Is there anything Mark Twain doesn’t know?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

~Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

Lauren Grenier, a recent Eastern graduate with a dual degree in History and Political Science, reflects on her three-month volunteer experience working with orphans in Romania.

Understanding the history of Romania is vital in understanding to complex social issues that it is trying to combat. During the Cold War, Romania was imprisoned behind the iron curtain of communism and suffered greatly under the oppressive dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Hoping to create a massive force of “work bees” for communism, Ceausescu outlawed all forms of birth control and even forced women to have children. His assassination on Christmas Day, 1989 is the day Romanians refer to the end of communism in their country. However, this day also signifies the start of a long journey of recovery. In the wake of economic disparity and political uncertainty, state orphanages were overwhelmed with abandoned children and lacked the resources to care for them adequately, resulting in many abandoned children growing up on the streets doing whatever necessary to survive, albeit stealing, selling drugs, and prostituting.

Lauren with some Innocents

Lauren Grenier with some Innocents

Nearly thirty years after the collapse of communism, Romania’s “orphan crisis” has become generational. The system in place often fails to provide those in the care of the state with the life skills necessary for life beyond the orphanage. Often, their eighteenth birthday present is day one on the streets. The chances are high that their children will end up under the care of the state, continuing the orphan cycle. SoarRomania and Beauty From Ashes are two nonprofits that work to assist and empower young women transitioning out of the orphanages and into adult life. SoarRomania empowers young moms by providing them with housing, childcare and emotional support while they attend school or search for employment. Their mission is that empowering young moms who grew up in the state system will produce one less orphan each time. Beauty From Ashes also provides housing and support for girls who would otherwise be on the streets. They teach important life skills such as cooking, healthy relationship boundaries, fiscal responsibility and jewelry making. In addition to these two ministries, I found myself having playdates one afternoon a week with school-aged orphans in a home just outside the city (pictured). This experience greatly increased my knowledge of Eastern European history and culture. I greatly encourage other students to consider spending time abroad to expand their knowledge of the world. Reading will never provide the same knowledge that experience will.

History Major Allison Grant Reflects on her study abroad (and you can too)

I have always had a strong desire to travel. I knew from the moment I started applying to colleges, I would study abroad. Last Spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad. Through a partnership with Central Connecticut State University, I applied to the National University of Ireland-Galway.

Some of the courses I took included: Development of the Medieval Castle in Europe, Theories of Personality, and a Service Learning Literacy Project. Most of the classes fulfilled my Social Science Core.

The classes in Ireland were very different from the classes at Eastern, most of the classes had only two assignments for the whole semester, attendance was not always recorded, and most classes consisted of fifty to seventy students in them. Almost all the students use a laptop during class.

When I left for Ireland, I expected to spend all of my time in Ireland. I did not. I went to Copenhagen (Denmark), London (United Kingdom), Berlin (Germany), Italy (starting from Venice traveled down to Sicily), Athens (Greece), and Amsterdam (the Netherlands). There are so many great memories I have from this trip. I learned so much. Not just from classes but more from meeting people.

There are moments you wish you could take a snapshot of and be able to replay whenever you want. One of those moments for me was sitting in Piazza Michelangelo writing in my journal. Another is watching the Easter celebration unfold in front of the Duomo, in Florence.

In Athens, I was able to volunteer at a refugee camp. The refugees all came from different areas of the Middle East. The refugees were staying on the Port of Pireus. All the families were given a tent; it was humbling to see that everything they owned was in that tent.

Most of the volunteers did not speak Arabic or Farsi. A group of translators, all refugees themselves, helped volunteers communicate with children and adults in the camp. The youngest translator was a boy, about twelve. I was shocked and impressed. I did not believe he was a translator. The boy had every right to be very upset about living in a tent but he decided to be a positive.

The next day, I went back to the camp. A little girl came up to me and gave me her little sister, maybe six months old, and then walked away. I looked around for a parent but did not find one. Once again I was shocked by the situation, the trust that the little girl had in me. Later that day, I was playing with a different young girl, two or three years old, her parents came and took her away. She started crying a little while later and the parents brought her back to me. Being American, I figured that any refugee would not trust me in the camp or around their children. I was surprised when I was accepted by them.

