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Saint Mary’s to host National History Day competiton

| Friday, February 24, 2017

Every year across the country, students channel their passion for the past through National History Day (NHD), a competition where students present projects through various media.

Saint Mary’s is one such site hosting a regional NHD contest on Saturday, where students and professors will judge history projects made by local students ranging from grade to high school.

Chair of the history department Bill Svelmoe said the College annually hosts this event.

“Saint Mary’s has been hosting this one for many years now,” he said.

The local students will present their projects mainly in Spes Unica Hall, where the history department is located.

“[The projects] range from posters to papers to theatrical presentations,” history professor David Stefancic said. “And this year I have the pleasure of judging websites.”

The competition organizes new themes every year. According to the National History Day website, this year’s theme is “taking a stand in history.”

“The topics that I’m looking at are activism: … abolitionists, [the] Declaration of Independence, [the] Civil Rights movement in the ’50s, a young soldier from the Civil War, censorship [and] Tiananmen Square in China,” Stefancic said. “They have to do with social change and revolution.”

While many history majors participate, students with any major can volunteer to judge the projects, Svelmoe said.

“It’s not just [history] majors and it’s not like you have to really know what’s going on in history,” he said. “Remember, these are often little kids and, as a judge, you can request the age group [to judge].”

Junior history and English literature major Brooke Lamb said it is a good opportunity for all Saint Mary’s students. Lamb said judging focuses more on the interview process and understanding what the students have put into their projects.

“I think that anyone on campus could judge and [the history department is] willing to have volunteers,” Lamb said.

The judges work in groups to examine and compare presentations.

“You don’t judge anything by yourself — there’s usually three of you, at least, that are working together,” Svelmoe said. “It’s not all on you to crush some child’s dreams.”

Judges score the students on their visuals and presentation and give feedback on the projects.

“At the end of the day, you get together and you rank the presentations,” Svelmoe said. “The top ones advance [but] you try to say something encouraging about all of them.”

Stefanic said student judging is a good way to see what young students are doing at lower levels.

“You have a chance to see what’s going on there, particularly if you’re considering going onto teaching in grade school or junior high,” Stefancic said. “Also, you have a chance to meet some really cool kids.”

The day also introduces local students to the College and Stefancic said the competition is a hidden recruiting tool for the students participating.

“There have been instances where the students who were taking part of this met us and then decided to come to Saint Mary’s,” he said.

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