For 30 University of Arkansas - Fort Smith students, the life-long dream to see the nation’s capital and explore the birthplace of the United States became a reality this summer, thanks to a condensed credit Maymester course, held through the Myles Friedman Honors Program.
The UAFS students traveled to Washington, D.C. via motorcoach this May, fulfilling the domestic travel requirement for honors program students. Two courses were offered, American History I and American Literature I, with both classes traveling to historic sites selected to mesh with particular units of study.
Participating students visited the White House; the memorials on the Capitol Mall; Thomas Jefferson’s Home at Monticello; Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon; Colonial Williamsburg, considered the birthplace of the revolution; and the Appomattox Court House, where the Civil War was ended without further bloodshed.
“For our students, who have read about these people and places, history became real,” explained Martha Siler, a history professor at UAFS. “Part of our job as teachers is to help our students to connect to the subjects we teach. You cannot stand where Jefferson or Washington stood, or in the place where a war dividing a nation was ended, or where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stood and delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech, and not be connected in an authentic and lasting way. You come away a changed person who understands better your role in shaping your own community.”
Kenzie Mears, a freshman biology major, had doubts about how much a science major would gain studying history in the nation’s capital, but her Maymester experience changed her mind and instilled a passion for exploring history first-hand. “I had a great time learning about our nation’s past in the most enjoyable way possible,” she said. “I found myself wanting to know more and more as the trip progressed. … Exploring Monticello and Mount Vernon takes you back in time. It is quite significant and surreal to walk the very halls that our founding fathers once walked as they were shaping the nation into what it is today. I was immersed in history daily, and I learned more than I could’ve ever learned from a textbook because I will have memories from this trip forever”.
UAFS Freshman Danielle Randolph echoed the sentiment, saying, “I saw our country at its defining points through history in today’s times, while reliving the events of the past in the very rooms that they occurred in. It is amazing to see where our country began and what it has accomplished along the way. This trip was definitely one for the books!”
The Maymester classes were augmented by online material and discussion boards, writings, photography journals, and other comprehensive reflections to magnify the students’ personal experiences and allow all them to share those individual experiences.
“These Maymester experiences bring life to the texts we study,” said Dr. Keith Fudge, Professor of English and director of advising for the college of CLASS. “As a professor, observing the students coming face to face with artifacts such as the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, or seeing their expressions in light of the monuments and historic sites is more than rewarding; it is renewing and fundamentally establishes why we went into this profession in the first place.”
The Myles Friedman Honors Program is designed to deliver a rich international studies-based honors curriculum with the addition of no more than seven credit hours outside regular degree requirements. Students enrolled in the Honors Program will fulfill the same general education requirements for the degree program in which they are registered, but will do so through specifically targeted honors courses that emphasize the international focus of the program.