The ten years that went into planning the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown illustrates how complex the enterprise of commemoration can be.
One group of Randolph-Macon students is watching the anniversary events unfold with particular interest. They are exploring the messages and goals imbedded in commemorative events like the Jamestown Anniversary as part of Being American, one of this year’s First Year Experience course offerings.
The course is team-taught by art history Professor Evie Terrono and political science Professor Brian Turner. “The students are looking at the social, political and aesthetic messages bound up in the way we remember a number of different experiences or personalities that are defined by many as being American,” explained Turner.
For example, one group is studying the evolving meaning and images of Pocahontas, the Indian princess credited with saving the life of Jamestown’s Captain John Smith and teaching the colonists how to grow tobacco. How do Americans explain the evolution of her image from early American heroine to Disney movie star?
Being American is one of many FYE courses that allow students to explore one topic in-depth with two professors from different disciplines. Students in the colloquium do a yearend project that displays their understanding of the connections between and perspectives of the two disciplines.
The First Year Experience program has earned considerable national funding and praise for its originality and interdisciplinary approach to learning.