Historical Perspectives through a Modern Lens
SCU’s Historical Perspectives serves as a way for History students to publish their research done in the classroom, providing an avenue to reach the larger community.
by Sarah Stoddard '23
Research papers are something that most college students are familiar with. But what happens once the grade is received? Most get filed away and probably never read again. For Santa Clara University’s History Department, that’s where Historical Perspectives comes in. An award-winning undergraduate research journal, Historical Perspectives allows undergraduate students at Santa Clara to submit their research and have it published in this acclaimed history journal. The current volume, compiled during the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest due to racial injustice, and the 2020 presidential election, features papers that use events of the past to bring us insight into the issues of the present.
One article in the current issue, written by Kayleigh Limbach ’21 (Environmental Science), discusses revolutionary environmental activism by detailing the activist work of three women from different generations. Another, written by Sofia Stechschulte ’22 (Economics and History), focuses on the oppression of bisexuality throughout the gay and lesbian activism in the 1960s and in its portrayal in the media. This theme of social justice was curated by the journal’s co-editors, Brandon Schultz ’21 (English and History) and Tegan Smith ’20 (History and Women’s and Gender Studies), with their faculty advisor, Professor Naomi Andrews (History).
Professor Andrews has been involved with Historical Perspectives for many years. “It’s an outlet for student research to be made more public to a larger community, and a place for undergraduate peer review,” she explains. Oftentimes, student papers will only be seen by professors and never reach outside the scope of the classroom. With Historical Perspectives, however, students in history classes at Santa Clara gain the opportunity to improve their writing amongst like-minded people and share their work with a greater audience.
The most recent volume, published in December 2020, features nine student articles and four reviews. In each of these works, the theme of social justice is apparent. “Many of the classes that are the common sources of these papers deal with race, gender, and social justice themes,” Professor Andrews says. These student papers are taken from history classes, thesis projects, and more, submitted to a team of two student co-editors, and put through a competitive review and editing process. The co-editors of the current volume, Schultz and Smith, had the job of maintaining the high standard of quality of the journal while choosing papers that featured research relevant to the current state of the world. Throughout this process, they gained experience as editors and writers, and also as scholars of history.
As co-editors, Schultz and Smith independently reviewed all submissions, and then together identified the theme within the papers and selected those that would be published. Next, the editing process began. In addition to working with the writers to edit their work, Schultz and Smith also needed to find a cover image for the volume, write an introduction, and more. “Personally, my main takeaway from this experience was that I learned that I love working with writers,” Schultz says. “I had such a brilliant time discovering my peers’ voices and perspectives on the various historical subjects, and it was great to work with them and with their writing to produce a finished journal.” He hopes to engage in similar work in his future career.
Both co-editors encourage students to submit their papers to the journal as this process is a great learning experience and much more fulfilling than simply completing a paper in class. “Submitting an article and going through the editing process provides students with concrete ways to improve their work as writers, readers, and researchers,” Smith explains. “Students have the freedom to conduct original research that isn’t limited to a prompt assigned by a professor.” And if a student has a paper from class that they spent a lot of time and effort on, Historical Perspectives can give them the opportunity to improve their writing with like-minded peers and showcase their hard work to the world.
“The journal lets students know the value of their work outside of the classroom, and it also gives students a great introduction to the world of editing and collaborating on writing, which is far too often viewed as a solitary process,” Schultz says. “Plus, when you look yourself up on Google Scholar, your article will pop up! How cool is that?”
Historical Perspectives has published twenty five volumes since it began in 1991. Consistently recognized on a national level, it has placed in the top three in the Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society national competition for best undergraduate history journal seven of the past twelve years, including second-place in the 2020 for the 2019 issue.