Despite the inclement weather the University of North Dakota is scheduled to unveil a strange kind of monument today: a bust of George Walsh (here’s the genuinely bizarre press release). Walsh is one of the “founding fathers” of eastern North Dakota and was responsible for the siting of the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. His interest in the locating of the University was largely economic, and he used his political power (and audacity) in the provincial legislature to beat out Jamestown and other competing sites for the location of the school. Walsh was a relative of Captian Alexander Griggs who ran the local steamboat line and himself owned the local paper, the Plainsdealer, and served as the president of the town council when Grand Forks was founded in 1878. Walsh county is named in his honor.
Once the university was founded, Walsh ensured that the school continued to receive appropriations from the state legislature throughout the late 19th century. Moreover, he served as the first secretary of the board of regents for UND. (It is fun to imagine that he recorded the minutes of the first meetings in his elegant hand). More importantly, perhaps, he penned the first history of the founding of the University which President Webster Merrifield incorporated into the first “Founder’s Day” celebration at the University’s 21st birthday in 1904 (Geiger, 178).
From a historical standpoint, then, Walsh followed the tradition of writing himself into the history of the university at the moment where the young school was most intent on creating new “invented traditions”. This is not to discredit Walsh’s contribution to the founding of the university, but to place the creating myth of the school within its proper context.
“… Walsh was deeply involved in the complicated intrigues and politics of the crucial legislative session of 1883 at Yankton where so much of the present educational and institutional pattern of both Dakotas was set. Ordway had fired the opening gun in his annual message, in which he recommended the establishment of territorial institutions in the north. The next step, which had been prearranged, was to split the southern dedication, which was in overwhelming majoring in both houses – ten to three in the Council. With the approval of Ordway and the northern crowd, J.O.B. Scobey of Brookings was quickly elected president of the Council. The South Dakota break was further exploited when Walsh after some talk of removing the capital to an entirely new town site on the open prairie, introduced a bill to move it from Yankton to Huron, also in the south.
In late January, while Walsh was held up by a blizzard in St. Paul, where he had gone on a short business trip, the South Dakota group attempted to re-form their lines by making overturns to S. G. Roberts and Jonston Nickeus, the representative from Fargo and Jamestown, who were not satisfied with the plans for the north. They introduced their own set of bills appropriating a half a million dollars for institutions, most of them in the south. Walsh hastily returned and pulled together his wavering northern colleagues, apparently by accepting a proposal that they draw lots for the university, agricultural college, and the insane asylum and penitentiary. (He wrote years later: “I took the University, Jamestown the insane asylum and Fargo took the agricultural college. The penitentiary went to Bismarck.”). He then counterattacked by promising the north’s support for establishment of an agricultural college at Brookings, Scobey’s town, and for appropriations to launch the Dakota University established at Vermillion in 1862 and the normals established by the 1881 Assembly at Spearfish and Madison.
With his lines partially re-formed, Walsh managed to bury the South Dakota institutional bills in the appropriations committee, of which he was chairman. Fearing that his still restive northern colleagues might yet walk off with the prize, he hastily introduced into the legislative hopper some blank sheets of paper inscribed “a bill for an Act Locating the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, N.D., and Providing Government thereto.” In the two days required for first and second readings, which were by title only, Walsh prepared the bill modeled on the University of Wisconsin act and substituted it for the dummy when it was routinely referred to his appropriations committee. As he put it: “No one would be any wiser, and no harm would be done by anyone, and I would get my bill ahead of Fargo or Jamestown, which I succeeded in doing. The Jamestown member was very much disappointed.”
What is interesting to me is that Walsh’s bust – situated outside of the administrative building – will be one of the few monuments to a specific individual on campus here (aside from names on buildings). On historical grounds, it is curious that he’d be chosen. While there is no doubt that his energies helped the university survive its formative years, one could easily argue that personalities like President’s Webster Merrifield or Frank McVey or even John C. West had a more transformative influence on the institution as a place of higher learning.
In contrast, Walsh’s unique contribution seems to have been acts of arguably rather self-serving political cunning, and the opportunity to write himself into the history of a university at the moment when it was looking to establish a set of traditions around which to forge an identity. It is perhaps not coincidental that Walsh’s lonely bust is being dedicated at a time when the University continues to seek an identity and forge distinct traditions in the competitive world of higher education. In fact, it’s hard not to think that the decision to commemorate this little known founder of the University suggests a gentle touch of irony from that least ironic of institutions: the University administration.
