Southern hosts History Conference


Jacob WaringOpinions & Features Editor

Ancient burial grounds, militias in America and labor unions, all were some of the topics presented by students from the four Connecticut State Universities.

The 2019 CSU Making History Conference took place on Friday, Mar. 22. Students presented topics that they have researched. This was Southern’s second time hosting the conference.

One of the first panels of the conference was, “Uncovering Their History: African, African American, and Native American Burials in Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground, 1640 – 1815” presented by graduate students from Central Connecticut State University.

Chelsea Echevarria, CCSU graduate student, role in the project was basic research. The focus of her research was the burial ground itself. They did not excavate the burial ground itself, which meant they had to research by going through town, church, and other records to try to find out who were buried. She explained that the boundaries changed and said those buried had possible be under buildings.

She said she did some disturbing findings in her research, which is still ongoing.

“In the late 80’s or so, they were building a parking lot, and they actual unearth human remains that were buried in the burial grounds. It was disturbing because I couldn’t find any records of what happened them. I don’t know where they went. They were probably reinter but I don’t know where. To me, it spoke to a disturbing trend of this particular place not being respected.”

Gabriel Benjamin, CCSU graduate student created the ancestry. com family trees for this project as a way for possible descendants to trace their ancestors and to give names to the unidentified remains. Stephen Arel, CCSU graduate student, helped develop and design the website for the project.

The website, they say, is still in progress.

Christine M. Petto, department chairperson who helped run and organized the conference this year. She said that the convention is an ideal environment for students to hone their presentation skills in the presence of their peers. Students learn that this is something that historians do. That historians do not just work in the archives and write their works.

“We actually have to go somewhere to present it our peers or to different audiences who may not be our peers. We have to learn how to present our ideas when we speak because it a lot different to present speaking then to read.”

Ryan Plourde, senior, special education collaborative and history major, was one of Southern’s own students who participated in the conference. He presented his research about the labor history, more specially a group called “Industrial Workers of the World”.

“I talked about their early history from 1905, and I covered some of the first strikes that they participated in and union organizing. I was looking at their effectiveness from 1905 to 1913,” said Plourde.

This was History 485, which is the seminar for history, project. For the class he wrote a 20 page paper on his topic. He took that project, the feedback from that class to present at the convention.

Jacqueline Isabella, history department secretary, aided Petto in organizing the room for the presentations, made the program, and coordinated with other universities, for a bulk of the presentations.

She said that the topics that the students presented or discussed were topics of their choosing.

“[Presented topics] comes straight from the students. We don’t really turn down any topics unless they were inappropriate. Every topic that we received, were turned into a panel.”

Another panel discussion was “Political, Economic and Labor History Projects” where students presented their research thus far for capstone projects. History Professor Siobhan Carter-David, who chaired the panel, gave students feedback on research about what they could do next and resources available.

Jason Smith who teaches history at Southern, attended the panel and gave advice to students in regards to narrowing the focus to one central aspect of their topics, since they have a finite time in researching before the deadline.

Jamie Kelley, a political science and history major, a senior who participated in the conference. The panel she participated in was about oral history, how it works and what is important about it. Kelley also attended two panels as an audience member and thought they were, “extremely informational and really awesome.”

Photo Credit: William Aliou

*Edits were made to correct a name in the article. 

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