Cameron University history students win accolades at state conference

Cameron University history majors Christopher Ellwanger and Sandi M. Colby presented papers and won awards at the 2018 Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians/Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference, held earlier this month at the University of Central Oklahoma. Both presented papers in the Undergraduate/U.S. History category.

Ellwanger, Lawton, earned second place honors with his paper, “The Divergent Nature of the American Soul: Republican Imperialism.”

“My paper is centered around America’s annexation of the Philippines and the ramifications that occurred from U.S. involvement on those islands,” Ellwanger says. “It begins by looking at the reasons behind the annexation from the view of the policymakers circa 1900, then shows a shift of public opinion that occurred once stories of U.S. Armed Forces troops engaged in atrocities against the Filipinos began to make their way back stateside.”

Ellwanger explains that he selected this as a research topic because studying revolutions has been an interest of his for some time

Colby, Banning, Calif., placed third with “Helen Churchill Candee and Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown: Challengers to the Polarized Female ‘Types’ of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.”

“American women during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (approx. 1870 to 1920) had very specific roles in society,” Colby explains. “The traditional role was that of the loving wife and mother who took care of the home and the more progressive role was that of the politically active and/or working woman, but these roles were viewed as contradictory; women were often labeled as one or the other, but rarely both. By studying the lives of two women of the period, Helen Churchill Candee and Margaret Brown, it becomes apparent that the women did not conform to one label or the other but lived their lives in ways that showed characteristics of both types.”

Colby says that she chose this topic due to her love of exploring women’s actions and contributions within the broader context of their historical period.

 “One thing I noticed was that many concepts, events, and people of the time were being spoken of in generic and contradicting terms, as mentioned in the description of my paper,” Colby says. “I wanted to explore if those descriptions held up when applied to individual women and, as expected, they did not. In reality, the women were much more interesting because they were a mix of characteristics and not just one of the ‘types.’”   

Conducting undergraduate research is a vital component of most Cameron degree programs.

“Undertaking an undergraduate research project is a valuable experience for any student,” says Travis Childs, an instructor in the Department of Social Sciences. “Not only do they learn to apply critical thinking skills in assessing and analyzing data and information from a multitude of resources, they also have the opportunity to gain experience in public speaking as they make public presentations of their research. Christopher and Sandi each excelled in presenting their research, and they were rewarded for their efforts.”

Ellwanger says that the most challenging part of his research process was locating the original speeches made by politicians and policy-makers as they pertained to his topic. He was able to locate numerous resources at the Bizzell Memorial Library at the University of Oklahoma.

“I strengthened my research skills because information on one of the women was hard to find and I had to explore alternative ways of learning about her,” Colby says. “I found Candee to be such an interesting figure that she is the subject of a follow-up paper for my Oklahoma History class this semester. I have also had the opportunity to speak with professionals, both during the research process and at the conference, who are knowledgeable about this topic and these women, which will be a huge benefit as I move forward in my education and work toward my publication goals. In addition to all the academic benefits, this project was also fun because it gave me an opportunity to indulge a bit in one of my favorite topics. Both women were survivors of the Titanic disaster, and it was great to be able to do some research about the ship and a couple of its passengers.”

Colby plans to pursue a graduate degree and hopes to teach history at the college level. Ellwanger will be relocating to Portland, Oregon, where he will continue his studies.

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March 16, 2018