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History lessons

History lessons

Kyle Jenkins, pictured working in a classroom at Senn High School in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood, was able to develop a unique curriculum as part of his internship with the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Intern profile

Kyle Jenkins, a double major in history and secondary education, recently interned with the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project (jesuitlibrariesprovenanceproject.com). For Jenkins, the internship was an opportunity to explore two of his passions: history and education. In this interview, he discusses what he learned from the internship and how he hopes to use the experience after graduation.

Why did you choose this internship?

Going into the fall semester realizing I wouldn't be taking any history classes felt odd, as nerdy as that sounds. I recently finished my capstone course with Dr. Kyle Roberts, and he had been such an incredible mentor throughout that process that I thought he would give great advice as to how to calm my history-less woes. He suggested a directed study with a number of professors, including himself. What sealed the deal was the connection between a historical project and lesson planning for high school students.

Can you tell us about the lesson plans you’re working on?

The curriculum covers major topics surrounding the 19th century urbanization of Chicago—immigration, Jane Addams, the World's Columbian Exposition, and labor unrest. However, it focuses in on the uniquely Catholic side of that expansion, framed around the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" Students from any school, parochial or public, can investigate the same issues with vastly different past experiences but still come to similar conclusions about how Americans became "American" in 19th century Chicago.

The main collection of sources comes from the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project, which is seeking to digitize and catalog the substantial amount of documents from Loyola University's predecessor, St. Ignatius College. Beyond exposing high school students to primary source analysis in general, it seeks to encourage students to see libraries, research, and books in a new light. Most students academically shut down when they hear they will be discussing "the history of books," no matter how often you tell them how important it is. The curriculum is designed to cover major high school historical topics in a unique way to both intrigue and engage students.

What’s the most interesting historical fact you’ve uncovered in your work?

Through Loyola's Content DM system, one can access the complete diary entries of St. Ignatius' vice presidents from 1870-1922. That access provides a unique opportunity to compare how city-wide events were seen by Chicago at large and the St. Ignatius community. 

One particular entry stood out to me: During the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Church leaders had gone to great lengths to organize a Catholic Educational Exhibit as a way to let the Church be "given a fair hearing" in a town typically hostile to the group. For such an important church event, one would think the vice president of a Catholic university would wax on and on about it's importance in his diary. However, he gives it a two-line entry, noting simply that the Exhibition was ongoing. It's insights like this that spawn as many questions about the time period as it provides answers, and it's what I live for as a history teacher.

How do you think this internship prepared you for your future career?

I think it's the case with most graduating seniors that they have little to no idea what their future career will look like, and I find myself there now as well. I feel prepared to go right into high school teaching, but I am also considering careers in testing companies, the U.S. Parks Service, and even graduate school.

This project allows me to keep those career options open, as its combination of historical research and curriculum development makes it relevant experience for any potential job. No matter what my future holds, this project will remain one of my fondest memories of my time at Loyola.