Today I met with my adviser, Dr. Tom Ewing, to discuss progress on my thesis. He was happy to see how much research I have done on my topic and felt that I have a solid understanding of the sources I’m using. However, after our meeting, there are a couple things that I need to think about as I move forward.
- Construct a better focus statement:
- My previous attempt at a focus statement was not terribly successful. But I know what I’m focusing on and what I’m arguing. I’m arguing that Virginia Tech changed dramatically between 1914 and 1924 because of World War I. However, that argument and answer seems obvious. I’m looking for a way to articulate that what I’m asking goes deeper than the surface. I want to dig down to find out how the war affected different groups at Virginia Tech: students, faculty, administration, community, and institution. I really do believe that looking at Virginia Tech during the Great War can encourage us to re-examine World War I in American history and can help us realize the profound changes it had upon the nation.
- I can babble about this all day, but I need to sit down this weekend to carefully construct a better focus statement.
- Re-framing the question:
- This is a complex story my research is trying to reveal. It’s one that doesn’t just involve students. The actors in my story include students, faculty, administrators, staff, women, community members, volunteer organizations, military officers, and government officials.
- The results of looking at these actors reveal a mixed bag of changes. There were obvious changes in student life which included heightened military training, conscription, a wartime increase in recreational activities sponsored by organizations like the Y.M.C.A. (particularly movies and dances). Statistically speaking there was also a dramatic rise in the student population, which doubled from 1914 to 1924. Within the administration itself there were a number of internal changes which included the loss of staff and faculty members due to military service, changing leadership in the Commandant’s office, and the resignation of President Eggleston in early 1919 (which I think was likely due to his negative experiences during the war). Furthermore, in the immediate aftermath of the war, Virginia Tech officials reconsidered the university’s purpose and seriously debated eliminating the Corps of Cadets and military training entirely. Instead of becoming a purely civilian institution, officials determined upon a middle ground and allowed students to leave the Corps after their sophomore year to complete their education as a civilian.
- I need to ask my main question in different ways to get at the experiences of these groups and to reveal the mixed changes the war produced at Virginia Tech. Not just how did the war change Virginia Tech, but how did it affect students; how did it affect administration; how did it affect university values; how did it affect gender relations? Furthermore, these groups co-existed in the same space, they reacted and were affected by these events alongside each other, these groups influence each other, and perhaps they react in different ways.
Finally, Dr. Ewing and I discussed a timetable for my thesis. Since I am in a dual MA program and will be student teaching next Spring we determined that it would be best if I could finish at least a chapter of my thesis by the end of this summer. I have a good start, now it’s going to take focus, determination, and research.