UVA Today on AHR

29 Apr

Check out the feature article on UVA Today about the Academical Heritage Review

New Student History Group Launches Undergraduate Journal

April 19, 2010 — A year ago, the University of Virginia had no student organization dedicated to the study of history – something that surprised first-year student Thomas Howard, who arrived from Richmond with a love for history and a desire to explore outside of the classroom.

So last fall Howard took the initiative to form the University Historical Society, an organization for history students in the College of Arts & Sciences. Although the group has received support from faculty in U.Va.’s Corcoran Department of History, it is entirely student-run.

In its inaugural year, the society has sponsored a two-part speaker series and is on the verge of launching a journal featuring undergraduate research papers.

The speaker series featured historians John Kulda, an independent author and former employee at the Library of Virginia, and Dan Thorpe, the chairman of the history department at Virginia Tech. “Both turned into roundtable discussions rather than a simple lecture,” Howard said.

The first issue of the Academical Heritage Review – the only undergraduate history publication at U.Va. –  is set to be released on April 26, which Howard hopes will give students and faculty time to read it before final exams kick in. It will feature about 200 pages of pictures and essays. Copies will be given to history faculty, and distribution points will be set up around Grounds.

The journal’s undergraduate authors are taking a variety of classes and receive input from various professors and advisers. “It is interdisciplinary by nature,” Howard said.

The original concept was for the journal to focus solely on the history of U.Va., but Howard and the rest of the editorial board opted to widen its focus within the field of American history.  But the content in Academical Heritage Review is not exclusive to a particular subject area, according to Howard.  Of the nine essays featured in the debut issue, two have foreign themes.

The first issue will also include two essays on the history of U.Va., set apart in their own section. Howard said that these essays lend the journal a unique character, and showcase U.Va. students who are interested in their own school.

Society members solicited journal submissions through the history department and the Undergraduate Research Network e-mail lists. According to Howard, they received many more submissions than were expected for the first edition of a fledgling publication.

“Being able to be published is a huge draw for a lot of people,” Howard said. “The writing is happening – the history department writes a lot – so why not?”

Deciding which papers to feature was a difficult process. Two of the eight members of the editorial board read each submission and presented their thoughts at a “table read” with the entire board. Essays were chosen on style and content as well as originality.

Looking ahead, Howard said that the University Historical Society will seek to forge a closer relationship with the history department. He also hopes club members will begin to contribute to the environment of history in Virginia outside of the University setting. Students could access this community by bringing in speakers from outside institutions or conducting student-curated exhibits. Howard feels that these initiatives would give students an opportunity to see a different aspect of history outside the classroom.

“History helps us understand why we are the way we are. It reflects forward onto our society. The more we understand where our problems and challenges come from, the better equipped we are to handle them,” Howard said.

–Matt Kelly

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