A Course Blog by Amy Schmidgall

Author: Amy Schmidgall (Page 1 of 2)

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

Working as a Team

Joy and I have always worked together on this entire project, but this week we decided that to make best use of our time and strengths that we would collaborate on all the writing.  I struggle greatly with getting words on the paper quickly.  I have the knowledge, but not the talent to verbally express, whereas Joy excels in that area.   I, on the other other hand, love visual design and organization, which is not Joy’s strength or interest.

This week we continued to add content and I fixed most of the suggestions given by Professor Dunn, minus the bibliography and citation.  My plan is to fix/add all the citation this coming week.  At this point we feel really good about our layout and therefore did not make any major structural changes this week.

 

It’s still rough… but it’s coming along

It is interesting how things change. Take our website for example. What we started out imagining is not what it is turning out to be. Some of it is compromise, some is technology, and some is direction and purpose. This week we decided to not do the Prezi. I worked on bringing color, texture, and interest to the project by adding pictures and after I was finished with that, I went back to the Prezi and realized that what was created within the web pages was much better. Also, I noticed that the Prezi created a significant delay in launching the main menu. So, instead of a Prezi, we decided that the main menu will be used as our “thesis” page and the sub menus will prove our thesis. I feel like this ideas is much cleaner and organized. I also played with the menus a bit more. I noticed that the drop-down menus off the main menu were also causing delays and even preventing the main page from coming up. When I got rid of the drop-downs, the problem when away. Now the sub menus will only exist on the left sidebar, this looks much cleaner. I also added sub menu hotlinks within the page. I have a problem with a lot of scrolling so this provides an alternative to users like myself. One can simply click on the section they want to see OR just scroll down the page – it’s a win/win. Other than adding content, one of the bigger tasks that I need to finish on my pages is fixing the citations. We combined pages and in doing so the citations got out of control. For me this will be a matter of printing the pages and highlighting what goes with what. The thing that I’m most confused about is citing pictures. As of right now I have the URL saved for the pictures until I understand what it is that I need to do.

It still feels rough, but it’s coming along!

Pages and Prezis

I have shamelessly ignored my blog for the past couple weeks as I have engrossed myself in our project website.  I have been chided a number of time by my dear partner to put my computer down and go to bed.  There have been nights I’ve sat up until 1:30 in morning learning and testing WordPress.  It doesn’t matter how tired I am before I start, as soon as I hit our WordPress site, I can’t stop.  I am so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to learn about this tool and I look forward to applying all my knowledge to create an amazing website for the nonprofit I volunteer for.

In addition to exploring WordPress, we have also been creating Prezi presentations to go into our website.  This is a really exciting and fun way to display our information.  We are giving users the option to take the tradition route and use menus to navigate the information or they can play the presentation under each main title.    We feel that having both options will not only keep our readers interested but also it protects us from future changes in software and technology.  If Prezi should ever cease, users will still be able to access all the information through the menu system.

Joy and I are slowing but surely building content behind the scenes to insert into our website.  Since I have pretty much finalized our site design, it is now a matter of just plug and play.  It is exiting to see it all coming together!

Poco a Poco

Poco a poco

That is what I have to remind myself as we move forward into our project.  This past week both Joy and I were bogged down with health and personal setbacks so it didn’t feel like we were able to accomplish much toward our weekly goal.  Part of this process is resolving those nagging questions and sorting out information internally.  This week I sat down to gather all the information on Apostolic history and as I was reviewing it there was one piece that I was really struggling with.   In the Apostolic history book, “Marching to Zion”, it names the first Apostolic men to settle in Morris to be Christian Moser, Christian Luthi, and Rudolph Tschudi.  I learned from talking with the local historian, Rueben Luthi, that these men were related, but the connection was never really made clear.   I also discovered from talking to Kevin Wulf about the history of Riverview, that the original founders of or Riverview belonged to the Luthi family.   I knew this was an important piece to our story but could not put it all together.  I decided to some research on Ancestry.com.  What I discovered was very interesting! It turns out that Christian Moser (married to Mary Ann Luthi) and Christian Luthi were brother-in-laws and  Rudolph Tschudi was the son-in-law of Christian Moser.   It is from the patriarchs, Christian Luthi Sr. and Anna Christener of Bern Switzerland that the two major “ranchos” in Stevens County Riverview Dairy and Wulf Cattle can trace their beginnings.  I think it will be helpful to create a “family tree” showing the lineage on our website.   So, that problem was solved/organized in my mind.  However, as I sat back and looked at the full lineage from the main patriarchs of this family, I was struck at the enormity of it all.   Within just three generation there were hundreds of descendants.   Many of the families in linage, even today, are still having families of seven or more children.  The heritage is incredible.  What’s also important to understand is that if you are a member of the Apostolic church you are only allowed to marry other members within the church.  Over time this has created a web of relations.  This week I also spent time creating a spreadsheet and map of the present-day Apostolic followers.  One church in Iowa had nearly 1000 members!  I’m excited to tell this story.  What is especially unique about this story is that its migration continues today and is purposeful.  When we think of migration in our nation we always look at Hispanics and we fail to look at ourselves.  We are not so different.  We have different reasons for migrating.  We have different stories, backgrounds, and cultures, but when it comes right down to it – are we really that different?

