ll be forever grateful to everyone involved with this course – Dr. Dunn and Dr. Turner, Leah, Dr. Johnson, Maggie and my other classmates, as well as the technical experts who were behind the scenes – because it was definitely one of my favorites and allowed me to get involved in my community in a meaningful way.

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Final Thoughts: It’s Been One Hell of a Ride

Nothing will ever be able to compare to the experiences and overall life changing lessons I have gained over the course of this semester thanks to this class. Completely out of my element, I entered the Fall 2017 semester imagining all of the possibilities that were available to me in regards to the development of my research project, and felt completely humbled by the opportunity. I myself had never done research, or at least not yet during my academic career; I knew I wanted to attempt finding a project for least one semester, but never did I imagine myself doing something like this. This course has essentially taught me the importance of interdisciplinary as well as independent studies, and has not only encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone due to the classes requirements, but as well as forced me to do so at times. The experience I had with this class overall was a good one in some aspects, while in others I feel like the joy and excitement to participate in a course such as this one had been completely eradicated and replaced with stress and confusion.

            I started off this project with a partner, which was both a blessing and a curse within itself. I personally came into this project with an incredibly overwhelming sense of bias in regards to partner based work; in previous courses or experiences in general, I had several moments where I found myself doing the majority of the work or replacing my partner with someone else for an assignment or project simply because the person who had originally been assigned to me had failed epically to meet their share of the work. In my mind, I was prepared for the worst case scenario, as well as hoping this instance would be better, and I would not find myself in the predicament I had found myself in before:  hating my partner based work. I never felt that it was fair, the unspoken expectation that came with partner projects; if your partner failed, you’d have to pick up their slack. This is why I committed 110% to this project from the moment that I applied to the course back in April, hoping I’d hear news of my acceptance into the project and class for the fall.

I knew that I would only be able to accomplish this sort of rigorous work if I had a partner, because unlike most students who sign up for this course, I had an incredibly heavy weighted semester ahead of me at the end of Spring 2017. This semester, Fall 2017, I would begin my term as President of my institution, as well as taking 15 credit hours, working as a Peer Leader / Tutor, serving as a Team Member on our Model United Nations team, as well as being a part of the organization I founded last year as its Founding President, and serving on our Multicultural Greek Council as well as the two positions I hold within my sorority. I have always had the habit of being incredibly busy, especially since I had moved from Dallas to this small, lonesome town known as Wichita Falls —  the center of nothing and endless boredom for a city girl such as myself. If I would have known my partner would have dropped out of school at the most critical point in our project, and basically abandoned me when I needed the support the most, I would have never signed up for this course during the Fall. I would have waited to complete work like this during the spring, when I would have had more time to do it and less positions and extracurricular activities to attend to. Nevertheless, I feel as if it was necessary to go through this process as it was destined for me: alone.

One cannot speak about the experience and overall meaning this project had on my semester and life in general if I don’t acknowledge the rest of the aspects that compose my college experience for my final year at Midwestern State University. The rigor this course, as well as every other little thing I had going on, in my life — including the greatest accomplishment I have had at my institution, being the first Hispanic student to become Student Body President – changed me for the better. I could not have expected the turnout, nor would I trade it for anything else in the world. I would choose to participate in this course in a heartbeat again and again if asked to do so. In all honesty, one of the most difficult challenges I faced that was never truly addressed to my liking was the fact that I was indeed left alone; I wish there would have been a way to hold each of us truly accountable to the project and COPLAC in general. I personally didn’t feel like I could give myself the luxury of dropping the course since I had to sign up for an Independent Study to get credit for the work, and consequently added a substantial amount onto my tuition for the fall semester. I think that these types of projects can definitely be accomplished well alone if a person focuses simply on this assignment, and doesn’t have other things to address like I did; at least this is what I felt hindered my progress in general throughout the course.

