Disrupting Institutional Power: Participant Case Statements

Disrupting Institutional Power is a Working Group designed for the 2018 Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History. The Working Group facilitators are Denise D. Meringolo, University of Maryland Baltimore County; Elizabeth Nix, The University of Baltimore; Eli Pousson, Baltimore Heritage; Kathryn Oberdeck, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Devin Hunter, University of Illinois, Springfield; and Anke Voss, The Urbana Free Library.

We have four interrelated goals: to identify barriers and opportunities for cross-institutional partnerships in public history education; to document new and ongoing experiments in collaboration across traditional institutional lines, challenging preconceived notions of power and authority; to draw attention to the way these practices might transform both the field of public history and institutions of higher learning, by making them more broadly inclusive; and to craft formal proposals for one or more pilot programs.

The Working Group participants are Taylor Bye, University of Missouri – Kansas City; Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University; Eric Nystrom, Arizona State University; Mary Rizzo, Rutgers University-Newark; Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska, American University-Department of History; Sarah Scripps, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; and Sarah Soleim, North Carolina State University.

Prior to our meeting in Las Vegas, NV, in April, 2018, the Working Group facilitators will lead an online dialogue. This pre-conference discussion is intended to establish a strong foundation for our in-person meeting.

This is the first of three posts that will compose that dialogue.

Working Group participants:  please share your case statements by submitting it as a comment on this post. Your statement should be between 500 and 750 words, and it should connect your own work and interests to some or all of the questions posed in the original working group call. In other words, tell us what drew you to this Working Group and how precisely you think you can contribute to the achievement of its goals.

The questions are as follows:

Is it possible to disrupt lines of power that establish universities as individual and discrete entities in order to establish deeply collaborative opportunities for teaching and learning? How might university-community partnerships broaden horizontally, bringing together faculty, students, and organizations across a variety of borders? Is there evidence we can present to Department Chairs and University Administrators that might allay fears of competition? Might cross-institutional partnerships help departments clarify and promote particular areas of expertise, complementing one another and building high quality state and regional systems? Might cross-institutional cooperation help establish and support best practices for internship project development, supervision, and assessment?

One thought on “Disrupting Institutional Power: Participant Case Statements”

  1. I have been the Director of Public History at UMBC since the fall of 2006. During my 12 year tenure, I have worked to cooperate and partner with my colleagues in public history organizations. At first, I tried to juggle multiple and ever-changing partnerships, but I eventually settled into managing two working relationships –one with the Maryland Historical Society which is the primary host for our digital collection site, Preserve the Baltimore Uprising; and one with Baltimore Heritage with whom I work to create content for their Curatescape app, Explore Baltimore Heritage. Over time, I have also found opportunities to work with colleagues from other public history programs. Elizabeth Nix from the University of Baltimore, and I served as co-chairs for local arrangements for NCPH2016, and together we created several programs and events for that meeting. I also have a great working relationship with the faculty at Stevenson University, a private institution.

    But I am feeling increasing pressure to attract more students and provide them with meaningful, real world experiences. In so doing, I am competing with my colleagues from other universities not only to get students into my classroom, but also to get them into coveted internships. The situation will only get worse.

    I would much rather create a regional vision for public history education and collaboration, one in which each institution sees itself as contributing to the overall health of the profession.

    We have some pieces in place that might serve as the foundation for such a vision:
    The annual un-conference, Bmore Historic, could be a space for establishing better cooperation and providing mutual support.
    Designing an annual or semi-annual NCPH mini-con could enable us to make better and more meaningful connections with secondary school teachers and others.
    Creating a multi-campus public history graduate school fair in Baltimore could help students differentiate programs and make wise choices.

    But I’m not sure if these strategies will sufficiently counter individual institutional aspirations and competitive agendas.

    I’m hoping that, during this Working Group, we can map out a pro-active plan and develop some convincing language to build a pilot program in Maryland.

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