Exploring Diversity and Student Political Activism through Archival Research

Exploring Diversity and Student Political Activism through Archival Research

By Laurel ElderHartwick College and Shelley WallaceHartwick College

In 2011, the American Political Science Association stated that integrating issues of diversity, inclusiveness, and equality into political science curriculum and pedagogy was crucial to the success of the discipline in the twenty-first century. Although consensus is forming about the need to teach diversity, the question of how to do this effectively remains open. This article describes an archives-based assignment in an introduction to American government course created by the authors of this article—a professor of political science and the college archivist—that includes greater understanding of diversity and engaged citizenship as learning objectives. For this assignment, students are immersed in archival material about their own college and tasked with analyzing the political actions of previous generations of students as the civil rights and women’s movements emerged, as the student population became more diverse, and as the campus reacted to national and local events relating to racial intolerance and injustice. By examining their college’s political past—both the conflicts that animated the community and the student-led efforts to make the campus more inclusive—current students engage with issues of diversity and political activism in a way that helps them better understand themselves and their role as citizens in a democratic nation.

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