On Thursday, the Working Group in Digital and New Media at the University of North Dakota will host its first open house and release to its various stake holders its first Annual Report. The open house will run from 12-1 pm in the Working Group Lab 203 O’Kelly Hall. The open house and report seek to highlight the activities of the Working Group over their first year. There is still a bunch of work to maximize the potential of this group, but there is momentum and opportunities for collaboration abound!
Since readers of this blog participated in some way in the development of the Working Group (loyal readers probably remember these posts: Potential for Digital Humanities at UND, A Digital Humanities White Paper, and Selling the Working Group in Digital and New Media), I thought it was fair to leak a version of our Annual Report on my blog. The various members of the Working Group contributed to the Annual Report, I edited it, and Joel Jonientz designed it.
Here’s the executive summary from the Annual Report:
The Working Group in Digital and New Media emerged as the result of funding awarded from the President’s call for collaborative and transdisciplinary white papers in his New Initiative funding program. The Working Group is dedicated to the support and development of digital and new media projects across the disciplines on campus. Beginning in the spring of 2009, the Working Group has created a laboratory space uniquely suited to collaborative digital and new projects developed across campus. To date these projects have brought together contributors from the departments of Art and Design, Music, History, English, and Computer Science, as well as the Chester Fritz Library and the ITSS High Performance Computing Cluster. Faculty and students have produced a dynamic and diverse group of projects ranging from video shorts, musical compositions, to online and gallery museum exhibitions and collections, and blogs. Statistically, the Working Group projects accounted for over 2500 person/hours of work, over 15 faculty and student collaborators, and close to 20 major creative and research projects. The Working Group created the intellectual and technological infrastructure necessary for over $35,000 of internal and external grants in its first year alone. In the hyper-competitive realm of non-STEM funding, the collaborative infrastructure Working Group in Digital and New Media gives faculty in the arts and humanities a significant edge. The transdisciplinary research, creative activities, and teaching of the Working Group’s members will continue to leverage the common space of the Working Group Laboratory to expand collaborative research and creative activities on campus.
And here is the Annual Report:
A cute little woodpecker feasting on whatever he was finding in the trees in our windbreak. My wife took the photos.
Yesterday my History 240 class spent the afternoon at the Elywn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections. This is always a good time for me because not only do I get to enjoy the University Archivist, Curt Hanson’s, sense of humor, but I also get to root around in special collections. Yesterday, I decided to read a Merrifield Award Winning Essay by a former Department of History Doctor of the Arts student, Ken Smith who now teaches at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND. I had a chance to meet Ken at the Northern Great Plains History Conference last week, and our brief chat reminded me to check out his essay.
The essay is entitled: “UND’s Joseph Kennedy and the Allure of Psychical Research”, and it provides a fascinating (and creepy!) insight into the early 20th century interest in psychic and paranormal research. Kennedy was a member of the “second Merrifield Faculty” who was hired during Webster Merrifield’s term as university president in 1892. He followed Horace B. Woodworth as the main faculty member responsible for teaching philosophy and education and in 1901 he became the Dean of the Normal College. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1928. While his primary area of expertise was education – particularly secondary and rural education, he was influenced heavily by the psychological and philosophical works of William James.
According to Smith’s work, Kennedy’s interest in James paved the way for his critical interest in psychical research. This interest culminated with a visit to Dr. James H. Hyslop in Boston. Hyslop was the director of the American Society of Psychical Research which was a group founded by Richard Hodgson who was a colleague and correspondent of William James. During Kennedy’s visit to Boston, Hyslop arranged for him to meet with a medium named “Mrs. Chenowith” who apparently sought to contact Kennedy’s family and friends who had passed to the other side. Unlike many mediums of her day, Mrs. Chenowith wrote out the messages that she received from the other side.
Apparently the messages that Mrs. Chenowith communicated to Kennedy exist in the UND archives, although I have not yet had a chance to find them. Kennedy struggled to understand and interpret the messages and initiated an almost two decade correspondence with Hyslop in the process. As Smith points out, the correspondence, while always cordial, were not without tension. Kennedy found the work of the medium unconvincing and Hyslop was not necessary amendable to that interpretation.
