Archive for March, 2011

Map Diary

My March 14th was a lot like my March 15th and my March 16th. I didn’t really go off-campus (except to a friend’s house to study, but it’s barely off-campus since it’s next to the College Delly) at all. I went to my classes, I went to Swem Library to type a paper because my computer’s broken , I went to my room a few times to eat, I went to a Native American Students Association Meeting, and I went to study with friends (and eat pie, because Pi Day is apparently celebrated by all William and Mary Students…only at this school!). My day wasn’t really out of the ordinary (except for the pie. I do not often eat that much pie at one time). I usually spend a little more time with my boyfriend, but we both had to study for midterms. My route was pretty typical of a resident student’s. I have a car, but I didn’t drive anywhere on Monday. Really—nothing special.

So in drawing my route on my map I realized that this campus has a lot of buildings and walkways that I never use or think about. I stayed pretty much in the central Old Campus/New Campus areas on Monday, as usual. I rarely have cause to venture up the hill to the Randolph and Caf areas—I don’t have many friends who live there, I don’t have a meal plan, and I don’t use the Rec Center. The only time I’m up there is to park my car if I can’t find a space closer to Landrum. There are a lot of buildings in other places, too, that are owned by the college but not really used much by students, like along Richmond and Jamestown Roads. I didn’t know the College Apartments existed until I had this class. So looking at all these places my route never takes me, I got to thinking. Do I have an exact inverse here? That is to say, is there a student who ONLY uses the routes I never use and has classes in buildings I’ve never been in? Maybe someone who lives up in the Units, eats at the Caf, goes to the Rec, has classes in the ISC and visits friends in Taliaferro? Not unlikely, right? I’d like to meet that person (or people). Of course, that’d be a problem if our routes never intersect. I recognize some of the faces on my way to classes, just from passing them often. If one day they were all different, would I even notice? How many people know my face, too? I always think this school is sort of small, because everyone you meet (or look up on Facebook), you find out you have a mutual friend or two. After doing this exercise, though, it sounds more like a vast collection of strangers. Not to sound weird and bleak. There’s just a lot of people I’ve never met and never will, even though we live within a few hundred feet of each other. And that idea applies not just to campus but to the larger area as well. A lot of students’ routes are as limited as mine was Monday, I think. If you don’t ever go off-campus, you don’t see who lives in Williamsburg. Real Williamsburg (Realliamsburg?), not Colonial Williamsburg. So there are tons of people who live within a mile of me whom I’ll probably never meet, who have problems I don’t even know about. The campus is isolated in a lot of ways from the rest of the town. We’re not always subject to the same pressures, so it takes some issue that will really have an impact on student life to make us aware of problems (cough cough, three-person rule). I think it’s important to be aware of issues that not only affect you, but the people whose work facilitates your lifestyle (say, the custodial services staff or post-office employees).

I also really got thinking about the ways in which my map and my visual representation were different. My map shows where I walked and what buildings I used, and my visual is sort of a comic about the activities I was doing each place. It’s like the map is an objective standard measurement and the visuals are about what I did and how I felt about it. It occurred to me that the visual is sort of like an oral history—it doesn’t necessarily reflect accurate details about the precise time and location but it shows what was going on in the mind of someone who was involved there. And those are probably more interesting to look at than the maps—there are a limited number of places and paths one can represent on the campus map, but there’s no end to the activities and perceptions of people. It’s good that there are maps—otherwise you would not have any context for the events reported by an individual—but it’s really the personalized visual representations that give you a sense of what the conditions are like. In the same way, you should spend plenty of time researching, finding out what the dominant narrative is, exploring the coverage of an issue by media outlets, investigating the loudest voices—but if you really want to find out what people were thinking and saying about an issue or event, or what the social and political climate felt like, you have to ask them yourself. They may not always be truthful or correct (for a given value of “truthful” and “correct”), but there is value even in that. Comparing their narrative (visual) to the dominant one (map) might reveal something important about the way people perceived something and the way it actually functioned—or the way others reported it functioned.

This experience was eye-opening in ways I hadn’t thought about before. I realized just how many people I live close to, and how both parts of the assignment really reveal something about why we do oral histories in this class. I didn’t step far outside of the William and Mary Campus boundaries on Monday, but I think I can take a valuable message away from the work I did on the map diary: there are lots of people around me, and everyone’s stories are valuable. Sometimes it just takes a personal visual aid to really drive home a point.

(Also, I had a ton of fun drawing my comic. I have not drawn for fun in years and I miss it.)

