The HRC's practica program enables Rice undergraduates to conduct humanities research in local cultural and medical institutions, and to couple this research with hands-on work that materially benefits the sponsoring institution. In our pilot semester, Spring 2016, two students worked at the Woodson Research Center, at Rice's Fondren Library, to explore projects in cultural heritage and the medical humanities. Their work has recently been featured in Fondren's newsletter, News From Fondren.
Edna Otuomagie's project, Rice University Between Decisions: From Co-Education to Integration (1957-1970), involved researching and synthesizing previously-collected materials on the twinned histories of racial and sexual integration at Rice. Edna narrativized these materials in an online exhibit (linked above), which shows the institute's segregated past, and its uneven and fitful road towards formal integration. Edna's project won both humanities awards at the 2016 Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS).
Miriam Shayeb's project, Social Consequence of the Mississippi Valley Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878-1879, used the personal letters of Kezia Payne DePelchin to consider the outbreak through the intersection of two critical frameworks: the professionalization of nursing that was gaining ground at the time, and the effects of racial segregation in the late reconstruction era. Miriam's final project was a traditional research paper, but along the way, she produced two articles drawing on the DePelchin letters that are available on the Fondren website: "Unsung Requiem: African-Americans in the Mississippi Valley Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878-1879," and "A Mission of Mercy: Nursing in the Mississippi Valley Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878-1879."
We are consistently impressed with Rice undergraduates' creative and critical abilities, and with the quality of the final products they turn out in HRC research-based courses; we are also, as ever, thankful to our institutional partners for their support and for allowing our students unprecedented (for undergraduates) access to their rare collections, and to the Mellon Foundation's support for the HRC public humanities initiative that allowed us to launch the practica program.