Tag Archives: Seminar

Course Reviews: Fall 2011

I realized that I never wrote about my courses for this semester, so I will do that now.  The semester is now half over and I am counting down until Christmas break!  Instead of writing a separate post for each course, I will give a brief description of each course in this post.  You can find my book list post, HERE.

HIST 590

Gender in Latin America meets twice a week with a mix of grad students and undergrads.  As with all 500 level courses, we have a separate 4th hour meeting with the professor to discuss our addition work/readings.  For this course, however, we have a 4th hour, but no additional readings.  Our only additional work is a reading review each week.  The course has 15 books, but we do are not reading one per week as you might expect.  We are reading in chronological and generally read chapters from 3-4 books per week.  Overall, it is not a bad course and it fulfills my requirement of an out-of-concentration course.  The course is taught by Dr. William C. Van Norman.

HIST 600

The Seminar in Early American history changes from year-to-year depending on who teaches it.  This year the course is taught by Dr. David Dillard and focuses on his area, Southern history.  The reading list for this course is pretty short, but the course layout is very different.  The course is broken up into three blocks of three-week segments.  The first week, the whole class reads the same book.  The second week we break apart and read different books from the historiography.  Finally, the third week we discover how the history of the period is viewed by the public via museum, movies, television, etc.  It is a unique course design and I really like it as it allows me to incorporate a little of my Public History training.

HIST 700 

My thesis research is going well and I have been working toward my thesis since early this year.  Over the summer I did a great deal of secondary reading and gathered all my primary sources.  I have moved past the research phase and am now into writing.  My first chapter is due October 24, and I have about 12 pages so far.  My goal is 20.  After writing chapter 1, I will skip to chapter 3 and have it done by Thanksgiving break.  Before I leave for Christmas break, I hope to have Chapters 1 and 3 completed and substantial progress on chapter 2.  The entire project is due the middle of February.

I meet weekly with my thesis advisor, Dr. Christopher Versen, and we discuss what I have read, what I have written, and where the project is going.  The other members of my thesis committee include Dr. Chris Arndt and Dr. John Butt.


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COURSES: HIST 673 – Graduate Research and Writing Seminar

Many second year students in our program have called this course the most beneficial in the program.  On the surface this course, taught by Dr. Lanier, seems terrifying.  The course has no books and requires no outside reading, but within the 15 weeks of the semester each student will write two twenty-page papers which must be written on a related topic.  Many students, such as myself, are using this as an opportunity to write two chapters of our thesis, which is the smart thing to do since we all have to write one anyway.

The course outline is pretty simple.  Each week, three students in the class turn their paper in on the Friday before the class period.  The rest of the class has the weekend to read the other student’s papers and we have to write a short review for the student and for Dr. Lanier (she just wants to be sure we are actually reading!).  In class, we just discuss the papers as a class with the students.  We offer suggestions, criticisms, and compliments.

This class is helpful in many ways.  First, we all get some experience reviewing the work of others who are writing in different fields.  Second, we are expanding our knowledge on topics that we may have no experience with.  History is very diverse and it is great to read what everyone is working on.  And that is the most important part of the course.  We get to read each other’s work.  We have been together now for a semester and we have an idea of what the others are researching, but we actually get to read and respond to the work they have done so far.  Some students have more developed ideas than others and at this point that is fine.  Others know exactly what they are writing about and have done much of the documentary research.  I, however, am somewhere in between.  I have a very solid notion of where my thesis will go and I am using this class to begin my thesis work.

Incidentally, my first paper was due yesterday and we will discuss it next week along with two other papers.  I completed and turned my paper in on Thursday, and I really do look forward to the feedback.  I have a rough idea for my second paper and for my thesis and the feedback I receive next week could change that route.  But that is not a bad thing.  It is great having 16 historically oriented and intelligent fellow historians to bounce ideas off of and receive feedback from.  I think the second year students are absolutely correct in their assessment that this course is the most beneficial since writing is at the center of graduate research.

Next week I will take a look at HIST 593 – Historic Preservation.  A great class!  Until then…


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Courses: Spring 2011

I registered or classes back in November, but now I have my books and can give a brief descrption of each course.

HIST 593 – Historic Preservation…Mr. Darryl Nash

From the Graduate Catalog: “An introduction to the philosophy and technique of historic preservation. Course examines the Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines for restoration, state and national register forms and procedures, historic architecture, structural analysis, restoration techniques as well as the business aspects of historic preservation projects. Students undertake leadership assignments for architectural field assessments and national register nominations.”

BooksEveryday Architecture of Mid-Atlantic (By Dr. Lanier) and Twenty Buildings Every Architect Should Understand

HIST 673 – Graduate Research and Writing Seminar…Dr. Gabrielle Lanier

From the Graduate Catalog: “An intensive research and writing seminar focused on the process of conceptualizing, researching, writing and refining historical research papers grounded in primary sources. Emphasis will be on evaluation of sources, interpretation of evidence, refinement of presentation and development of professional standards of criticism. Required of all first year graduate students.”

