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Student Research Projects Will Look At U.Va.’S African-American Heritage And Other Less-Known Topics

May 22, 2002-- Thomas Jefferson’s visionary plan for the University of Virginia is known throughout the world as one of the great landmarks of American architecture and education.

This summer a group of U.Va. students will try to increase public understanding about some less-known aspects of Jefferson’s "academical village," including key roles played by African-Americans throughout U.Va.’s history. The winners of competitive $4,000 awards from the William R. Kenan Endowment Fund of the Academical Village, the student research projects will produce a wide range of materials about:

  • how Jefferson’s original design related to the local African-American community and the significant role of African-American craftsmen in building the institution;
  • the overlooked contributions of U.Va.’s African-American employees at the turn of the 20th century;
  • how the formerly all-white, all-male institution first admitted blacks and women;
  • the common threads and differences in how alumni from all eras have remembered University life; and
  • how Jefferson’s passion for astronomy —- one his many scientific interests -- created a lasting educational legacy.

With the special summer grants each student will work with a faculty adviser to research and produce materials for public use. The students and their projects are:

Nia Rodgers, a graduate student in landscape architecture and urban and environmental planning, will explore the physical relationship of the early University to the local African-American community. Her research will look at the many contributions of African-Americans in the construction and design of the University as well as contributions by U.Va. to the African-American community over the years. She plans to develop a course for African-American youth to help them interpret U.Va.’s history.

Davin Rosborough, a fourth-year history major, will create a public exhibit about African-American employees and their contributions to University life in the 1890s. The exhibit, to be on display in Jefferson’s Rotunda, will include background about race relations and perceptions in that era.

Priya N. Parker, a rising third-year Arts & Sciences student, will produce a history of desegregation and coeducation at U.Va. She will focus particularly on landmark cases of students who were denied admission at first. They include Gregory Swanson, who in 1950 became the first African-American student at U.Va. when a court ordered him admitted to the law school, and Virginia Scott and three other women who won a court ruling in 1970 that the University had to consider applications without regard to gender. Parker plans to help the University Guide Service broaden its historical presentations about minorities and women at the University as well as prepare a digital archive.

Natalie N. Shonka, a fourth-year American Studies major and Echols Scholar, will organize a vast archive of questionnaire-answers reflecting the memories of hundreds of alumni back to the 1920s who have lived on the historic Lawn. She will create an online searchable database of these mini-histories that open a valuable window on University life.

Adrienne J. Gauthier, an education graduate student, will document the early history of astronomy at the University, beginning with Jefferson’s plans for a star map on the dome of the Rotunda and an observatory, to the creation of the McCormick Observatory in the 1880s. She will create a video for use at the historic observatory, in schools and for other educational purposes.

Contact: Lee Graves, (434) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Wednesday, 22-May-2002 16:04:59 EDT
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