 

 

Progress

It is a good feeling when you are at a point in a project where you feel organized and purposeful in your work. Joy and I spent time this week story-boarding and finalizing our plan for our website, Toward a Better Land: Migration on the Minnesota Prairie.  We are going reveal the stories of Apostolic and Mexican migration a bit non-traditionally using Prezi presentations.    Both Joy and I like a clean,  organized look and we feel that by using Prezi our readers will not get lost in word and be more engaged.  It will be exciting to see it all come together.  After we decided on how we were going to visually present our project, we worked together to finalize our project contract.  I think that I can speak for the both of us in that, having firm due dates and clear steps in the project lowers anxiety.   Creating project contracts with your professor or even just for yourself is an excellent way to set goals and see how attainable those goal are in a specific time frame.  A copy of our final contract can be found on this blog under or the heading “Project Contract” or by clicking on the hyperlink.

Work Hard and Honor Family

This week Joy and I are met with Kevin Wulf in the “Community Relations and Education” department at Riverview, LLP to discuss the Apostolic family history of Riverview and also to better understand Riverview’s role in the history of local Mexican migration. It was a great meeting, but I think both Joy and I walked away anxious to start storyboarding. We have been gathering information from all over and now it is time to review that information and decide what we are going to do with it and look at what information is still lacking.

Our plan has been to look at both migration stories and do a side by side profile. We continue to process how this will look and function and what specifically we want to showcase. I feel that it is important to acknowledge that in comparing the stories and cultures of these two groups we are not equating their experiences. I think to do so would be dishonoring to both sides. In each migration history there have been hardships and success, however, I believe it is fair to say that the Apostolics have never had to endure the prejudice and discrimination felt by people of Mexican heritage in the United States. It is an experience I would not want to belittle or deemphasize in any way. With that being said… I think back to our meeting with the University’s archivist. He said, “We’re (Minnesotans) people that work hard and honor our families .” This quote really stood out to me this week as I contemplated boh this week’s reading, “Challenges and Strengths of Immigrant Latino Families in the Rural Midwest” and our Riverview interview.

In the reading, authors Raffaelli and Wiley assessed the challenges and strengths experienced by Latin American immigrant mothers in rural Illinois communities. I came across this study for another research project but I thought parts of it are helpful in our understanding Mexican migration in our rural area. For me, the most interesting findings was that the interviewees identified “personal support networks (family warmth and cohesion, unity in the Latino community, and support provided by network members) ” as one of their greatest assets and resources in the Latino community. Also high on the assets and resources list was “personal or internal resources (strong work ethic and the ability to overcome challenges).”

How do these findings fit into our “Minnesota moto”?

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1 Gross, Stephen, interview by Amy Schmidgall, & Joy Stephansen. The Archives (September 06, 2017).

2 Rffaelli, Marcela, and Angela R. Wiley. “Challenges and Strengths of Immigrant Latino Families in the Rural Midwest.” Journal of Family Issues, 2012: 347-372.

The Swiss

On Wednesday, September 20th, Joy and I met with a local Apostolic historian.  In the interview, he explained to us that the first Apostolic to arrive in Morris, Chris Luthi (who happened to be his grandfather) was Swiss, not German as we (I) had previously been lead to believe.  This explains why Apostolics are still commonly, and somewhat derogatorily,  referred to as “Switzers” (prounounced swīt-z/er/).  While it is true that Germans Apostolics did eventually begin migrating to Morris, this ignorance of migration origin sadly indicates a loss of personal history.

