Students traverse the Wild West as part of on-site integrated History/English course

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The difference between studying history from a textbook and experiencing history where it happened is what initially led Dr. Jeff Crane to take a group of 18 students on a thousand-mile trek from Texas to North Dakota and back. Since that first trip in 2007, demand for a spot in HIS 470 has been one of the highest on campus.

“I want to help students understand the West, in a way not possible in the classroom, by showing them where the Indian wars were, by showing them the traditional Hispanic use of the land and letting them really see how magnificent the West is,” Crane said.

This year, the trip, which is held during the May minimester, will give students not only three history credits, but also the possibility of three english credits as well. Crane will be accompanied by Dr. Scott Kaukonen of the English department, as students will be led by both professors through historical literature, presentations and lectures given by their instructors, and eventually, by their peers.

“We meet a couple of times before class, but it’s really informal and just to meet the requirements,” Crane said. “Then during the trip students will have readings to keep up with and presentations to give. We try to have them present either in the location where the book was written or actually in the place the event happened.”

Crane and Kaukonen will be hosting a series of informational meetings for students interested in taking the West Trip on Feb. 18 and Feb. 26. Both meetings begin at 4:30 p.m. and will be held in the Olson Auditorium in AB4.

The trip, which begins May 16 and lasts through June 4, traverses over six states, including West Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota. The group travels by van and visits a variety of historical sites that are covered by the literature and lectures in the course.

“This year, we will be integrating a lot of fiction, essays, poetry and history readings to help us explore what the West was for different people from different time periods,” Crane said.

Requirements for the course include submission of a letter of reference and faculty permission.

“You really get more of a personal relationship with the students through this trip,” Crane said. “It’s just a great group experience when you get a group together who has difference perspectives and different ideologies and you really get to know each other through this shared experience. People are sitting around the campfire, telling stories and singing songs. The best thing for me is getting to form these long-term relationships.”