Kennedy remained critically agnostic about the possibilities of parapsychological and spiritual phenomena his entire life. He was open to the ideas enough to conduct his own research, but critical enough to probe ideas and occurrences quite deeply. Smith, for example, recounts an episode when Raymond Hitchcock, a professor of Mathematics, sought Kennedy out to analyze a lucid dream. In the dream, Hitchcock saw a home that he then encountered in real life some time later. Kennedy resisted the temptation to attribute the dream to psychical phenomena attributing it instead to the power of the unconscious mind (although he stopped short of seeing the dream as an expression of an unfulfilled wish in a Freudian sense).
Horace B. Woodworth will make an appearance at tomorrow’s Northern Great Plains History Conference in a panel called History of and History at the University of North Dakota. He’ll be joined by Orin G. Libby (via Gordon Iseminger) and a historical cast from the Department of Social Work (via Bret Weber). They’ll all gather at the Ramada here in Grand Forks at 9 am tomorrow (Thursday, October 14, 2010).
Bret’s paper and mine come from our efforts to document the history of the University for the 125th-aversary last year. Gordon Iseminger’s paper will come from his book project on the life and times of Orin G. Libby.
It’s nice to have papers representing the history of the University because the Northern Great Plains conference was founded by members of the Department at UND. Here’s the text from my history of the department (it doesn’t add much):
There are several other development of note during the 1960s that demonstrate the position of the department both at the university and in the greater intellectual community. First, in 1966 the Department developed the Northern Great Plains History Conference. This conference, initially a cooperative venture with the University of Manitoba, sought to provide a venue for scholars based in the Northern Plains to present their work as it was often prohibitively expensive to attend national meetings. The initial conference in 1966 was held in the Memorial Union and attracted over 150 scholars. In subsequent years attendance grew further. While many of the papers focused on the history of the Northern Plains, it included panels on other topics as well. This conference also improved the department’s visibility in a regional context as the conference frequently attracted scholars from more prominent universities like Wisconsin and Minnesota. Over the next decade, the responsibilities for the conference were shared between the faculty of the department and other schools in the area. The conference continues to be a viable academic conference to this day.
And here’s my paper:
Over the last 6 months, the University of North Dakota has been working to release an updated and upgraded website. As part of this process, every department has been asked to reconsider its web site. The Department of History’s website is, frankly, horrible, but, at the same time, it is clear that the website functioned successfully as the main point of contact for prospective graduate students. In some sense, the site is horribly broken, but it still gets the job done.
The challenge now is to re-design the content and the organization of the department’s website without undermining its basic functionality.
First, we’ve been experimenting with some new text for the home page. This is where we are at present (nothing is finer than a text created by a committee!):
From the earliest days of the University of North Dakota, history faculty have played an important part in preparing students to be engaged citizens of their communities, the state, and the world. Today the department remains committed to teaching the past and developing in our students the reading, writing, and critical thinking skills necessary to take their place in an increasingly global world. Each faculty member is an active researcher in their respective fields, and brings fresh perspectives on different cultures and ideas into the classes they teach.
The department offers the B.A., M.A., Ph.D. as well as a D.A. program. These programs are supported by a diverse faculty whose active research interests span every period in American history as well as in West Africa, the Atlantic world, Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern European history. Faculty approach these periods with from diverse perspectives ranging from biography to the study of military, diplomatic, social and intellectual history and an emphasis on race, gender, and women as categories of historical analysis. Faculty and student research draw upon textual analysis, the study of material culture, quantitative and data driven methods, and oral history to bring the past alive.
The department supports both undergraduate and graduate student engagement in the discipline through a strong regional archive with collections of national significance, the largest library between Minneapolis and Seattle, the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta, several annual lectures, and editorship of the Oral History Review.
We also hope to include pages devoted the faculty bios and a page with plain text descriptions of our undergraduate and graduate programs.
As readers of this blog know, I get pretty excited about various projects that seek to open up research and teaching to the general public. I have a naive faith that the public is interested in what we as scholars do and a commitment to trying to meet them half-way in explaining my research, interests, and discipline. I am not always sure that I succeed in making my research accessible, but, as I hope this blog testifies, I certainly try.
