Here’s another attempt to update my focus statement which, by all accounts, is probably way too long:
Between 1914 and 1924 the Virginia Tech community negotiated the cataclysmic and dynamic decade surrounding the First World War. I want to look at Virginia Tech during this decade to see how the university community responded to and was shaped by its experiences during the First World War. I argue that within this crucial decade Virginia Tech faced some of its gravest challenges since the institution was founded in 1872. Three periods emerge in this study. During the pre-war period (1914-April 1917) the Virginia Tech community debated possible American involvement in the conflict, revealing small, but significant, fault lines within the community. Throughout the war (April 1917-November 1918) the community was in a state of constant flux as the university lost faculty members to conscription, dealt with the everyday realities of war, faced numerous leadership changes, and eventually confronted direct federal takeover of the campus itself. Finally, in the post-war years (1919-1924) community identity changed as student enrollment doubled, women began to enroll in the university, and when university officials debated removing military components of Virginia Tech education entirety.
To build my argument I rely upon a rich primary source base located at Virginia Tech which includes the collected records of university presidents Joseph Eggleston and Julian Burruss, the campus newspaper The Virginia Tech, a handful of student scrapbooks, the college yearbook The Bugle, the Blacksburg newspaper The Montgomery Messenger, college promotional material and publications, and Board of Visitors minutes. This project seeks to shift broaden our understanding of the place of higher educational in the First World War by focusing on a land-grant institution and it asks us to consider colleges as not only places were learning happens, but places where durable communities and identities are forged.
I’m sure this will change even more over the course of my project. I wanted to find a way to talk about continuities in the community through this decade as well, because these continuities reflect the entrenched ideas about gender, race, and masculinity, but I failed to find a proper way to do so. Virginia Tech changes in this period, but important continuities exist as well. A question to pose to my peers and faculty.