Research within itself, especially archival work, is additionally difficult. Finding primary sources was one of the few things I had access to and others had advantages to throughout the semester because of the topic they had selected. I had decided, with the partner I had initially, to research the Wichita Indian population, instead of selecting a project that would have been easier and more accessible because I believed that with the support of one another, we could uncover something incredible that has not been given justice in our city at all. Despite the outcome, I would say that the project within itself is a wonderful start to something greater. Doing research will essentially change the course of your project, and take you down a journey within itself, and put pieces of a puzzle together that you had no clue you were trying to connect in the first place. Of course in the general overview of this research in general, I would say that it is an incredibly rewarding experience to see you project come to life; having creative control entirely in regards to the project is a wonderful advantage to have. Being able to create a design that is completely to your liking is soothing; you don’t have to discuss quirks and mechanics with another individual, nor will you find yourself arguing or stalling the addition of certain aspects of your site. I think that one of my favorite aspects of this project was the creation aspect: using digital tools to create a digital project that can be virtually shared with anyone is incredible.

I think one of the things that not a lot of people acknowledge is the “classroom” component of this course. We must remember that before we dove into the independent research and work that was done individually; we essentially were enrolled in a virtual classroom. A classroom that connected us virtually across the nation, and enabled us to meet with people we may have never had the chance to do so otherwise. I wish I could say I made a friendship or too out of this experience, but unfortunately there was little to no personal connection on my end in regards to the students in the class since there was no real opportunity to do so. After my partner dropped out, I completely gave up on social media – twitter specifically – because I simply don’t have time to waste on social media, and focused on more important aspects of this class that truly impacted me. I think that on my part, this may be a reason why I didn’t find a connection to spark with any of my classmates, but truth be told, I have never been a fan of this whole concept: making friends online; there is literally no possible thing (in my opinion) that can replace physical, face to face human interaction. Although for me this was a component to the course that lacked impact on my experience, I do appreciate the ability to converse to some extent with people who may have something different to offer in the field of academia that I may have missed through the lens in which I view life itself. I am an individual who craves human interaction, conversations that invoke empathy from one another, and the intimacy between human connection over shared life experiences or stories is what truly excites my learning curve as I continue through the realm of academia, a sentiment that I hope is shared among other students. My blog for example, the production of my interaction within the class, is honestly my favorite part of the class; I took the time to learn the mechanics of WordPress and personalize every single part of the site. I shared this website with my friends, family, colleagues and anyone who was kind enough to give me input; everyone who came across the site mentioned they loved it, and that it was interesting and personal, something that other blogs lacked. I took the time to ensure I blogged at least twice a week, to help keep a true day to day log of what I had going on in regards to the project.

Jump starting into the role of a campus leader and working in higher education while still being a student has also forced me to see the importance of diversity in our academic opportunities; I would personally appreciated more diversity amongst not only my classmates, but those who I assume are in charge of these types of courses as well – after all, this is a Liberal Arts chain of research. As a Hispanic woman, some topics that were covered in the class felt difficult to discuss, seeing that those who spoke on the topic could never truly understand the meaning behind the matter at hand. In retrospect, as a woman who has essentially broken down an endless amount of barriers at not only my institution but in this new community I called home, this lack of diversity didn’t have a lasting negative impact on my experience overall. It’s important to note that this type of opportunity has an everlasting affect on my life in general despite all the little challenges or huge obstacles I had to face alone; I am grateful to have been shown the importance of research and proper documentation of our history as well as showing me that I am capable of creating a project such as this with little to no help at all – although guidance and advice was offered throughout the project, the physical work was completed by myself – and it is an incredibly empowering feeling. I absolutely loved how engaged and interested the professors and Leah Tams were throughout the course; I think that this is an element of the course that should definitely not be ignored, because although this project is to be done on your own, their purpose is to spark curiosity and encourage scholarly work to be produced each and every day. I really appreciated their patience and genuine interest in the development of the project each and every one of us had overall, and wish that more professors and mentors expressed this sentiment towards their students.

Summarizing the experience I have had throughout this semester in a few words is impossible; words will never suffice, nor could they ever be able to describe in detail what an opportunity such as means to me. I am humbled to this day to have been able to take part in a class such as this one, and can honestly say that I will take away with me a lot of different skills from this course such as embedding and website design for example – who would have thought I would know how to create website because of this class? I truly hope that more people take the opportunity to take part in courses with COPLAC, because despite all of the ups and downs, I can truly say this has been an experience of a lifetime that means something different to each and every one of us who participated – thank you all for such an amazing experience – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Final Reflection.

