Marc Becker's Home Page

Future Courses
Student Projects

Milan Oral History Project  

Project Proposal:

The purpose of this project is to conduct a community oral history project in order to understand how racial, ethnic, class, and gender identities and ideologies have been constructed and interpreted within the immigrant community of Milan, Missouri. The class will focus on English-speaking Latino immigrants as well as professionals (teachers, police officers, social workers, healthcare providers) who work on a daily basis with the immigrant community. Students will interview these individuals, reflect on the interviews, and publish a print-on-demand book that communicates this experience.

Students will:

-Research community oral history projects and establish the scope and focus of the project.
-Generate interview questions. These will likely focus on cultural aspects and living conditions in the native country and then in the United States. Questions regarding legal status and/or mode of entry in the United States will not be asked.
-Form interviewing partners and locate recording devices and cameras.
-Develop consent forms for people being interviewed and photographed to sign, acknowledging their participation in the project and giving us the right to use their verbal responses and images in the compilation of the project.
-Follow up with a thank you card or letter to each individual that was interviewed.
-Transcribe and edit the taped interviews.
-Post a reflection to the discussion board on BlackBoard after each visit to Milan and at least one other general reflection as the project develops.
-Use the material from the interviews to publish a print-on-demand book.

The AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer Kelsey Aurand will:

-Find a location for the interviews to be held.
-Organize an "Introduction to Milan" night for the students in the class.
-Establish initial contacts with interviewees and, ideally, set up a time to be interviewed.
-Work with Marc's students to orchestrate registration and interviewing schedule on interview nights.
-Greet participants on the interview nights to have a friendly, familiar face available.

The Milan Centro Latino will:

-Offer the location for the "Introduction to Milan" evening and immigrant interviews to take place
-Help to distribute publicity materials.
-Aid in the identification of potential individuals (English-speaking Latino immigrants and community professionals) to be interviewed.

Proposed Dates and Times, Fall 2007

Dates were selected to support the students' academic schedule, occurring after mid-terms and before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday, October 24 Introduction to Milan; perhaps a few interviews conducted after presentation
Wednesday, November 7 English-speaking immigrant interviews
Wednesday, November 14 Professional interviews

Proposed Structure for the Latino Interview

Students will be assembled in pairs to conduct an individual interview. Ideally the pair would consist of at least one student with a working Spanish knowledge or background. The pairs would also, ideally, be limited to one male student per pair. Nametags should be worn by the students listing just their first name while the Latinos could wear nametags with their title and last name or a pseudonym. This system will protect the identities of both parties and establish respect between the interviewer/interviewee, but also maintain a less formal/intimidating atmosphere. Kelsey will have taken their demographic information at an earlier point in time.

Class Assignment

The syllabus currently contains as a substantive reflective final essay on race/class/gender worth 20 percent of the course grade. This assignment in its entirety will replace that assignment. The project will be assigned one grade, and everyone in the class will receive that same grade.

Using a print-on-demand website such at, the class will design and publish a book containing a brief history of Milan, edited interviews, student reflections, and photographs. The target audience will be fellow students, community members, immigrants, and the general public. A goal will be to educate and inform the broader public about Milan’s immigrant population. The book will be a collaborate project written with a single voice except for quotations from interviews and student reflections.

Each student will participate fully in conducting interviews and editing the text for the book. Other tasks will hopefully take advantage of the specific skills and interests of individual students. For example, ideally we would have a student or students who would:

-Either have experience with oral history interviews or work with Dr. Jerry Hirsh to develop interview questions and consent forms.
-Organize transportation to Milan.
-Photograph immigrants and the surroundings in Milan.
-Have experience or interest in designing and laying out the book.
-Possibly translate the text into Spanish for a bilingual publication.
-Bring other skills from their home disciplines or life experiences that would enrich the class project and final book manuscript.

| Marc Becker's Home Page | |