W&J history class creates exhibit based on veteran interviews

Created: December 12, 2019
Last Updated: April 2, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 12, 2019)—History students at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) found great teachers outside the classroom in local Vietnam War veterans, whose stories are now part of an exhibit at the Clark Family Library.

This semester, the students in Assistant Professor of History David Kieran’s HIS 337 Course, “The US War in Vietnam,” conducted oral history interviews with five local Vietnam veterans through a partnership with the Veterans’ Breakfast Club (VBC). The VBC’s motto, “Every Veteran Has a Story,” is the title of an exhibit the students designed using these stories as well as photographs to showcase the diverse experiences and perspectives of these men.

The student’s exhibit opened Dec. 10 in the lower level of the Clark Family Library and will remain open into the spring semester.

Students in Dr. Kieran’s class appreciated the non-traditional approach to learning.

“It was interesting to work in this setting,” Sammy Massimino ’21 said. “We were able to take what we were reading and apply what we learned in the classroom to our interview questions. It was a good reminder that it’s not just something you read in a book; these veterans are real people and their stories are a part of history.”

To complete the project, the students worked in class on their interview technique and created questions to ask the veterans. Through the interviews, compiling the responses, and creating the exhibit, the students earned a lot of practical experience that they can take with them beyond the classroom.

“The greatest gain from the project was the ability to connect with people who lived through history. Anyone can read about and take a test on these things, but getting first hand stories was really viable for learning new research methods and just to learn more in general,” Robby Heberle ’21 said. “As a history major, this isn’t something you usually do in classes. It’s definitely a big asset to the College.”

 

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