Patrick Driscoll. 12/10/17

So this was probably one of the best classes I have ever taken. But when I first starting taking this course I did not think that that would be the case. The reason I took this course was because I had WordPress experience. I had created another WordPress site for another course on The Reverend Crocker, who was a Freedom Rider from Boston and Providence. I figured that because I already knew how to create a good WordPress site I would find the class to be very easy. Interestingly enough the work itself wasn’t the hard part, it was the massive time commitment that was required to getting the WordPress site up and running. But I’ll start from the very beginning.


The first week of class I was very nervous. For one thing, I did not realize until the last second that the class started a week before my other classes, and I was not on campus yet. I had not tested my headset microphone in weeks, so I had no idea if it still worked or not. I also had no idea what the course was actually going to be about, or what I would be expected to do in terms of coursework and homework. I just checked my student email account, found the code for zoom, and then I realized I didn’t know the name of my partner and got her confused with one of the students from Massachusetts Public College of Liberal Arts. In my defense I got Kaitlyn and Kerrin confused, so I was at least on the right track. They are both from Massachusetts, so I had my states correct. My problem was and still is to this day a bad memory for names and faces. I honestly did not know much about Kerrin before I did COPLAC’s migration and immigration class, so I felt bad that I did not know her name when she knew mine. After the initial embarrassment I felt I introduced myself and the general introduction continued.


The first few weeks of class I felt like I was not really doing anything in the course nor outside of the course. I just showed up, clicked on the Zoom class ID, and listened for 75 minutes. Then we were told about the project websites and that we had to build a site that discussed past migration and/or immigration into our local region. My first thought was, “well this is going to be impossible” Keene is a town in Western New Hampshire, surrounded by hills and nothing really surrounding it, minus Swanzey to the South and Marlborough to the east, and those are small towns. I thought I would have a really difficult time finding any history of any kind of migration or immigration to Keene. Turns out I was right.

Kerrin and I went to the archives at Keene State and we had no idea what we wanted to do for a topic. The hotbed of immigration in New Hampshire was Manchester, (and really the only known center of immigration in New Hampshire) so we figured we might find out something about Manchester. We did see quite a few books about Manchester, one that caught my eye was a book about Lebanese immigration to Manchester. However a book that caught my eye immediately was a book by Olli Turpeinen called The Finns in Newport. I have no idea why, but I immediately wanted to do a project based on this book. Something about it spoke to me, maybe it was the fact that it was bigger than the other books we were presented, maybe it was because I never heard of Newport (I have lived here for twenty-one years and somehow in this small state there was a town I was still unfamiliar with). Whatever the reason I was convinced almost from the get-go that this should be what Keene State’s project was about. It also happened to be about twenty minutes closer than Manchester, so it made for a better argument as well that it was closer to our college. Kerrin was not convinced at first, and was interested in looking into the Lebanese community or the Hispanic community of Manchester. I argued that the Hispanic community was already well-known, if not as thoroughly researched as it should be, and the as for the Lebanese community they were a little outside of what we should be studying. Nothing against the Lebanese, but Manchester is a bit over an hour from Keene (, so it seemed a little too far to be studying. If we were doing this project from where I grew up, I would have been convinced by Kerrin and agreed to do the Lebanese.


Kerrin agreed with me, and we both decided to do the Finns. We now had a topic but we still had a problem. Someone needed to go to Newport and find more information. Kerrin and I both decided to do the first trip together and see what we could find about sources. To our profound relief, there was quite a lot of information available that would later end up creating the project website. However, we would need a lot of research days, and Friday was the only day that worked for me because it is a fifty minute drive to Newport. I don’t know how many times I wished Newport was about fifteen minutes closer. Because if it was it would require zero planning, and I could travel there any day of the week. It was just far enough away that I could not go to it long enough to make the day productive if I went on a Tuesday for example (all of my classes are 2pms 4pms and a 6pm). Weekends were off limits because the library was not open for very long on Saturday, and as for Sunday it was closed. So Fridays became a ritual of travelling to Newport for research. Kerrin had to work those days, and quite frankly had a much busier schedule than I did, so I went by myself.