BooksA Manual for Writers (We all know this book!!)

HIST 696 – Introduction to Public History…Dr. Gabrielle Lanier

From the Graduate Catalog: “An introduction to the varied and interdisciplinary “field” of public history – such as community/local history, historic preservation, archives, historical archaeology, museum studies, business and policy history, documentary editing and publishing, and documentary films – through readings, class discussions, occasional guest speakers, occasional field trips and an extended public history research project.”

Books: On Doing Local HistoryNew History in an Old MuseumThe Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American MemoryDomesticating History: The Political Origins of America’s House MuseumsPublic History: Essays from the Field, and Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory

That is a total of nine books for the semester!  Not too bad.  I have also been given a different TA position for the semester and I will explain that in a post after I get back into the routine.  There is still some information I need to get about that.

Later this week, I will post a outline of my 2010.  It has been a life changing year!  Until then…


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The Day Before…

Today, I have been getting everything ready for tomorrow.  You know, the usual back to school things.  Packing the backpack with notebooks, pens, pencils, charging the iPad and iPhone, breaking out the new shoes, etc.  I feel ready and I am looking forward to starting school…however, there are a few things I need to update…

Friday at 3:30 I attended orientation for the History Department.  This was a great opportunity to meet the other students in the program.  Several professors were there as well.  All in all, there was not a lot of new information presented.  Again, the fact that as grad students we are considered faculty by the university and by the professors of the department was stressed.  This was solidified when I was given a key to my office and was given a key to the classroom that I will TA.  Having a key somehow makes everything legitimate!

Jackson Hall – The Department of History

Anyway, during the meeting we were given general information, much of which I have heard many times.  Graduate courses are different from undergraduate courses and there will be more work required.  What will be difficult to get used to is having courses in the evening and only once per week!  That means more information in a class meeting, but more time outside of class to do course work and research.  The professors also explained the expectations for TAs, which I heard on Monday.

The most important piece of information I received during the hour meeting was the course outline for the Public History program.  Here is the plan I will follow:

FALL 2010 – HIST 671 (Research Methods), HIST 653 (Patterns of World History), HIST 592 (American Material Culture)

SPRING 2011 – HIST 673 (Advance Research Methods), HIST 696 (Intro to Public History), Elective

FALL 2011 – HIST 700 (Thesis), HIST 640 (Internship), Non-US Elective

SPRING 2012 – HIST 700 (Thesis), Elective, Elective

Of the 12 courses I am required to earn my M.A., I only get to choose 4!!  I have looked at the graduate catalog and really want to take the four other Public History courses they offer as long as they are available!

On a surprising note (or perhaps not), I have heard the two most unpopular words at MSSU: hiring freeze.  JMU also has a hiring freeze in effect and there have been deep cuts in the budget.  Despite this, we were assured that if we needed money for research or for conferences, they would get some, maybe not 100%, but some money together to help with expenses.  The History Department is one of the largest department on campus (YES, I did type that correctly!!) and has access to funds.  I plan to take advantage of this because the documents I need for some research are in New York City and Washington D.C., but I will keep everyone updated on that!

As I said, tomorrow is the first day of courses.  I have the course I am TA for at 12:20 PM and HIST 671 at 6:30 PM.  Monday, however, is when I have office hours from 9 – 10 AM and will probably get to campus about 8:30 to avoid the traffic.  I know where I WANT to park, but that does not guarantee anything!!   The parking sticker I paid for is jokingly called a “Hunting Permit” by the students.  Meaning you are allowed to look for a parking spot, but not guaranteed one!  The good news, however, JMU recently purchased the old Rockingham Memorial Hospital campus which has two parking decks and several parking lots (with 700 parking spots) and four major buildings.  This area has been renamed North Campus and has added about 50 acres to campus.  I have parked in one of the new parking decks my last two times on campus and it is very close to the quad, which will make it very popular!

I will update next weekend with stories from my first week as a grad student. Until then…


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Orientation Day

Yesterday (Monday, August 23) I got my first taste of grad school and what it is going to be like being a Teaching Assistant (TA).  I attended the Grad School Orientation which was held in the Health and Human Services building on East Campus (east side of I-81).    After finding the auditorium (HHS is actually three buildings in one!), I listed for three hours about the policies of the grad school ranging from the Honor Code to Financial Aid.  Assistantships were discussed, but we primarily listened to the Dean of the Grad School tell stories from his life!  The most useful part of the orientation came in the final 45 minutes when a panel of ten second year graduate students discussed life in grad school.  It make me realize just how different grad school will be.  Students have on campus jobs and, in most cases, are considered colleagues by the faculty.  This is what separates undergrads from grad students.  The group of students talked about everything from what to expect as a TA to the best places to get a beer in Harrisonburg.  It was a very open conversation.  That being said, I was surprised by the low turnout.  JMU has approximately 1,800 grad students and I would assume about half are new while the other half are finishing up.  There should have been 900 students at orientation, but in reality there were less than 100. In all honesty, I could have found everything that was discussed online, but the last 45 minutes were the most important.

