Thomas Cardoza, Ph.D - My sabbatical project was intended to uncover and develop supplemental resources for the study of Nevada history in the context of Core Humanities 203: American Experience and Constitutional Change. My intent was and remains that these supplemental resources for the study of Nevada history would also be useful for other courses, including but not limited to HIST 101, HIST 102, HIST 111, HIST 217, HIST 251, and HIST 291. Any course that covers any aspect of Nevada history, literature, art, and culture could benefit from at least some of these courses, so even though they are organized and optimized for CH 203, I intend to distribute them fairly widely, and to reach out to faculty across NSHE in a wide variety of disciplines with an offer to use these materials, and to collaborate in the development of additional materials (see “Nevada History and Culture Project” below).
Key aspects of the research and presentation of supplemental resources are as follows:
Interconnectivity: It was my intent to show how Nevada fits into the larger pattern of American history and culture, and include materials showing its connection with its fellow western states.
Transplanting culture: I wanted to show how transplanting people into an area previously inhabited by another culture changed both cultures and the physical landscape.
Nevada Shaping the West/The West Shaping Nevada: I also wanted to help students explore the shaping over two centuries of the West and the Western Experience. Additionally, I wanted to help students explore how Nevada shaped that process, and how that process shaped Nevada.
Discovering the Past in the Context of the Present: We live in an area rich in history, and often we literally pass by or cross over sites of incredible historical significance on a daily basis, yet few are aware of them. A key part of this project is helping students and others to understand that rich historical past, and how it relates to the present. I wanted to:
a. Provide some concrete examples of how to discover history on our very doorsteps.
b. Provide some more generalized advice on how students and faculty can do this on their own, driving around town, hiking in the mountains or desert, or doing casual or serious research online or in local libraries and archives.
Pathways to Civic Engagement: One of the key elements that has come out of system-wide conferences concerning the requirements of CH 203 over the past few years has been the need for “civic engagement”: ways for students to engage actively with our great society, through politics, volunteer work, or other pathways to engagement. So, a key part of this project is a guide to how to go about that, as well as a series of resources and examples for where to go about that. While the list cannot be exhaustive, and while it must be somewhat broad to avoid including detailed but easily outdated materials, its purpose is—similar to the discovering history area—to provide both concrete examples as well as a general method for finding other examples to suit individual students’ tastes and needs. Therefore, while the list of examples provided is an attempt at being exhaustive, its secondary purpose is to allow students to see how their own research could lead them to other engagement opportunities that might be outside the scope of this list. In this sense, like the rest of this project, the goal is not to give students every possible example, but rather to give them the skills to extrapolate generally applicable methods and principles that they can apply to any area of interest to them. This is what the National Research Council refers to as one of the key teaching skills that makes a difference between merely being an instructor and engaging in transformational, inspirational teaching, particularly in history. I believe this aspect of the project is especially crucial, since it goes beyond conveying information, and even beyond inspiring love of learning or further research: it cuts to the heart of what it means to for higher education to produce not just skilled employees but engaged, passionate, and committed citizens, or as the TMCC Values Statement puts it: “Fostering attitudes that exemplify responsible participation in a democratic society.”
Coverage of the United States and Nevada Constitutions: A key provision of CH 203 is that it cover both the US and Nevada Constitutions. However, coverage of these two foundational documents has been uneven over time, and one goal of this project was to uncover and disseminate resources that would insure that:
a. Instructors have adequate OER materials to effectively cover both constitutions at no monetary cost to students.
b. That these materials offer a variety of pathways to achieving the goal in a. above, and a variety of pathways to reach students of different learning styles and in different specific educational contexts.
c. That these efforts serve not as an ending point, but a starting point for an ongoing exploration of how best to achieve continuous improvement in fulfilling the constitutional requirement for CH 203 and other NSHE courses.
II. Overview and Rationale
Resources associated with this project have been divided into epochs of US and Western history and culture, with significant Nevada experiences showcased, and a particular emphasis on Northern Nevada. Since Core Humanities 203 is originally a University of Nevada, Reno course, and it is also taught at Truckee Meadows Community College, Great Basin College, and Western Nevada College, it seemed appropriate to showcase Northern Nevada history and culture as being “local” to the students and faculty, at the very least during the time they are attending institutions that teach CH 203. At the same time, the project acknowledges the importance of the rest of the state and its contributions to shaping Nevada and Nevada’s identity.
I have kept the reading levels of these various materials at a reasonable Community College reading level, since I believe a basic introduction will serve to stimulate the academic and intellectual curiosity for those students who wish to explore further. Indeed, the whole point of the resources presented—in addition to providing supplemental instruction in areas often lacking in national-level textbooks—is to stimulate students to explore more deeply or broadly on their own the rich historical and cultural heritage of the United States and of Nevada.
I have included online videos including YouTube for our current generation of students has grown up with a great emphasis on the video age than previous generations (including my own) emphasis on the written word. I believe that by embracing video, we can overcome the barriers that have often prevented students from engaging with book and article-based scholarship. Students who watch a video on an interesting or exciting subject will be more likely to read a book or article, to visit a library, archive, or museum, and ultimately to engage positively with the wider world of research, scholarship, and learning. The main purpose of this sabbatical project is to encourage students to engage in a proactive and empowering learning experience: one that will continue long after I and the rest of us are gone. A key aspect of that is giving students not just facts and dates, but information, tools, and techniques to take what they know and to transform it research, study, and life experience that can produce further enlightenment, as well as engagement with the written word, with the world around them, and with the society they are a part of.
The uploading of a complete and publicly accessible Library Guide is already underway, though inevitably slowed by the sudden emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated need for Sturm Library to refocus its efforts on assisting with the shift to online classes and the ongoing need to provide support to students and faculty in the new and often unfamiliar environment. The uploading and testing of all materials should be completed over Summer 2020. The materials already online will be of immense value to students and faculty. The complete project, once made available, will be even more so. And of course, this will only be a starting point. I am already in conversations with colleagues at TMCC to start a much larger and more ambitious state-wide collaborative project to research, catalog and make available a much larger body of work on Nevada history and culture. The working title is “The Nevada History and Culture Project,” but I am nearly certain that a group effort can come up with something more exciting and interesting. The idea is to effectively crowdsource a large database of Open Educational Resources for Nevada history and culture, starting with a focus on CH 203 and history courses, but quickly expanding to cover all aspects of Nevada history and culture. The medium-term goal would be to create a collaborative, customizable, and free set of modules and chapters for a textbook for CH 203 that could be adapted to a variety of needs and uses depending on the instructor and students. This would all be housed online, and available to the public. With dozens of scholars working on this project, we could quickly create a much larger database and take another step toward freeing NHSE students and faculty from national-level US History textbooks that are only marginally suitable for our unique course about our unique state. I have already received enthusiastic responses from some of my colleagues, and over the summer I will be reaching out to specialists across the state, including professors, archivists, museum specialists, and non-profit organizations as well as Nevada Humanities to form a consortium aimed at revolutionizing Nevada’s teaching about Nevada. This will be a long-term, ongoing project much bigger than any one person or any one person’s career or lifespan. For the moment, what I have will serve; for the future, this sabbatical project will have proven to be just a starting point for a much larger effort.