From the National History Center column of the October 2009 issue of Perspectives on History
Center Hosts Summer Institute on Immigration
Miriam Hauss Cunningham, October 2009
In July 2009 the National History Center hosted a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) summer institute on the theme, “American Immigration Revisited.” Twenty-five faculty members teaching in different disciplines at two-and four year colleges and universities came together for four weeks (July 6 through 31) in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress to explore American immigration history and policy as a national and global process; to do research on a particular aspect of immigration; and to improve their teaching of immigration in their disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. The institute, which was also deemed a “We the People” project by the NEH, was led by Maureen Murphy Nutting (North Seattle Comm. Coll.), and Alan M. Kraut (American Univ.). The institute was co-sponsored by the American Historical Association, the Community College Humanities Association, the Immigration and Ethnic History Association, Library of Congress, and the Department of History at American University.
This institute included daily lectures by visiting experts, panels, discussions, informal exchanges, site visits, an optional film festival, and a three-day trip to New York City to see Ellis Island and the tenement museum, all of which allowed the participants to explore together four topics: American immigration as a dimension of broader global patterns of human migration; cultural change through migration; shifts in immigration law, policy and practice; and fresh approaches and resources for the teaching of immigration history. The institute had another purpose, to improve participants’ teaching, student learning, and assessments of student learning about immigration and the issues that connect to it. To this end, the institute directors also held teaching workshops. During the four weeks, the participants focused on research projects that either took them into new areas of interest or allowed them to further research they had already begun, or developed new immigration courses.
To assist them in their pursuit, a group of scholar-experts in diverse fields (history, anthropology, ethnic studies, women’s studies, economics, and sociology) was assembled to provide overviews of the scholarship of immigration history. These scholars were Elliott Barkan (California State Univ. at San Bernardino); Ronald Bayor (Georgia Tech); Hasia Diner (NYU); Donna Gabaccia (Univ. of Minnesota); David Gerber (Univ. of Buffalo); David Gutierrez (Univ. of California at Santa Barbara); Nancy Foner (Hunter College, CUNY); Madeline Hsu (Univ. of Texas at Austin); Violet Showers Johnson (Agnes Scott Coll.); Timothy Meagher (Catholic Univ.); Mae Ngai (Columbia Univ.); Barbara Posadas (Northern Illinois Univ.); and Saskia Sassen (Columbia Univ.).
The participants all agreed that the institute, an academic adventure into the complex history of American immigration, was a wonderful experience overall. They were pleased that they were able to take advantage of the wide range of resources available in and near the nation’s capital, to further their research in and understanding of immigration and immigration policy.
The participants in the summer institute were:
Jamal A. Adam (Minneapolis Community and Technical College); Jamie R. Aguila (Arizona State Univ.); Theresa Alfaro-Velcamp (Sonoma State Univ.); Katherine Benton-Cohen (Georgetown Univ.); Peter Catapano (New York City College of Technology); Fiona Deans Halloran (Eastern Kentucky Univ.); Mary E. Dillard (Sarah Lawrence College); Marilyn R. Fischer (Univ. of Dayton); Natalie J. Friedman (Vassar Coll.); James V. Gatewood (Antioch Univ. Los Angeles); Torrie R. Hester (Roanoke Coll.); Ely M. Janis (Gonzaga Univ.); Alison M. Kibler (Franklin and Marshall Coll.); Patrick J. McGarrity (Southwestern Illinois Coll.); Steven P. O’Hara (Xavier Univ.); Michael Ornelas (San Diego Mesa Coll.); Lisa L. Ossian (Des Moines Area Community Coll.); Lori A. Pierce (DePaul Univ.); Steve J. Potts (Hibbing Community Coll.); Gary W. Shanafelt (McMurry Univ.); Tiffany A. Trimmer (Bowling Green State Univ.); Martin Valadez (Columbia Basin Coll.); FlorenceMae Waldron (Franklin and Marshall Coll.); Cadence A. Wynter (Columbia Coll. Chicago); Solveig P. Zempel (St. Olaf Coll.).
—Miriam Hauss Cunningham is the assistant director of the National History Center. She wishes to acknowledge with thanks the assistance she received for organizing the summer institute from Maddalena Marinari and from staff of the Library of Congress.