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UHV history students share research at undergraduate conference

Phillip Gonzalez, a senior history major from Victoria, speaks with other conference attendees between presentations Nov. 14 at the second annual Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences & Education Conference at Lamar University. Gonzalez presented his paper, “Radically Untruthful,” which explored the trial reports of the Boston Massacre, during the conference.

A group of University of Houston-Victoria students recently attended an undergraduate history conference and shared their research about the Boston Massacre trial and German immigrants in Texas during the Civil War.

Beverly Tomek

Five students from the UHV History and Humanities Association attended the second annual Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences & Education Conference on Nov. 14 at Lamar University. This was the group’s first time attending.

“Conferences like these are tremendous opportunities for students,” said Beverly Tomek, a UHV history assistant professor and one of the faculty advisors of the History and Humanities Association. “It offers undergraduate students a place to showcase some of their original work and research. It encourages them to cultivate their talents and look deeper into history.”

During the conference, two UHV students presented papers. Phillip Gonzalez, a senior history major from Victoria, shared his paper, “Radically Untruthful,” which explored the trial reports of the Boston Massacre. Kevin Oliver, a senior from Schroeder who graduated this month, spoke about his research paper, “Germanic Immigration, Slavery and Secession in Antebellum Texas.” It was about Germanic settlers’ immigration patterns and how they affected attitudes toward the Civil War.

Kevin Oliver

“We live in similar times, relatively speaking,” Oliver said. “Immigration, the War on Drugs, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led many Americans to treat foreigners with fear and suspicion. I wanted to remind people that this fear is nothing new. Germans, Mexicans, African Americans and Anglos all immigrated to Texas and contributed to the state’s economic success at a time when many viewed it as a backwater place. Many tend to view immigrants as one unified body invading society, but they’re individuals, each with different ideas, religions and beliefs.”

The students used primary sources, such as journals, official records from the time and other first-person accounts from the period in their research. The students’ presentations were received well, Tomek said.

“The use of primary sources really set these papers apart because they had those authentic, firsthand perspectives and information,” Tomek said. “Their decision to go directly to the source instead of reading other people’s opinions and then drawing conclusions was unique and offered fresh outlooks on the situations.”

Jeffrey Di Leo

The conference was a great opportunity for students because it focused on undergraduate research, Tomek said. In the past, there were plenty of conferences for graduate research, but undergraduate conferences are now more common. Before attending the conference at Lamar, Tomek was approached by Jeffrey Di Leo, dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, about creating a similar conference at UHV.

“UHV has a myriad of strong humanities programs led by amazing faculty members and filled with intelligent students,” Di Leo said. “I would love to offer those students the opportunity to present research papers and projects to others in the academic community. I look forward to working with Dr. Tomek and other faculty members to make an undergraduate humanities conference a reality at UHV.”

For Oliver, the conference served as a reminder of the importance of historical research and a source of inspiration for future research projects.

“The conference really made me feel as if I was a part of a larger professional community,” Oliver said. “I was no longer simply a ‘history buff’ but a peer. I enjoyed talking and listening to people from different backgrounds, each with different interpretations and points of view, who share a passion similar to mine.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973, offers courses leading to 70 bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degree programs and concentrations in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.