News

Community College Faculty Encouraged by Seminar on Transoceanic Exchanges

Brandon C. Schneider and Debbie Ann Doyle, October 2003

This past July, the American Historical Association, the Library of Congress, and the Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) sponsored a seminar for community college faculty entitled "Trans-Oceanic Exchanges." The seminar, the third in a series of summer seminars funded by the Ford Foundation, brought community college and research university faculty together to discuss new developments in global history. The most recent seminar focused on oceans and seas not as boundaries, but as unifiers of states, empires, and peoples. Organizers encouraged participants to take comparative, cross-cultural, systematic, and global approaches. A major purpose was to explore contemporary globalization in historical context and the historical processes that drive globalization, as well as the way in which globalization and fragmentation affects the definition of areas and regions.

The seminar was designed to give community college faculty an opportunity to conduct primary research and become familiar with the latest historical research, enhancing the teaching of history at their home institutions. Participants and seminar organizers agreed that programs like this could encourage community college administration to recognize that faculty research enhances teaching and learning at every level of the academy. Seminar participant Mary Bruce Piering (Pikes Peak Community College) appreciated the recognition that "community college students deserve high-quality instruction by instructors that care deeply about their subject." Participants used their time in Washington to research articles and redesign curricula. In the coming months, they will present their projects to their colleagues and communities.

Participants praised the seminar for giving them time for research and professional development, too often precluded by the heavy teaching load at community colleges. Some participants prepared articles for publication, while others will present their research at the CCHA National Conference and in a CCHA-sponsored session at the 2004 AHA annual meeting. Several participants came from institutions with rudimentary library resources, and appreciated the opportunity to become familiar with the electronic resources of the Library of Congress. While there were some complaints about the dormitory housing, participants appreciated the opportunity to focus on research and spend time with a "motivated and talented" group of colleagues, as Jim Davis (Mt. San Jacinto College) observed.

As at previous summer seminars, seven guest lecturers discussed the latest historiography on global history, providing a framework for individual research projects. The emphasis on interactions across oceans suggested one possible framework for teaching international history. Previous seminars focused on "Explorations in Empire" and "Globalizing Regional Studies." Two research conferences, "Interactions: Regional Studies, Global Processes, and Historical Analysis" and "Seascapes, Littoral Cultures, and Trans-Oceanic Exchanges," were organized by the project steering committee, which includes representatives of the AHA, the Community College Humanities Association, the Library of Congress, the World History Association, the Middle East Studies Association, the African Studies Association, the Latin American Studies Association, the Conference on Latin American History, and the Association for Asian Studies. The committee is exploring funding opportunities for a possible future seminar on globalizing American history.

—Brandon C. Schneider is a graduate student at Georgetown University and was the Seascapes project assistant. Debbie Ann Doyle staffs the globalizing regional history project.