Those research days in Newport were both very fun, and very stressful. There was so much information to digest, and only so many hours in the day. The library closed at 6pm, and I usually arrived around 11am so seven hours should be enough to get all the information I need on one trip right? I ended up doing three of these six to seven hour trips in total, and I spent my entire workday on the road and in that library. I’m not complaining, it is what had to be done. I met on my first personal trip alone Mary Lou McGuire, to whom I owe all of the visuals for this project. Without her, the website would be a wall of text. Parts of it still is due to lack of visuals about Newport (it’s a small town). Anyways, McGuire was very interested in my project with Kerrin and I talked to her about what we were doing. I mentioned the photos I was finding, and she offered to scan them. I owe her as many thanks that are humanly possible.

Kerrin was extremely useful when it came to making timelines, figuring out what we should do with visuals, and the overall organization of the website. I may have done most of the research, and the pages that have walls of text, but she organized all of it into timelines someone can read and actually understand what the website is about. Without Kerrin, this project would be very bland looking, and there would not be any timelines that digest the information I found while researching. She also created the wonderful introduction page that will actually catch the attention of some people into reading my paragraphs of research that only a handful of people are even aware exists. I just checked, as of 12:03 12/11/2017, the words Finns, Finland, and Finnish do not exist on the Wikipedia page for Newport, New Hampshire. Kerrin and I have truly made something special.


A lot of our information comes from our initial source, so I think the biggest challenge for Kerrin and I was justifying why anything we were doing was important, new, or why it mattered. What Kerrin and I did was we put Olli Turpeinen information on the internet for anyone to read. We did not just do that however. What we have done indirectly is gotten Newport’s history before the Finns to talk to Newport during and after the Finns. I could never find direct evidence about this on the website, but something Kerrin found in her research is something I have noticed as well. She commented on her timeline that Finns needed to be declared white by a US federal judge, and his name is William A Cant.[1]


Turpeinen does not talk about this much, but I got the impression that Finns were separated from the rest of Newport for decades. He talks about how the Finns “discovered” tomatoes, ketchup, and pizza, and various other foods and condiments throughout his book. He says it was because of the language barrier, and while that is a part of it, it just feels incomplete. They were also from another country, which is certainly part of it. Turpeinen does not want to talk about anything negative about the Finnish community nor Newport’s other residents, they might as well not exist when the Finns are around. Other than the fact he admitted that they were poor and that there were massive political debates between Socialists, Communists, and the Finnish temperance movement, everything seems too perfect. It is my personal belief, (although I don’t have proof) that there was more prejudice than Turpeinen lets on between the Finns and the other non-Finnish resident of Newport. I wish I could of expressed this, but I had no sources other than instinct and a general understanding of American history of anti-immigration.


I have run into quotes saying that everyone loved the diversity, according to Finns, or people of Finnish descent that were not adults during the time of the Finnish community, which heavily declined after World War II. This is the United States during a time period of intense Nativism and anti-immigration policy, and yet other than the fact that less Finns started arriving, everything still seems okay. It paints the best picture of the Finns in Newport, and rarely mentions the other people in Newport even for a moment. There’s little evidence that the Finns ever existed in Newport, most of it is in Turpeinen’s work and the Richards Free Library. It might just because Newport is a small town, and that might be all there is to it. One thing is clear, and that this Finnish community was at least one third of Newport’s population at its height. There is no way residents were not aware of this. Yet, it is now a forgotten memory, preserved by Turpeinen, and my website that I created with Kerrin. Hopefully, this project will inspire a few to look into their own local history. If Newport has history, anyone’s town has history.


[1] Turpeinen, 6.

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Final Thoughts

The fall semester and our Cultural Crossroad’s project have both come to an end.

