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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

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History organizations bring awareness to University and community through journals and lectures


Flip through the content of The Ohio University Undergraduate Journal of History (OUUJOH) and one quickly discovers this isn’t a standard undergraduate journal. Featuring articles covering topics from attitudes toward malaria in the US-occupied Philippines, 1916 Ireland and the Hungarian Revolution, it's not exactly light, Sunday morning reading.

With its first issue published in spring 2011, the journal has included articles by students from across the country and world. Since then, OUUJOH has received articles from students at Ohio University, Yale University and Victoria University in New Zealand.

“Two years ago, a group of students approached the faculty with the idea of launching an online journal that would be dedicated to publishing undergraduate research in history,” said Marina Dantas, a member of the College of Arts and Sciences' history faculty and former faculty member of the journal’s editorial board. “We were all very impressed that they were willing to entertain such a challenging project.”

Articles are accepted for publication throughout the year, but historians wanting to be considered for same-year publication need to submit their work in the early fall. OUUJOH sends their call for articles through mass emails to Ohio University history undergraduates and recent graduates and to members of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honors society. The organization also posts on H-net, which is a global network for people interested in social sciences.

Though some of the journal’s founding members have graduated, original members still serve on the editorial board, including editor-in-chief Sara Fisher, who also serves as president of the Ohio University History Association (OUHA), a separate organization. Although not all members of OUHA serve on the OUUJOH’s editorial board, all undergraduate members of the editorial board contribute to OUHA.

As a history major, Fisher first got involved with OUHA to find people with common interests. The organization members’ laid-back and welcoming personalities encouraged Fisher to get more involved and to network with other students and faculty in the history department.

“OUHA is the bridge that connects graduate students and professors to undergraduate students," Fisher said. “A lot of the members of OUHA are involved with the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, so we’re able to bridge the gap between students and the community.”

Brittany Venturella, treasurer of OUHA and editor for OUUJOH, joined the organizations not only for the shared interests, but also for the experience and opportunities provided.

“I am a history and strategic communications double-major. OUHA tries to take everyone's different talents and bring them together to make our events successful,” Venturella said. “Also, you can take a leadership role and get involved early in your college career through OUHA.”

Another benefit Venturella discovered while working with OUHA and the OUUJOH was the significance of Athens in the state and country’s history.

“No matter where you are, history surrounds you,” she said. “However, Athens has a particularly rich history from hosting the first university in the Northwestern Territory to the asylum to the coal mines in the area to presidents visiting the university, and the list goes on.”

Along with Fisher and Venturella, other members of the Ohio University History Association have carved out their own distinct niche in Athens and are working to promote an interest in history with the entire community. Besides the journal and their work with the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, OUHA also hosts public lectures every spring. Because those lectures are open to the University and the Athens community, Fisher believes it provides an opportunity for OUHA to contribute to community-university relationships.

Faculty are taking note.

“Through the creation of the journal, and the OUHA lecture series, our
students have done a superb job of expanding opportunities for academic involvement and professionalizing experiences for our majors and other history-enthusiasts from the OHIO student body,” said Dantas.

Although OUHA and OUUJOH are composed of mainly history majors, both organizations welcome students of all majors. Through Fisher’s involvement in the history department, she’s learned one crucial thing: What’s in the past affects the present and future

“If you look back at certain events in history, they’ve influenced and shaped major events of our present,” Fisher said. “By analyzing and studying history, you’re able to improve your understanding of today, and you can also expand that to how we can learn from the past to better the future.”