Oral History – Not Just for History Majors

Being a first-year student can be intimidating and frightening. You might have no friends on campus, and if you commute, like me, it can be hard to make them. My point is that it can be scary, and it’s hard to get out there and make a name for yourself or participate at all, let alone apply to do your own research- but it’s possible. This summer I had the opportunity to be a part of the University’s very first Summer Scholars Program.

This new initiative was intended, in Provost Laura Moriarty’s words, to support “students’ intellectual growth by giving them the opportunity to engage in scholarship during the summer.  The Program allows students to live on campus from June 1st through August 1st in a living-learning community with other Summer Scholars while working collaboratively with a faculty member on a scholarly project.” Students and faculty would be eligible for stipends and a small project budget.

I thought this sounded really interesting and, though I’m a Health Studies Major, I wanted to work with Professor Melissa Ziobro, a public historian I’d had for my first year seminar class. After a lot of brainstorming, we proposed a project that would allow me to research and compile my own report about the health and wellness services the University has offered to its students. What types of services had the University historically provided? When/why did it start providing things like counseling and psychological services? Substance awareness/abuse services? How do faculty/staff/alumni/past and current students feel their needs were/are being served? Professor Ziobro and I decided I might begin to answer these questions through archival research and oral history interviews. This project would combine my avocational passion for history, and my long-term goal of working in the medical field. The oral history interviews, in addition to helping me write my final report, would also live on as archival records available to future researchers through the Monmouth Memories Oral History Program. My final report would contribute to the campus community’s understanding of its collective heritage.

My proposal was one of eight selected out of thirty applications. I worked on the project from June 1 – August 1. After an intensive, one on one study of oral history, I ultimately conducted four oral history interviews on my own. You’ll soon be able to view summaries of these on the Monmouth Memories website. It was fascinating to hear from people, such as the director of health services, Dr. Kathy Maloney, describe what I’d been researching in their own words. These interviews augmented the many hours of archival research that I did before writing my report. I look forward to presenting the findings of my report at the University’s next Student Scholarship week, and perhaps even conferences.

Peri Trembley is a first-year student at Monmouth University, located in West Long Branch, New Jersey. Peri is a Health Studies Major, with a minor in Biology, and hopes to enroll in Monmouth’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program.