Kean Honors History Students Set to Present at Gettysburg

February 3, 2015

Nine Kean University students have been selected to present their work on the University’s Nancy Thompson World War II Collection at the annual Northeast Regional Honors Conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, from April 9-12.

The students taking part are Christina Leedy, Stephanie Valente, Gabby Kissoon, Laura Hurley, Jonathan Cutler, Kevin Fette, Ksenia Starikov, Brie Gordon, and David Lewis. A team of faculty-scholars chose the students after a competitive process.

Dr. Jonathan Mercantini, chair of the University’s History Department, and Dr. Elizabeth Hyde, the department’s vice chair, are directing the students and their research.

The Nancy Thompson World War II Collection is a joint project of the Kean University Center for History, Politics, & Policy, Kean University Archives and Special Collections, and the Kean University Department of History. The project is based on an original two-thousand item scrapbook compiled during World War II by Nancy Thompson, the longtime librarian at Newark State Teachers College, the university's predecessor. The scrapbook consists of correspondence and other documents that tell the story of dozens of Newark State students who fought in World War II. These stories have remained untold, until now.

The Nancy Thompson World War II Collection has been nationally recognized by the Council on Undergraduate Research and earned the students a visit to the White House.

The Northeast Regional Honors Conference is organized by the regional affiliate of the National Collegiate Honors Council, an organization dedicated to the encouragement and support of undergraduate honors learning. The Northeast Region is made up of nearly 200 member universities and colleges representing Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Quebec, Ontario, and the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.

The conference will take place in the town of Gettysburg, location of one of the most pivotal battles of the US Civil War. The battle took place in 1863 from July 1-3, and ended in Union victory and is often considered the war's turning point. Five months later, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated a portion of the battlefield as a national cemetery and presented one of the most important speeches in world history – The Gettysburg Address.

The conference uses Gettysburg as a backdrop for a larger discussion of physical and metaphorical battles in which the direction and nature of the nation was shaped and determined in a fundamental way - focusing on art, business, culture, politics, science, and technology.

Shane Derris is the Assistant Director of the Kean University Center for History, Politics and Policy.