There are many things I learned this semester, but I believe that there are three main lessons that have been the most valuable to me.  The have been creating a blog and a website, learning more about the Apostolic Church, and learning about the Stevens County Historical Society.

Had it not been for this project, I probably would have never gone into the Historical Society.  I’ve driven past it a million times and have always admired the structure of the building but never really considered it as a place the general public could visit.   I am excited to continue my new relationship with the organization and already have plans to work with them on community project.  I also hope that Joy and I will be able to present our website to team at the Historical Society and that there may be something we have presented that will be of use to them.

It is really hard for me to put into words what I have learned about the Apostolic Church.  Part of this project was very personal for me and emotionally taxing at times.  I often depended on Joy to help take some emotion out of my work and step back to consider what I was doing from a historian perspective rather than a community member perspective.  At times it was also difficult for me because the migration story of the Apostolic Church is a part of my husband and children’s heritage.  Joy and I had many conversations over our believes and feelings and at times we had to set those aside to tell the Apostolic story in an honest and respectful way.  Whether we agree or disagree with Apostolic believes or traditions, we knew we needed to focus on the goal of telling the story.  I thought it was very interesting in our presentation when one lady said that she thought our site was impersonal and 3rd person.  In a way I looked at that as a compliment because in creating it, it certainly didn’t feel impersonal, especially for me.  I attend the Apostolic Church with my husband’s family, most of my husband’s relatives are members of the church, and on the other side I’m very active in the Hispanic/Mexican community.  I am the Executive Director for a local nonprofit which helps and advocates for Latino families in Stevens County, I teach ESL, most of my girlfriends are Mexican, I occasionally attend Spanish Catholic services with my Mexican friends, and I participate in events at the Spanish Evangelical Church.  It was very hard to me to be in 3rd person.  I truly hope that we were honoring to both groups.

Lastly, the skills I learned in creating the blog and website were invaluable!  I appreciate that we were able to create both so we could see the difference. I also appreciated that it was really just thrown at us.  It caused me to explore on my own and search out solutions.  Although it was scary at first, I got to the point where I was spending ridiculous amounts of hours fussing over my blog and our website just because I loved doing it and I wanted to learn as much as possible.   I am excited to take these skills and create a website for the nonprofit I work for and anyone else that wants a website.  Who knows how far this could go.  I have even thought about creating something for myself.  This will definitely be a skill that I will use and improve on!

Overall my experience with Cultural Crossroads was amazing and I’d definitely recommend COPLACDigital courses to anyone interested.  I look forward to sharing the website Joy and I created with the Morris, Apostolic, and Latino communities in Stevens County.

Here is a link to our finished project!  Toward a Better Land

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COPLAC Final Write-UP

When I was notified of my acceptance into the Cultural Crossroads course sponsored by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges last semester I was extremely excited.  I love being able to push my learning and interact with course subjects differently than in a traditional class room. Having a class with students from all over the United States was an amazing opportunity and allowed me to meet wonderful people I most likely would never have encountered otherwise.  I had used Skype before and a few other face-timing programs but Zoom was entirely different and a little strange to get used to.  When the course started, I was still at home as my school’s semester still had a few weeks until its start date.  It was interesting and also sort of challenging to transition my mind away from work and summertime when after class all I had to do was leave my bedroom and then go downstairs to take care of my dog.  It was really different to be able to experience not only a version of online school but also staying at home for school when my college is two and a half hours away from my house.

Being able to experience class over zoom session was also really helpful because they were all recorded and so we could go back and re-watch class if we did not understand something or the internet connection cut out.  Another thing that was challenging about having school start later then the course was being able to meet up face to face with my partner and start our research.  We already knew we most likely wanted to study Irish Immigration during the late 1800s, but that meant that a lot of our research was going to involve physically going to the archives and sorting through information.  With both of us away from school for almost the entire first month of class, it was difficult to feel like we were making progress, but we were able to find really great online resources in the meantime.

Being back at school definitely made class easier as I was able to get into a routine fairly quickly.   However, one of the worst things about being back at school during this course was the internet connection.  Our school updated the system about a month in the semester and it caused a lot of problems connecting to the internet.  Being back at home I believe I only had one day where it Zoom told me my internet was unstable, at school it was a regular occurrence for a while.  But being able to go to class with Susannah really allowed us to focus our thoughts and ideas about how to shape our project, poor internet or not.

