Over the course of my academic career at the University of Nebraska, no other experience rivaled the experience I had with the History Harvest project. No other educational experience sparked my interest or helped me refine key skills quite like it. It was particularly gratifying to be a part of a team of individuals working toward a unified goal. My experience with the History Harvest project increased my understanding of the rich and diverse histories and cultures of Lincoln’s refugees and helped establish stronger links between our campus community and a largely invisible subset of the local population.
Without a doubt, my career aspirations following college have been affected as a result of my involvement with the History Harvest project. In addition to the tangible results of the refugee harvest that I participated in – the various interviews and objects we collected – each of us also gained practical skills that, I strongly believe, are much more effectively taught in this innovative educational setting than in a traditional lecture-based setting. Among the skills students cultivated over the course of the project were: community outreach and organizing; media relations; oral history practices; historical analysis; film and photography techniques; and, digital archiving. Each of these key skills has a practical application within, but also beyond historical work. For me, these skills will be important as I embark on my first post-college job as a member of Americorps in San Francisco.
So, as I begin the next chapter of my life beyond the university, having left my home state for new places, new people, and new experiences, I take with me the various lessons I received as a part of the History Harvest project. These experiences have set me apart from many of my peers who have not had the benefit of such a unique educational opportunity and I can see a number of ways they will continue to be meaningful to me, personally and professionally, as I continue along my path.
Miles McClain was an undergraduate student in the Lincoln Refugee History Harvest course held at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Fall 2012 semester.