Research Journal 22 Mar 11

I haven’t been in the best of health lately so I’m not quite as far as I’d like to be in my project. I have sent emails out to four people (faculty & administration). It hasn’t been that long so I’ll wait a few days to see if I hear back from them. I also have a few more people to contact–I just need to do a little more poking around on school websites, and figure out a good time of day to call a couple people who don’t have email. I was pretty proud of my emailing-to-ask-a-favor skills (persuasive words!), so I hope something pans out there.

I’ve been very engrossed in the literature recently so I’m making some headway there. I have a lot of pretty interesting (and readable!) sources and I keep finding more. Being in Professor Charity Hudley’s class really opens up a lot of doors–she knows all kinds of people and has tons of resources, and she challenges us to think critically about the literature we read and dominant narratives.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how, if I can score any of these interviews, I can frame the idea of nonstandard English varieties being equivalent to a foreign language but just as valid as standardized English. I know a lot of the folks I’m trying to talk to have their Ph.D, but I know most educated Americans reject the idea of nonstandard varieties as having equal merit and value as languages, and see them instead as ungrammatical standardized English. I just don’t know exactly what the climate is (I’m trying not to assume anything) and whether I’ll get some static if I phrase questions according to this model. I’m sort of nervous and sort of excited to find out what’s up with language in WJCC…I think it’s important that I ask questions a certain way, but I also don’t want to piss off anyone with valuable experience to share. This is one of those times I just have to jump in and see what I get.

Journal 1

As was evident in past posts, for a while there my project was stagnant. After submitting my request for access to WJCC schools to the assistant superintendant, it was just a big waiting game. However, after many calls and emails, my persistence finally paid off. Now that I am armed with an approval letter from Dr. Lindsay, my project has really taken off. I am making arrangements to interview:

  • A kindergarten teacher at Stonehouse Elementary
  •  A student at Lafayette High School
  •  The principal of Toano Middle School
  • A therapist/social worker from Williamsburg’s Family Living Institute
  • And finally, a parent and local school volunteer

I am really excited about these interviews. It has been my goal from the beginning of this project to gather insight from many different points of view, and I believe these individuals will definitely fulfill that aspect of my report.

Moving forward, I will need to formulate the stance my paper will take and do more secondary research to back up my findings and/or claims. However, I think that completing the interviews is the first step.

Work Journal 1

I apologize for posting this a little late!  Recently I have been in contact with Deena Walls of Grove Christian Outreach Center who I think will prove to be a very interesting and helpful resource.  I visited the center to learn more about what they do and also talk briefly with Ms. Walls about her experience with teenage pregnancy.  We are planning to set up a more formal interview soon.  Once I do that, I will start writing up some preliminary questions that I want to ask her.

Additionally, I have contacted, via e-mail, multiple other people within the WJCC school system and also a couple individuals whose contact information I got through local organizations, but have not heard anything back.  I think I will continue to try them again, but I don’t know if that just means people are very busy, uninterested, or both.

I also contacted Barry Trott from the Williamsburg Public Library about some help with finding more data and informative sources on teenage pregnancy in this area specifically.  He e-mailed me some ideas, so I’m planning to look into those more closely today.

This morning I indexed for an interview Jenn had with the director of the PELE clinic at the W&M law school.

Work Journal 1

March 21

Wow, what a weekend, I have been tossing an turning over what to do for my project this week. I’m happy to say that today I have gotten my first interview. This week I will be interviewing Mr. Richard Ambler, a social studies teacher at Jamestown High School. I am very excited to pick Mr. Ambler’s brain and get an inside perspective on the factors which play into student performance in the WJCC school system. I have contacted a number of people and he is the first to get back to me. The focus of my project hasn’t changed much and I still want to get the real story on what causes the sharp divide seen in performance and discipline data in the WJCC school system between minority and white students.

Research Journal Entry #1: 3/21/11

I’ve begun looking through the written materials I checked out from the Rockefeller Library in Colonial Williamsburg before Spring Break.  As Sarah cautioned in her comment on my updated proposal, there is not exactly an abundance of information in these books which is pertinent to my topic.  Therefore, it will be all the more important to ask the people I interview to recommend other personal contacts, with whom I can then meet and from whom I can then glean the information I need.

On the topic of interviews, I have finally arranged an interview with Dr. Bill White.  It is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 29th at 3:30.  I now need to track down a classmate who will be available at that time to index.  Hopefully, Alice’s Google Doc will help with this.  I have also sent word out to Barry Trott at the Williamsburg Regional Library in order to arrange an interview time.  I am hopeful that both White and Trott will be able to provide me with additional, useful contact points.

This coming weekend, from Thursday, March 24th to Sunday, March 27th, I will be on tour to Nashville with the College’s Wind Symphony.  While I am in transit, I will continue to consult the resources I acquired from the library.  I will also spend time finalizing questions to ask my interviewees.  I hope to have a time set for the interview with Mr. Trott before I leave for the trip, so that I can get my interviews underway as soon as I come back.