Deep diving into archival research was really great.  Both Susannah and I were in a class about Historiography at the same time as this course, so we were able to get a more hands on approach to learning how to create our project which was amazing. Another huge benefit about us being in our Historical Methods and Theories class at the same time was that we had a fresh knowledge of how to sort through sources to find the best ones.  In the beginning of the year we talked a lot about the different types of primary and secondary sources and in what situations sources count for each.  That alone was helpful in determining what sources counted for what, but we also spent an extensive time on how to interpret those sources and use the cultural and political context of the time they were written in to understand their position from the best of our abilities.  When sorting through the resources at our local library keeping everything we had learned from that class in mind really allowed us to figure out what sources would be most helpful to our site.  Building a website from scratch was a huge undertaking but super worth it.  I love designing things and being able to go in to the nitty-gritty of WordPress and play with the settings to make the content look a certain way was really fun and I definitely learned such a valuable skill that I would not have learned in any other class.


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Last Thoughts…

My time throughout this online COPLAC course has been so exciting! (You think we’ve used that word enough this semester?!) I have taken many online classes before, but never a class that was this diverse. From working with students from other states in the US to using different mediums like slack, twitter, and WordPress for communication, and then learning to create maps or search through digital archives, I believe this course was by far the most technologically intense course I’ve taken. It took a great deal of commitment for me to be able to balance my time between this independent research and three other individual research projects. I loved collaborating with students in other areas of the country on projects that had definite differences, but also similarities that led us to collaboration throughout the semester and can’t find a word besides “excited” to describe how I feel about my future plans!

Looking back to when Amy first asked me to partner with her for this research and take an in depth look at the history of the people here in Morris, I thought I would make for a good side-kick. But together, we learned to collaborate and process through every step of the project. In August, we began by thinking very broadly about the term “migration” but very narrowly about our community. This was the first turning point in our project. We intentionally separated ourselves from the town we lived in and found a whole world of community archives, historians and research available to us on Stevens County. Then got busy doing research!

As I move into my last semester of my college career and into the workforce, I am thankful that I got to have this experience. The  type of collaborative research that I was able to do with Amy as well as other pairs from all over the US really showed me the value in a Liberal Arts education. I am thankful that I was able to utilize my knowledge from my Latin American Area Studies degree in this project while also growing in my skills as a researcher, historian, and community connecter. Through my experiences discussing my project with professors, permanent community members, church leaders, and Mexican immigrants I was able to see the value in personal relationships in research. This paired with existing knowledge allowed for me and Amy to create something really useful. We have a website now that is truly a resource for the Apostolic church, Stevens County, the University of MN-Morris and even other historians.

Amy and I are also planning on using this project as a platform to continue community education. Amy just completed her senior research capstone at UMM on TN-TD visas and some of the misconceptions of visa holders in the rural Midwest. By connecting these two projects, we are going to have a basis to work with community organizations and be able to better educate all of the community members as well as industry leaders in the area about the contemporary concerns and issues that face the people in our area. By using Apostolic history and comparing it to the modern day discussions on the Latino community in Stevens County, Amy and I are very excited to see how we can impact the community.

I will also use my newfound knowledge of and love for WordPress to create a teaching resource for my ESL classes. I am excited to use the technical abilities that I’ve gained to be able to create another resource that has only ever been a concept before. I think this resource will be able to help my students, as well as be a platform for them to continue teaching others. The idea that students are able to teach teachers just as much as they can be taught is something I believe very strongly in, and I am thankful that this COPLACDigital course reinforced it. I cannot wait to begin the next semester with even more research projects and potentially use some of the connections I have made in Morris to learn about the health coverage of immigrant workers and incorporate my interests in immigration, migration, and community building with into my Public Health education.

This is my final thank you to everyone that has followed along with the project this semester, as well as my professors who have supported Amy and I in this endeavor. Gracias por todo lo que hicieron!