Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bona History Grad at the Old Jail Art Center (Mary Schrader)

It wasn’t very long ago that you would have found me in Dr. Horowitz’s office, on the verge of tears “not knowing what I was going to do with my life.” Ah… the quintessential question we all face senior year, “What am I going to do after graduating?”
          Over two different summers during my undergrad career, I interned at the National Archives and Records Administration in DC and worked at an archaeological dig site in Tuscany, Italy. It was from these experiences, and reading History Wars from the historiography class, that I landed on wanting to work in museums.
          In between being an RA, a typical senior and writing my senior thesis, I plowed through graduate school applications. Paying through the nose to take the GRE (TWICE!), and let’s not forget how expensive application fees are, I mentally prepared myself for two more years of school.
          It all paid off, though. As February rolled along, so did the graduate school acceptance letters. My despair soon changed from, “What am I going to do with my life?” to “Where am I going to go to school?” Poor Dr. H. witnessed all of my distress but ultimately gave me the best advice: go where your heart is. Great advice when I was deciding between Arizona State University, Baylor University, and Syracuse University; completely different areas of the country, while my boyfriend (now fiancé) was staying at Bonas for the IMC program.
          Everything worked out swimmingly, and my decisions seamlessly fell into place. Syracuse University offered me a TA position, which made my decision to attend SU a no brainer.  Graduate school for free? I think, yes! Come the fall of 2011, I was enrolled in the graduate program of museum studies at Syracuse University and teaching the undergraduate course History of Design.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fall is in the Air

        The Fall semester starts tomorrow. Many of the students will find materials already posted to Moodle (the class management software). Some of us are still putting the final touches on things (i.e. me). We've got some interesting plans for the academic year. I've been putting together my Intro to Public History class (that starts tomorrow) and started planning the Digital History class for the spring. One of the things I've done over the summer is try to get up to speed with GIS for that class.

More to follow...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Notes from a Research Trip to Argentina (Dr. Joel Horowitz)

          On August 1, I returned to western New York after a month-long research trip to Buenos Aires.  The Argentina that I saw was in many ways different than the one that I had seen just two years ago on my sabbatical.  The change was not due to living in a different neighborhood of the city of Buenos Aires, since I lived just three blocks from where I had previously stayed. Something had changed. That something was clearly politics, economics, and the atmosphere created by the two. Employment levels remain high (it is difficult to say how high and what they mean since almost everyone will admit, except extraordinarily fervent supporters of the government, that official statistics are worthless), but inflation is also high, at least twenty percent. In peso terms, things are much more expensive than two years ago. 
          The government’s attempts to do something about inflation and the problems that it brings have so far at least had minimal positive impacts. It has used the tactics of the past which have always failed badly.  It has tried to coerce retailers into freezing prices and made obtaining dollars illegal or at least extraordinarily difficult.  The latter has produced a so called parallel market with an exchange rate that is very different than the official rate. (As of August 7, the official rate was 5.62 pesos per dollar and the parallel rate or “blue” market was 8.56).  The ones who are hurt the worst by this type of inflation are undoubtedly the poor.  The wealthier have ways to save or buy.  One reason why restaurants are jammed every night of the week, besides small kitchens (like in New York City), is that it is difficult to save, so if you have it, you might as well spend it.  One can eat extraordinarily well in Buenos Aires.

         Adding to the sense of unease produced by the economic problems has been a perception of a crime wave.  People are very afraid of crime.  How much is fear of crime and how much is real is more difficult to say.  At least in the city proper (which does not include its working class suburbs that surround it) murder rates by US standards are extraordinarily low.  One hears enough random tales of purse snatchings, stealing of smart phones etc. to think that the fears of this type of activity is real, but how it would compare to the US is more difficult to say. Above or perhaps below all this is a real political divide.  People either hate or love the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.  One hears stories of families where people have stopped talking to one another because of politics.  A friend of mine, whom I have known for decades, told me that he no longer sees friends he has had since elementary school since they want to talk about politics and then they get very upset when he disagrees.  The political atmosphere is particularly intense since the first round of congressional elections are Sunday August 11.  If the followers of Cristina do well, most people believe that she will have the constitution amended so that she can be re-elected.  She, however, has repeatedly said that she will not try to do so.  The polls are indicating that her followers will not do particularly well but it is a complex situation with many slates running and of course it is a national election. 
          Why are politics so heated?  In part, it has become so divided because Cristina (as almost everyone refers to her) has developed an extreme style of the traditional Argentine style that sees opposition as disloyal not only to the president but to the country.  She has used almost the full power of the government to back her positions.  She has surrounded herself with yes people and not surprisingly, after ten years of being in power, (four years for her late husband Nestor and now 6 years for Cristina) corruption appears almost everywhere among people close to the government.  Cristina tries to identify herself with Evita Perón and those close to her use every opportunity to display large pictures of Evita.  For example a rather small and nice exhibit about books about Evita has opened in the Biblioteca Nacional (national library). Weeks before the opening, giant pictures of Evita hung from the outside of the library.  The director is a fervent supporter of Cristina. (See accompanying photo).  Similarly Cristina has attempted to project an image of being very close to Pope Francis, including using photographs with the two of them together in campaign posters, although they had an extremely rocky relationship when he was cardinal of Buenos Aires. People who do not like the current government feel excluded and fear that they will feel the weight of the government on them.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A History Major's International Experience on Campus (by Shannon Conheady)

The most common way that we, as students, learn about history is through textbooks and classrooms. It is often said that history is boring and pointless to study. As a student of history I beg to differ: history is all around us and the best way to see that is to interact with it. It happens every day; is your personal day going to make it into the books? Maybe not, but that’s no reason not to give the study of history a second thought. 

This summer I have had the opportunity to work with students from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Colombia through the Study of United States Institutes program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. The History Department at St. Bonaventure University is hosting one of the institutes on U.S. History and Government. Twenty students are living here on campus for four weeks and have the chance to study, explore, and discover both New York State and United States history. I have also learned much about the cultures of these three countries and their unique histories. I have read about the countries in Latin America throughout my education but interacting with students who originate from these countries has been the best way to actually gain information about the local peoples. For the last three weeks, three other mentors and I have traveled with the students to a variety of locations. We returned from four days in Chicago, Il. last week and will be traveling to New York City soon. The students have participated in various classes on campus relating to the study of U.S. history and government taught by a variety of professors and staff members.