AllisonGrant

Studying abroad was the most life changing and positive experiences of my life. I would go back tomorrow if I could. The culture and different experiences while abroad, have made me a better more conscious citizen. If you have an opportunity to study aboard, even if it might be inconvenient, I strong recommend doing it.

If you too would like to have a life-changing experience, check out the many study abroad opportunities through Eastern.

Warrior Sunday starts off the new academic year

The incoming freshmen and transfer students had a chance to meet with some of the Department of History faculty on Warrior Sunday. Dr. Kirchmann, Chair of of the department, had at hand useful materials about the majors, advising, and opportunities for involvement in the department. Dr. Meznar took expert photos for the blog. Dr. Moore and Dr. Kamola challenged the freshmen to a “place a historical event on the timeline” game. And all received special “HISTORY RULES!” wristbands; we will next work on a secret handshake for all history majors!

Warrior Welcome

Explaining the Major
Working on TimelineWelcome to the History Department!

Debate over Manifest Destiny

In HIS 241: The American Frontier, students debated the question: “To what extent was manifest destiny inevitable?”  Divided into two larger teams—either “For” or “Against” the question—each side was asked to work in smaller groups to prepare key points of supporting evidence.  From these smaller teams, two spokespersons were chosen (nicknamed “Lewis and Clark”) to participate in the debate, with one sub-group each offering an opening statement of five minutes, a rebuttal of two minutes, and open-ended debate of five minutes.  Professor Balcerski scored the debate.  Each side offered compelling commentary on the historical questions of expansion of the American nation, the process of frontier settlement, and the removal of Native Americans.  While both sides faithfully defined their views, Professor Balcerski awarded the win to the “Against” team.  Both sides left with smiles on their face, as seen in the photo taken after the debate.

Students who debated pose for the camera in the American Frontier class

Academic Open House Fair

On Sunday, October 11, 2015, over 600 visitors, prospective students and their families, participated in an Open House at Eastern. Alaiana Torromeo, a History and Social Science major, the Department of History student worker, and a recent recipient of the History Department’s Roth Scholarship, helped to staff the History information booth at the Academic Fair. Together with the Department’s Chair Dr. Anna Kirchmann, they spoke to prospective history majors and their families and answered their questions about the history program and departmental events and activities.

PROFESSOR RICHARD CRANE REMEMBERS HIS YEARS IN THE DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY AT EASTERN

Professor Richard Crane, Benedictine College, Atchison, KS, has shared with us some memories of his years at Eastern, and highlights from his academic career. In an email to Professor Ann Higginbotham he wrote:

“I graduated from Eastern with a BA in History in May 1986. My professors all challenged and inspired me: Thomas Anderson was a master storyteller as well as prodigious scholar; Robert Christensen instilled in me a love for the history of ideas; Lee Langley heightened my appreciation for interdisciplinary research; and Ann Higginbotham, who was a new member of the History Department, broadened my horizons to include social and women’s history.

Thanks in large part to the encouragement of these faculty members, I pursued graduate studies in Modern European History at the University of Connecticut, earning my master’s in May 1987 and receiving the doctorate in August 1994. After a couple of visiting professorships, I joined the faculty at Greensboro College in North Carolina, where I spent sixteen years, most of this time chairing the department and teaching in both the History and Honors programs. In August 2013, I started a new job as Professor of History at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Like the faculty members who taught me at ECSU, undergraduate teaching is my main focus, and my students’ intellectual growth is my greatest joy as a professor. But I have also tried to stay active as a historian, publishing articles and book reviews in The Catholic Historical Review, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, Patterns of Prejudice, The Journal of Church and State, Theological Studies, and other journals. I have also authored two books: A French Conscience in Prague: Louis Eugene Faucher and the Abandonment of Czechoslovakia (1996), and Passion of Israel: Jacques Maritain, Catholic Conscience, and the Holocaust (2010/2014). The latter book was written while I was a visiting fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.”