All posts by Abby Shepherd

Research Reflection: Nervously Approaching the End

So I’m presenting tomorrow and I’m very nervous. I don’t usually have stage fright or anything like that, so this is a new experience for me. I think it’s because I’m so emotionally connected to this project. I don’t want to mess up, especially because I don’t know most of the people for whom I am presenting.

I have the interview and film clips to show, and I’m basically done formatting the presentation itself. I just have to make sure that I don’t get too nervous…but that’s easier said than done.

I’m glad I was able to change my image gallery. I’m very happy with those ten images. They really contribute to my story. Watching the film again and seeing some of the images I found in the archives was so funny. I love seeing my project connect with other sources.

I can’t believe this is the end. If my abstract isn’t accepted by the Academic Excellence Conference, I will end my project here. If it is…well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Over and out.

Research Reflection: Insecurity (and lots of crying)

Now that everyone is finishing up their project sites, I’m starting to get nervous. Am I doing a good enough job? Does my project site look okay?

Not only am I the youngest in the course, I am also the only team of one. I’m trying to remind myself of both, especially the latter, as I draw my project to a close. However, I still feel inferior and anxious about being satisfactory in the eyes of those who will see my project. I’m a perfectionist, and it’s hard for me to ever feel like I succeeded at something. I actually started crying in the research technician’s office this morning when she told me that my site looked great.

I want this project to be the best it can possibly be. These stories are so vital to me and this school has an immense handprint on my heart. I have to find a balance between pushing myself to succeed and overexerting myself to the point of exhaustion.

Time for class to start. I’ll continue this later.

Research Reflections: Finding Reasons

I, as I can imagine many of you are, am dismayed at the results of the election. For the last few days, I’ve been struggling to find reasons to keep trying to work on my schoolwork. Is it worth it? Am I doing any good? It’s hard to feel this way, and I hate falling behind like this.

Mark sent me a supportive email on Thursday, and I appreciated our course discussion the same day. As much as I want to reject this project and hide from the world, these narratives don’t give me that option. I have an interview on Tuesday with a woman who lived in the barracks built by the college to house World War II veterans while they (and the occasional wife) studied at Keene Teacher’s College. That’s the type of story I want and need to tell at this point. I rely on these stories to keep chipping away at my project despite depression.

Donald Trump is going to be President, and I’m scared. I don’t know what will happen to our country. I do know that this is the time for me to be telling stories about tough women and their access to education…now more than ever.

So, if you are reading this months or years from now, know that we are hurting this week. I’m hurting, but I’m not giving up.

Research Reflection: Warm, Fuzzy Feelings

After a busy week of interviewing, editing, and curating, I’m happy to report that my slump is far behind me. I’m loving exploring new plugins, especially the gallery one I uploaded today (see my new “Archive Gallery” page on the site). I’m sticking to a minimalist theme so I can really embellish my pages without worrying about everything being too intense. Mark and I have decided that I’m going to continue this project into next semester. There are so many dreams and goals I have for this project, and I’m not ready to say goodbye come December.

My interview with Norma Walker is what inspired me the most so far. She graduated in 1951, and is full of stories and ideas. I’m not only creating this project to achieve a sort of academic goal and milestone. I’m working my hardest for Norma, for my grandmothers, and for all the women who contributed to the college’s story which I now get to continue in my own legacy here at Keene State.

Research Reflection: Looking Ahead

I’m going to be honest. In weeks 7 and 8, I really was falling behind. I was feeling so overwhelmed that I became complacent. It was kind of a lull.

I’m turning it around! I became very inspired when meeting with Larry Benaquist on Tuesday with Mark. I felt more confident in myself and my work now that I feel like I have more of a direction with what I’m doing.

On Tuesday, I’m meeting with Norma Walker. I’m looking forward to that interview, because stories like hers are exactly what I’m searching for in this project. Mark and I are also trying to get in contact with Doris Eder, another alumna.

This project is trying me as a student. I’m being pushed to trust my instincts more, and to become more accountable for what I’m doing. It’s hard, but the work I’m doing is so important to me and I’m looking forward to completing the project and being able to share the finished product.

This Week in Research: Women’s Work to Women’s Studies

When I went to the archives on Tuesday, I found a course catalogue from 1912 with the overview of credits needed for a young woman to get a teaching degree at Keene Normal School:

Requirements to Become a Teacher: 1912

Among the course requirements were to be expected: pedagogy (the methods of teaching), school law, and sociology. However, this overview also included courses under the heading of “Household Arts.” These courses covered cooking and sewing. Most of the women attending this institution were straight out of high school, likely unmarried, so they needed an education in how to manage a household after they married and ended their teaching career.


Fifty years later, when Keene became a Teacher’s College, women were still attending the institution to become teachers (even though men were now attending as well). In the 1964 course catalogue, there were more degrees with specifications in subject matter. One of these degrees was in Home Economics.

Bachelor’s in Home Economics: 1964

This degree program included student teaching, sociology, and principles of education. It also included classes towards the required skills needed of a female “Baby Boomer,” such as interior decorating and the operation of household machinery. My maternal grandmother graduated with a degree in Home Economics from Keene State College in 1968–and she had my mother a month after her Commencement.

One hundred years after the first course catalogue I found, Keene State College offered a Bachelor’s of Arts in Women and Gender Studies. This liberal arts degree is a stark transition from the Home Economics degree.

The BA in Women and Gender Studies in 2011: one of its first years as a four-year degree program.
The BA in Women and Gender Studies in 2011: one of its first years as a four-year degree program.

