Matthew Guillen '14
-story by Lena Wallace '14
Randolph-Macon College student Matthew Guillen '14 says American
Civil War history has fascinated him since the third grade. This summer, Guillen
is following his passion by participating in the Schapiro Undergraduate Research
Fellowship (SURF) program. His project is titled
“Marx’s Impressions and Interpretations of the American Civil War.”
SURF offers students the unique opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original
research during the summer months, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Life as a Commuter Student
Guillen is from Richmond, Virginia. Coincidently, Richmond is the former capital
of the Confederate States of America.
“You can’t escape Civil War history here in Richmond,” says Guillen. “People are
still talking about war issues and interpretations.” As a
commuter student, Guillen says the R-MC campus is a welcoming environment.
“I suppose life as a commuter student poses challenges that life for residential
students doesn't, like keeping gas in the car or just making sure I bring everything
with me that I'm going to need on a given day,” he says. “Honestly, though, I feel
just as much a part of the Randolph-Macon community as anyone else – just walking
to and from class or the library or using
the Brock Center is centered around something
going on at R-MC. It’s easy to feel that I’m part of the community.”
Guillen, a history major and
classics minor, says Karl Marx reported on British public opinion in The New
York Daily Tribune and Die Presse of Vienna, Austria regarding
his opinions about the American Civil War.
“I’m researching Marx’s opinions, strategies, and political and military views on
the war,” he explains. “In his interpretation, the Civil War was a step in the path
toward communism. It’s a really different and interesting perspective. A few Marx
scholars have mentioned the fact that he wrote during this period but even fewer
Civil War historians have acknowledged his writings.”
Guillen hopes to present his research at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of
Undergraduate Scholarship (Markus) at Sweetbriar College in October. The conference
focuses on undergraduate research and scholarship within all academic disciplines.
Guillen met History Professor
Mark Malvasi, his SURF mentor, at Accepted Students Day. He chose him as
his academic advisor because of their mutual interest in the American Civil War.
“I have taken several classes with Professor Malvasi,” says Guillen. “Now, during
SURF, we meet and he helps me become more familiar with articles written by Marx.
He's been a great help with locating source material, giving advice and encouragement
and guiding me in the right direction.”
“I’ve seen a general improvement in Matthew’s ability to think critically, to make
connections, and to formulate more sophisticated analyses and conclusions,” says
Malvasi. “More important, I’ve watched him develop a greater sense of sympathy and
understanding for men and women who lived in the past.”
The SURF program was established in 1995 through a generous gift made by Ben ’64
and Peggy Schapiro. The Schapiros continue to support this program, which promotes
scholarly undergraduate research by R-MC students in all disciplines.