After meeting with Mr. Luthi, Joy and I went to the public library to check out their selection of state and local resources.   It was there that we found the book, “They Chose Minnesota.”   What a gem!  It is loaded with information on nearly every ethnic group existing within our state’s borders.  For our study, the chapters of greatest interest in this book include: The Mexicans, The Germans, and especially The Swiss.   Perhaps it is just me, but when I read history books such as this one, it is easy to skim the through the facts (dates, names, maps) without grasping much of their significance.  However, because we were so fortunate to receive a brief history on Apostolic Swiss before hand, the historical data in this chapter took on much greater meaning.  Three points which I found particularly interesting, especially in conjunction with our study was that: 1. “Swiss emigration was not a result of overpopulation,” 2. “Emigration was stimulated by ‘American letters’,” and 3. there were “Government subsidies to remove poor people.1”  As I read each of these statements I compared them to what we  have already been told about Swiss history and I also considered how they applied to the emigration of the Apostolic peoples.  It is unfortunately to think that previously, I probably would have passed over these ideas.  To me, this reinforces the fact that Joy and I need to be diligent in bringing this history to life verses presenting dry facts.

This idea also rang true as I perused the the chapter,The Mexicans. Interestingly what immediately stood out  to me was a reference to migrant workers following the Red River and Minnesota River in search of agricultural work2.  Every study I have read on early Minnesota migration refers to the use of rivers as a means of land settlement.  The concept of “water highways” is not new to me, however, while reading this section, its significance in our history and the pure uniqueness of the Minnesota landscape really struck me.  We ARE the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”… 11,842 to be exact, 6,564 rivers and streams, and 10.6 million acres of wetlands.  Even more interesting is that Minnesota’s waters flow outward in three different directions: north into Canada, east to the Atlantic, and south to the Gulf3.  It is little wonder why our state has such a rich migration history.

Perhaps I’m being a little biased…

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1deGryse, Louis M. “The Swiss.” In They Chose Minnesota, 211-219. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.

2Diebold, Susan M. “The Mexicans.” In They Chose Minnesota, 92-107. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.

3“Lakes, rivers, and wetlands facts.” Lakes, rivers and wetlands: Minnesota DNR, www.dnr.state.mn.us/faq/mnfacts/water.html. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.

 

Progress

Just as I began working on today’s blog post outlining our team’s progress, I received a message from my partner Joy asking me to read HER blog.

Joy’s Blog – Contract and Week 5 Update

She did a fantastic job! (and I’m not just saying that because of all the compliments she paid me on my web development abilities)

As Joy indicated in her blog, today we spent a fair amount of time defining our project.  It felt good to finally sit down and organize our ideas, draw out a plan, and create a task list and project timeline.   Working with Joy is… well… a JOY!  I believe we compliment each others strengths and weaknesses and are able to compromise and support each other when needed. There is no doubt that our plan for this project is an ambitious one, but as the saying goes… “Go Big or Go Home!” Individually there is no way we could accomplish all we have set out to do, but as a team I’m confident it is possible.  Click on the link below to see our up-to-date project contract (click on the back button to return to this post).

Project Contract – Joy Stephansen & Amy Schmidgall

And it is true, I did spend a ridiculous (almost obsessive) about of time this past weekend working on developing our website, but I have no regrets.   As I am a VERY visual learner, it was very important to me have our website organized as soon as possible.  It will help me as we move forward to gauge our progress and better assess our needs (e.g. where we may be missing important information or where we need to focus more).  Check it out!

Toward a Better Land: Migration on the Minnesota Prairie

Moving forward, Joy and I decided that I would concentrate my time on the Apostolic research and history and she will focus on local Mexican history.  This Wednesday we will be meeting with a local Apostolic historian who is a direct descendant of one of the first Apostolic pioneers to Stevens County.  He and his wife are very excited to share their knowledge with us.   We (Joy and I) have talked in class and blogged a lot about our goal to use the history of the Apostolic Church migration in conjunction with the history of the Mexican migration in Stevens County in hopes to make a difference in the way people view migration and culture.  But, it wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how equally important this project is in preserving the local Apostolic history.   In church on Sunday I began to ask various people if they had information about their ancestors in the church.   Very surprising to me, they did not.  It is a history that is being forgotten and lost.  One women even commented to me, “You better ask Rueben while he is still alive and sharp, otherwise it will be lost forever.”  When I explain to people in the church about our project, they light up with excitement.

There is no doubt that this is a migration story that needs to be preserved and shared.

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