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Emily Goldberg ’05 (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Trustee Scholar Alexandra Kenney ’06 (Springfield, Va.), Marisa Floriani ’07 (Wyckoff, N.J.), and Jess Cygler ’07 (Scarsdale, N.Y.) have taken their love of history to new heights.

Donald L. Miller, John Henry MacCracken Professor of History, asked them to help research and proofread his latest book, D-Days in the Pacific, a 448-page volume that was released March 1 and serves as a companion volume to an upcoming History Channel television series. The students also have assisted with his two works-in-progress — Bomber Boys, a narrative account of the American Air Force in World War II, and The Crisis of the Confederacy: The Siege of Vicksburg.

The collaboration is part of a Lafayette initiative called Community of Scholars, which is supported by College funding and a $200,000 grant from the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation. The three-year initiatives allow faculty members from a variety of disciplines to work with students in small group settings.

“The students were involved in every aspect of D-Days in the Pacific and really are a tremendous help,” he says. “There is always quite a rush to complete a book and they made themselves readily available.”

He says their involvement in conducting research, assembling the bibliography, copyediting, fact checking, proofreading the manuscript, and working with Simon & Schuster’s staff was an invaluable resource. He even acknowledges them in the book.

The students say that the opportunity to work with Miller is an ideal way to shape their Lafayette experience. In addition to becoming better writers and getting a bird’s eye view of history, they have gained priceless researching experience.

Miller is a featured on-camera expert in “Victory in the Pacific,” a PBS American Experience program that debuted May 2. He has been selected from 200 candidates nationwide by The National D-Day Museum in New Orleans for its first yearlong fellowship, which includes a role as co-chair of its International WWII Conference Oct. 5-9, expected to be the largest World War II conference ever.

“I was honored that a professor like Dr. Miller, who is so renowned, would ask me to be a part of this. It’s an opportunity you can’t turn down,” says Floriani.

“This experience has taught me a lot of real-world skills,” says Cygler, a double major in history and English. “The research is more extensive than if you were just going to do research for a paper. I’m working for a historian so I obviously do things more carefully than if I was doing something for myself.”

Goldberg adds that the project’s subject matter is very in-depth and expands on what is taught in the classroom.

“There’s so much information just about World War II in general,” she says. “In fact, uncovering some of the old photos led me to write a thesis, with Dr. Miller as my adviser, about World War II photographers and what role they played in forming public opinion about the war.

“I don’t think I could have had the opportunity or even thought about writing about these photographers if I wasn’t doing this research with him.”

Goldberg was assigned the role of chief researcher and Kenney, Cygler, and Floriani were designated research assistants.

Kenney, an economics and business major, spent summer vacation searching for original photos for Bomber Boys at the National Archives in College Park, Md., and authentic documents about World War II air battles at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

She believes that the patience she has gained from searching through the documents will help her no matter what career path she pursues.

“Whether you’re interacting with people or you’re working on a computer and must take the time to learn something new, you have to have patience,” she says.

Part of Cygler’s work for Bomber Boys included spending numerous hours at the New York Public Library researching the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which played for the U.S. Air Force during World War II.

She says the writing and editing skills honed by the project support her goal of becoming a lawyer.

Miller adds that the research offers the students an opportunity to learn about related careers.

“If they like this process they can decide to go into editing. If they like writing they can get involved with a book, or since they’re also helping me with some movie work, they might decide to work in the documentary world. It’s good training for whatever they want to do,” he says.

Unsure of her career path, Floriani knows her work ethic will benefit from the spirit of cooperation within the group and by being surrounded by academics who push themselves to succeed.

For Goldberg, a government and law major pursuing a career in news or entertainment media, being able to root out relevant information and communicate it in a small space is a requisite skill.

“I think a lot of companies are looking for someone who has strong research and writing skills,” she says. “There is so much history out there and to be able to condense it to the relevant information is valuable.”

Miller believes that the most significant effect of the research on the students is that history has taken on a whole new meaning.

“They’re seeing history in the making,” he says. “They’re getting inside the whole research process and getting inside the book and watching it unfold. They can see the shaping hand of the author in the whole process and no matter what kind of career they go into, it’s an invaluable experience.”

“This experience makes history more real,” Floriani says. “I get to see the actual interviews and read about military sequences.”

“When I look at history now,” Cygler adds, “I don’t just look at the books I have to read for class; it’s much more real. I don’t think that by only reading textbooks I would have gained that perspective. This work has made history more accessible to me and showed me that it’s something I definitely have a passion for.”

“I’m really glad to be a part of this kind of project and to have seen the process and know that I’ve had an impact – especially finding the photos that Professor Miller is using in his book,” Kenney says. “There’s some really good stuff I’ve found and I’m really excited that I am making a difference in the project.”

Goldberg is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the government and law honor society, Pi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society, Delta Gamma sorority, and Hillel Society. She is an orientation leader, participated in intramural sports, and performed in the College Theater productions of subUrbia and The American Dream.

Kenney is president of the club rugby team.

Cygler plays the clarinet for Lafayette’s Wind Ensemble and copyedits for The Lafayette.

After winning a Great Lakes Book Award for City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America, Miller played a multifaceted role in the production of “Ulysses S. Grant,” a four-hour American Experience series that aired on PBS television. He also is lead scholar and on-air host of “A Biography of America,” a PBS video series and telecourse, and has played significant roles in other series for PBS, which aired a series based on City of the Century. Miller also wrote The Story of World War II, a revised, expanded, and updated version of Henry Steele Commager’s classic book The Story of the Second World War.

Categorized in: Academic News