After chowing down on a lunch provided by JMU, TAs were allowed to attend several workshops designed to help with various topics.  I attended the three (50 minutes each) that I thought would be most helpful.  First, I attended “‘There are so many of you’: Effective Teaching Strategies for Large Classes.”  As many of you know, the class I am TA for a World History course with 110 students.  The workshop offered various solutions and methods to make such a large class feel smaller.  The professor who instructed the workshop suggested small group activities to breakup the monotony of lectures.  I gained several great ideas for this workshop and have discussed a few with my TA professor.  The second workshop I attended was “Grading Using Rubrics.”  This course was strait forward and let us know that JMU has a “standard” rubric that can be used and/or modified for our courses.  Rubrics simply ensure that every essay is graded equally.  It also informs students as to what the professor is expecting.  Finally, I attended “How can JMU Libraries Make your Life Easier?”  I only attended this because I missed the tour of the Library they were going to give at 1 PM because of these workshops.  I did learn how to use the online search for books, articles, etc. and also a new service called RefWorks.  This enables users to export listings for books and articles from JMU’s catalog right to the program.  You can organize these resources by topic or paper and then have the program build a Bibliography for you.  I have played with it and it works great with Turabian and will save A LOT of time!

After I left JMU, I picked up my new iPhone 4, but that is for another post!!!  On Friday I will attend Orientation for the History Department and will write about that this weekend.  I also intend to write in more detail about the course for which I will be TA.  I met with Dr. Davis today and we discussed the syllabus and know what to expect!


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Reading List 1

Books have begun to arrive on my door step which means classes are not too far away.  I thought, while I had a spare moment, I would share my book list for this semester.  I plan on doing this for every semester.  Feel free to click the links and check the book out and buy it if you so desire!

I have 20 books for the semester.  Some you have heard of, but most you probably have not.  Thanks to the USPS, I have seven on my desk now and hope the rest arrive by August 10th.  I ordered them all from Amazon (saved $200!) and, before you ask, I am sure I got the right editions because JMU’s bookstore lists the ISBN of each book!!  I wish MSSU did that!  Anyway, here is the list:

HIST 592 (American Material Culture): Waste & WantRefinement of AmericaNew Urban LandscapeMaterial ChristianityChesapeake Family & Their Slaves

HIST 653 (Patterns of World History): Before European HegemonyImporting the European ArmyOld World EncountersPlagues & Peoples (with New Preface)Why Europe?World & Very Small Place in Africa

HIST 671 (Historical Research): Idea of HistoryProtestant Ethic & Spirit of CapitalismNew Cultural History

GHIST 102 (My TA Course): Death & King’s Horseman, Ways of the World, Vol 2 Brief Global History, Worlds of History (V2), Complete Persepolis, Robinson Crusoe, Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government

There you have it!  Sixteen weeks of reading. Sounds like a lot, but I will admit, some of the books are pretty thin and the longest one is about 370 pages.  I had longer books at MSSU, but I never had 20 for four courses!

If any of the titles interest you, I have provided a link to the Amazon.com page so you can get more info.  I will, however, give more information about the books when I discuss each course in a separate blog.

Until then…


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Today I finally found out which class I will be TA for.  The course will be GHIST 102 World History Since 1500.  After doing some research, I know the course has six books assigned for it and that the department will provide these books (meaning I will save a few $$).  These six books, however, bring my total up to 20 for the semester!  This is what I expected from grad school, however!  There is one unresolved problem…I do not recognize the name of the professor and he/she (I was only given the last name) is not listed on the History Department‘s website.  I guess I will find out in due course.

Knowing which course I am TA for is a relief, but I thought I would share the other courses I am taking this semester.  They are:

1. HIST 592 – American Material Culture

2. HIST 653 – Patterns of World History (Historiography)

3. HIST 671 – Seminar in Historical Research Methods

I know they sound incredible and I plan to describe each course and give the book lists in later posts (once I find out exactly what they are!!).

I am looking forward to taking three courses and being a TA.  Grad school is going to be a completely different experience from undergraduate, but I think it will be more enjoyable.  I will be taking only history courses and surrounded by fellow history students!  I have been told by several of my professors at MSSU that graduate school was the best part of their education.

Also, I have ordered my books and they should be arriving soon!


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