As part of this commitment, I’ve been mulling over a way to offer my classes to the public for free. It’s easy enough to make content available; I post my podcasts and usually syllabi here, list the books and topics of my classes, and even report on my pedagogical successes and failures. These efforts, however, are a one way window into my courses. With the exception of the occasional blog post from loyal readers or past students, I don’t get much feedback from students because the media that I have used to communicate my course material is not designed to foster the kind of dynamic interaction that a full-featured online course, for example, or a classroom discussion requires.
A recent notice in the Chronicle of Higher Education and a quick read of Mark Taylor’s new book, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities (New York 2010), once again rekindled my interest in imagining a different way to teach. In a moment of excitement, I sent an email to one of the “powers-that-be” on campus and pitched an idea that the University of North Dakota offer some free classes on-line, open to anyone who signs up (for no credit) as well as paying students (for credit). I pitched the idea to some of my trusted interlocutors here and got some good responses, and now have a meeting set up with some folks on the technical side of developing this idea as well as folks on the administrative side.
I even have imagined a name for this venture: The Institute for Open Learning at the University of North Dakota.
The programs would look for intellectual and technical support from folks with existing expertise on campus and seek to build alliances that encourage the development of contemporary, sophisticated, and varied course material for large scale online teaching opportunities on the web. As I have argued in an earlier blog post, teaching an open online class with for-credit students enrolled will offer unique opportunities for students to simultaneously experience life within and outside the university classroom. As Taylor and others have suggested, bridging the gap between the life within the academy and life outside the academy is a vital way to keep what we do here relevant and, at the same time, communicate and reinforce core academic values to a broader audience. I remain optimistic that if more people saw what goes on in a university classroom, they would be more able to understand the value in a university education.
And, unlike most of flights of fancy, I even have something of a funding model: At present the university splits funds collected from an online instruction fee with the college who then usually passes some of these funds onto individual departments. In effect, departments have a financial incentive to teach online classes. What I’d want to do is to capture a sliver of the funding that the University collects from these online classes and use that to offer incentives to faculty to develop and teach open classes.
Ok. That’s not a great plan, but there’s more. My idea of an Institute for Open Learning is mostly altruistic, but part of it imagines that these open classes can serve as marketing vehicles for both various programs as well as the university’s efforts at online teaching in general. In fact, I’d go so far to say that these classes could come to represent the University’s commitment to the local and global community as well as showcase the truly exceptional teachers on campus. In order to make the link between the universities outreach and marketing goals and the course content clear, the courses would be available for advertising. These advertisement would have to adhere to certain standards of taste and would have to come from approved sources (mostly, I suspect in house, but it could extend to various approved groups like the local art museum or the local visitor bureau). For example, each page might have a banner type advertisement for the Graduate School or for The College of Business and Public Administration. In addition, there could be simple introductions to each podcast or video lecture which feature a brief advertisement much in the same way that NPR introduces segments of its programing with a plug for the title sponsor. These advertisement could be relatively inexpensive since our overhead would be relatively low. And a significant percentage of the revenue could go toward course development, faculty recruitment, and advertising for the Institute.
Over time, I could imagine offering 4-6 class a year over the spring, fall, and summer semesters. If the Institute is successful, these course could develop a following and a significant group of engaged and interested learners. This group of learners could also be an audience for various other programs at the university – some of them, like local and visiting lectures, conferences and colloquia (like the Writers Conference), and events would be free – while others like new certificate programs or distance programs in allied fields would be for credit and involve a fee.
I have a meeting tomorrow the begin the process of pitching this idea. Like most of my great ideas (ahem), I suspect that my excitement has led me to overlook some kind of fatal flaw in my plan, but until then I am going to just enjoy the excitement of a new idea.
My wife has recently stripped the doors in our house and has begun to repaint them. Like most turn of the century homes in the area, they have wooden doors. These doors are substantial, hang poorly (in most cases) and preserve the history of the house in through the marks in the door.
The archaeology of the house is preserved in the house itself.
This door shows at least four different lock and works on the door preserved under multiple coats of paint.
The evidence for an earlier latch:
In this detail you can see the outline of the earlier doorplate, cylinder, and lock.
