Historical Studies’ brown bag presentations generate new ideas for research

The brown bag presentations are opportunities for faculty and students in the Department of Historical Studies to share research projects that are in progress and get feedback from the members of the university and community who gather to hear them, according to historical studies professor Katrin Sjursen.

Historical Studies professor Bryan Jack and history major Jennifer Sumida discussed at the Research Brown Bag their current research titled, "This Place is a Hellhole: East St. Louis in Popular Culture," on Oct. 10.

The presentations, which started this year, are loosely structured and presenters may read formal papers or manuscripts or present more informally, with or without illustration materials, according to historical studies professor AllisonThomason.

“They are also a way for the university and local community to get an idea of what we, as historians do as researchers, as they are open to the general public, through the community outreach programs at SIUE,” Thomason said.

According to historical studies professor Katrin Sjursen, who conceived the research brown bag initiative, it gives the opportunity to advanced students to practice presenting their research and allows for discussion during and after the presentations.

Thomason said her experience presenting at the brown bag research was extremely helpful since she received great feedback and questions, as well as more secondary source suggestions from the audience of students, community residents and faculty. Thomason discussed the results of her sabbatical research in a presentation on “The Sense-Scapes of Neo-Assyrian Capital Cities,” on Sept. 12.

“The brown bag talk helped me to focus my work and edit the manuscript,” Thomason said. “Shortly after the presentation, with input from the attendees incorporated, I sent off the article, which is now under peer review.”

According to Thomason the brown bags are a flexible way for faculty and students in our department to try out new ideas and present work at any stage in their research projects.

“As historians, we often work in some isolation on our research and we normally present our research at regional and national field-specific conferences that few of our local colleagues also attend,” Thomason said. “The brown bags allow us to appreciate the unique approaches and ideas that each of us brings to the Department of Historical Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, the university and the community.”

Other research presented at the research brown bag included historical studies professor Bryan Jack in collaboration with senior history major Jennifer Sumid who discussed their article-in-progress “‘This Place is a Hellhole’: East St. Louis in Popular Culture” on Oct. 10. Historical studies professor Jason Stacy will present his research “Digitizing and Annotating Whitman’s Early Journalism” coauthored with teaching assistant Gertrud Moreno and Lindenwood College historical studies professor Mark Neels on Nov. 21.

“Too often research is a solitary endeavor, and we are not aware of what everyone is doing,” Jack said. “It is important for our students to see us in the process of researching, and not just the finished product. That’s why I like the brown bag format of featuring ongoing research.”

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