According to the Keene State website, Women and Gender Studies focuses on “the social origins and related politics of identity.” A student at Keene State is also eligible to add this major to his or her education degree.

These three degrees, each offered fifty years apart, show both transitions in education and a woman’s role in society. I’m very interested in studying the intersections of gender and education and how it relates to this college. This project is going to focus on stories which made Keene State what it is today, and women play an integral role in that.

Project Contract



Go Forth to Serve will encapsulate the history of the transformation of what is now Keene State College through connections with its alumni, students, faculty, and community members in Keene, New Hampshire.

Keene State is over 100 years old, and therefore the rich history may not be able to be viewed in an accessible format. Through this site, those who want to learn more about Keene State can acquire the information they desire without needing to work through dense material.


I plan on using different tabs and categories such as a timeline, a collection of personal narratives/interviews, and my own research reflections.

I like the idea of using Google Maps to show where the buildings are and a timeline of when and why they were built. A timeline of important national events relating to college campuses (certain wars, Kent State, etc.) and Keene-related events (1938 hurricane, 2005 flood, 2014 Pumpkin Festival) would be interesting to connect our campus with the rest of the world.

I want to try to interview–or find an interview/story of–someone who attended Keene State in each of its decades. We have a microphone and could create a Soundcloud account to gather these stories. Also, I’m the fifth person in my immediate family to attend Keene State, so that is a really interesting story to tell.


I’m going to try to get all of my interviews and narratives done by the beginning of November so I can have all my materials ready and spend November creating and fine-tuning the site itself. If a certain crucial interview is going to be difficult to get done by that timeline, then so be it.

I want to spend most of the next couple of weeks identifying and isolating major events for my timeline so I can then start forming the timeline. Ideally, I will have all of my events done by October 12th. I would like to have all of my information gathered by the week before Thanksgiving.

How the Public Becomes Personal and Vice Versa

Reading about the necessity for liberal arts and history in a public context echoes much of what I’ve already said and heard during the development of this project.

In Sheila Brennan’s essay, “Public, First,” she discusses the importance of accessibility in the digital humanities. With this project, I’m taking on the role of a facilitator of the liberal arts, and my responsibility goes beyond just putting words on a screen. Online doesn’t always equal public, so making sure people know about what I’m doing and are able to easily access the project.

Accessibility isn’t the only feature of a strong digital humanities/public history exhibit. It’s also about welcoming a specific audience who otherwise may have not stumbled upon the site.

I occasionally have a challenge with realizing that Keene State isn’t an integral part of everyone’s family legacy. Because of that, I have a special responsibility to show people, especially those who participate in our school’s community and culture, what I know and what I am learning.

Further on in the collection of works on the structure of the digital humanities, Rachel Buurma and Anna Levine talk about the importance of research strategies and skills in “The Sympathetic Research Imagination: Digital Humanities and the Liberal Arts.

Much of digital humanities is being the middle point of research between the primary sources and what becomes secondary sources. In this project, I am searching and sorting information to create a gathering of personal narratives. This decision of which pieces of history I include are small decisions, but to each person who accesses this site, they could be monumental.

It’s unfortunate that I only have two and a half more months to create this archive, but I believe that the process of researching and gathering is as important as the finished project.

The GI Bill, Higher Education, and Race in a Post-War Enviroment

As an avid student of social justice and political science, I’m fascinated by the role of a male veteran in American society. I’ve been having a surprisingly difficult time finding scholarly sources on my own institution’s role in the recuperation of young World War II veterans. However, the amount of primary sources available through the United States government provides me with a first-hand account at how education policy intervened when a generation of men returned from the battlefields.

While college enrollment increased in the late 1930s, education for all young men was interrupted at the start of World War II. Boys in secondary school, too young to be drafted, dropped out to work in industries which supported the American forces (Stanley 677). Young men in postsecondary institutions had to leave their studies when they were drafted. Because one could not volunteer for the armed forces until later on in the century, young men were unaware of when they would be sent off to fight (Stanley 676).

The amount of men returning to build the post-war economy was so vast, politicians needed to find a way to readjust these new, young veterans in to society. The GI Bill (formally known as Servicemen’s Readjustment Act) passed in 1944, which dramatically changed the accessibility and prevalence of post-secondary education. About seventy percent of men who turned 21 between 1940 and 1955 essentially had a free four-year degree waiting for them at whichever institution they chose–as long as they were Caucasian (Stanley 671).

The federally funded GI Bill Act makes it clear that it is separating itself from state legislature. The state legislature in the Jim Crow states, as well as the Southern Congressional leaders in D.C., worked the ensure that the GI Bill only helped White students (Kotz). Because of this, returning Black veterans were denied loans, mortgages, certain career paths, and college acceptances (Kotz).

The prevalence of African-American veterans looking to take advantage of their right to higher education overfilled the only Black colleges. Black veterans were being turned away from their own schools because of overcrowding (Perea 595).  While the White Americans under the GI Bill were able to build a new, prospering middle class with their post-secondary educations, the African-Americans were blatantly excluded both in government policy and personal discrimination.

Although Keene State is, was, and most likely will be, a predominantly Caucasian institution, it is still vital for race to be included with my story and research on higher education in this country.

Works Cited

Kotz, Nick. Rev. of “When Affirmative Action Was White” New York Times 28 Aug. 2005: n. pag. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

Perea, Juan F. “Doctrines of Delusion.” University of Pittsburgh Law Review 75 (2014): n. pag. Google Scholar. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

Stanley, M. “College Education and the Midcentury GI Bills.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 118.2 (2003): 671-708. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.