Research Journal (3/21/11)

This week has not been my most successful.  I have emailed and called no less than 6 people in the WJCC school system, of which none responded.  My primary target is Dr. Sharmaine Grove, who is the the current supervisor of Career and Technical education in the WJCC.  I have sent left her two messages thus far, as well as an email, and she has yet to get back to me.

Also, in my research I have discovered that a man with a email address, Mr. Frank Abbott, was the chair of the Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee which published a report on technical education in the WJCC area.  I have also tried to contact him without success.

I have also tried to contact Mr. Quincy Marrow who is the Counseling Supervisor for the WJCC school system.  He has not gotten back to me.

I could go on, but it would just be repeating the same pattern over and over again.

Journal Entry #1

So I’m about where I was before I left for Spring Break 2 weeks ago and I’m okay with that.  I have a few clear goals I want to accomplish and I’m on my way to accomplishing them.

1.  Interview school administrators to get a better understanding of their perception of substance abuse in the schools.  Specifically, what programs are or have been in place to help those struggling with substance abuse and how effective are they?

2.  Interview parents about their perception of the substance abuse problem (Is there one? Have they witnessed it first hand?) and try to talk to teens who have been or are currently enrolled in the WJCC school system and get their take on the substance abuse issue.

3.  Talk to Bacon Street.  Now I haven’t called them yet but I’m hoping they will be receptive.  I plan on calling them this afternoon.  This is where I think it will get tricky because they are a substance abuse treatment center so I may run into issues of anonymity or confidentiality.  However, my hope is that they can give me insight into the students that use Bacon Street services and how successful, if at all, there re-entry into the school system is.

I have an interview set up for this Friday and am waiting on confirmation for another interview.  I hope to be done with my interviewing by April 9 so I can start gathering my information into a final report.  I’m not sure where I would look for historical context of substance abuse in the WJCC school system but I will try to find time to look through microfilm or virginia gazette archives.

Research Jounal 3/21/11

Since my last post, where I focused more on the research side of my project, I’ve been focusing on scheduling interviews with people in the workforce of Williamsburg who also grew up in Williamsburg and went to the public schools here. I went to two meetings with William and Mary workers to talk to people about my project, and got a few names of people who are interested in talking to be and in having their stories recorded for the archive. I have since scheduled my first two oral histories! They are going to be this Wednesday with Kenneth and this Friday with Shelley. I’m meeting with both of them at 12pm on their lunch breaks to record their stories. I’m so excited to actually start the story-collection process.

This weekend, I also talked to one of my boyfriend’s good friends, Brian, who works in Colonial Williamsburg. I told him about my project and asked if he knows any other people who work in Colonial Williamsburg who also went to school here. He said he knows many people that fit the description, and that he’ll send me contact information today after he has a chance to talk to people at work. So I’m still waiting for that information, but I’m excited about that contact because I think once I start talking to people that work for Colonial Williamsburg, I’ll probably get access to more people through the people that they know, because CW employs so many workers.

So this afternoon, after I finish my paper for Social Movements, my sociology class, I’m going to put together my definitive list of questions. Roughly, I plan to ask questions about the following topics: what were the different educational opportunities like in the public schools here and how did they lead students to choose different careers or post-grad plans? What was the decision-making process like to go or not to go to college after high school? And finally, how did primary and secondary education contribute to knowledge needed to enter the workforce and how well did education prepare you for the workforce of Williamsburg?

Journal Post #1

I had a terrific interview with Mr. O last week.  Topics of interest included the relationship between the school board and concerned citizens and the financial side of WJCC school’s health initiatives like SHIP among others.  I also was able to obtain a great deal of correspondence between Mr. O and school administrators, local newspapers, etc. that will tie in nicely to my project.  That got me onto the idea of expanding beyond recorded interviews for my project.  In particular, I’d like to record a particular interviewee at a school board meeting.   I also think attending school board meetings will provide a good chance to meet other people interested in school nutrition.

I had planned on interviewing Mr. O’s son this weekend but scheduling conflicts didn’t allow for it.   I also was referred to a cafeteria manager who has been with the schools for a while.  I left her a message and am waiting for a call back.

Recently, I have been thinking about my topic and am interested in expanding to childhood obesity.  It’s far broader but my first interview really got me interested in that.  I realized while food is certainly one component, childhood obesity is really the overarching reason for my research.  This includes food and exercise and brings in a whole host of socioeconomic factors that I didn’t have as much of before.  It’s a little daunting though and I will have to think this over a little more before I make any definite changes in direction.

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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