A requirement for all Walla Walla University students to graduate is to complete a senior project; for History students, this entails writing a 20 to 30-page paper on a topic, related to their specific major.
Throughout the senior seminar sequence, students learn from Hilary Dickerson and Gregory Dodds, professors of History at Walla Walla University, about historiography, how to find sources, and how to write a history paper. At the end of spring quarter during their senior year, the students present their papers in front of professors and peers.
Carmen Lopez, a senior history and pre-law major, looked at the economic and political relations between the U.S. and Cuba from 1959 to 1962, specifically focusing on the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion as the turning point for the worst in their history.
Lopez discovered over the course of her research that the Central Intelligence Agency commissioned several reports to be written about the Bay of Pigs. Historian Jack Pfeiffer wrote five large volumes of reports, but because his narrative did not align with that of the government, the fifth volume was only released recently in 2016 due to an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act.
Through research and in-class lectures, Lopez learned “to not just look at the main perspective, but to research further into how did this affect the everyday man. To get a better aspect and to question things for yourself; don’t just take them as the media gives them out.”
Jack Stinson, also a senior history and pre-law major, reported on two supreme court cases—United States v. Cruikshank and United States v. Reese—and looked at the precedent they set for the U.S taking a hands-off approach towards segregation in the Jim Crow south. Stinson argues in his paper that these two cases are responsible for a shift in the way the federal government viewed reconstruction legislation and the protection of African American rights in the United States.
Stinson chose this topic because he plans to attend law school in the fall and wanted to incorporate a legal aspect to his paper. Further, taking a history class from professor Terrie Aamodt about civil war reconstruction piqued his interest.
Over the course of working on his senior project, Stinson learned that “no matter how much research you do in something or how much of an expert you feel like you are on a topic, you will constantly run into someone or some source that has more information than you,” he continued, “I think that is reflective of history as a whole and also life in general.”
Posted June 8, 2021.