An upstairs door show another set of interesting marks preserving tiny bits of the houses history. The elegant doorplate and crystal doorknob probably date to the earliest years of the house. While the floors upstairs in our house are fir as opposed to the floors downstairs which are a more luxurious maple, the doorknob and plate show certain concessions to display in the more private quarters of the house. Of course, a nice doorknob and plate is an easy addition to a house at some later date, but the floors on the second floor are more or less permanent.
Evidence for the use of a simple latch on the inside of the door. The door must have been pushed open a few times because it’s clear that someone forced the door open, striping the simply threaded latch, and causing someone to drive the latch back into the door again in a slightly different place.
I’ve documented on this blog the work to renovate the second floor of O’Kelly Hall where the Department of History now resides. Most of this has come from a well-meaning, but misguided efforts to impose corporate order on a creative space. (For more see here and here and here)
So, I was ecstatic yesterday morning to see the first reappearing of public art in the newly renovated second floor of O’Kelly. It appeared above the wood “accent line”, in a little awkward space below the sloping ceiling of a stair well. It’s a modest start. I have no idea who did it. But it is fantastic to see something public and creative in the newly sanitized O’Kelly hall way.
I feel myself becoming more creative and less corporate already. Now back to grading.
This past week, a public records request went out on campus for all of our syllabi for the Spring and Fall 2010. My first thought was: if they really want my syllabi or to have an idea what I am teaching in my classes they should just go to my blog or web site. Putting aside the inefficiency of doing that for every faculty member across campus, it made me think a bit about how blogging made our work at the university more transparent and how important this could be in a day-in-age when the university, and public education more broadly, is under the duel threat of declining resources and elevated (and perhaps unrealistic) expectations.
I was asked some months ago by a person in our admissions office here, what is was, exactly, that I did. After recovering briefly from the shock that this person would not be intimately familiar with my brilliant academic career (cough, cough), I tried to explain why it was that I needed to be in my office over the weekend and what it meant when I said that I was swamped by data.
More recently, I’ve encouraged my public history students to write a blog, and they have, more or less, here. One of the blog posts considers the difficulty in understanding community in the age of internet and easy travel. We tend to imagine communities that revolve around shared values or even experiences rather than any physical proximity. As a result, it is not only possible, but likely that someone in the admissions office here would not know what people at the university did even though they worked less than 200 m from their offices. On the other hand, it is likely that this individual knows well what folks in the admission offices at other universities around the country or the world do.
Finally, there is a recent initiative on campus to engage more fully with the local community. This is partially a response to the flap over the name and logo here, but it may also be a genuine effort to bridge the gap between the “town and gown” and to recognize our common ground and our shared resources
These conversations got me thinking about how my blogs function within our spatially local community and whether they serve as a point of contact between people here in Grand Forks, in North Dakota or even just at my home university. A blog authored by a class offered by Kostis Kourelis, for example, has succeeded in helping bridge the gap between his home university (Franklin and Marshall College) and the community in Lancaster. My blog — with its tendency to focus on Mediterranean archaeology — has not captured the public attention as effectively.
Teaching Thursday, on the other hand, was explicitly designed for the University of North Dakota community tends to be read as much by folks elsewhere as by folks here on campus. While this accomplishes the goal of improving the transparency of university level teaching methods, it does not necessarily present what is happening here on campus in a way that is of interest to the local community or in a way that attracts to community’s attention.
Recent interest in geolocating and enhanced reality as major additions to the social media arsenal will certainly improve our ability to local our blogs spatially. Services like Foursquare already leverage the social network of Twitter and GPS receivers built into new mobile phones to establish spatially local connections on the internet. Enhanced reality applications like Layar enables an individual to view a very simple “enhanced reality” and a GIS interface updated in real time to view the social media, local businesses, and even tags left by other users embedded in space. In the near future, people will be able to locate our blogs spatially and use space to mark out a relationship to a community. In fact, our ability to localize our blogs will make it easier (it is, of course, possible now) to demonstrate (or even produce) relationships between the specific place where the blog is located (or composed, hosted, or even “anchored”) and places discussed by the blogger.
The advantage of our ability to embed our blogs within real, lived space is that we will be better able to recognize the place of the new media in relation to our local selves. Our work will continue to be available and of interest to anyone with access to the World Wide Interwebs, but we’ll better be able to localize ourselves spatially and demonstrate the global links present in to our local, lived, communities.