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Three students perform extensive research for an upcoming book by Donald L. Miller, MacCracken Professor of History

Three students kept busy this summer helping best-selling author Donald L. Miller, John Henry MacCracken Professor of History, on his latest book project.

Biology major Marie Stavrovsky ’10 (Bethlehem, Pa.), art and history double major Margarita Karasoulas ’08 (Harrison, N.Y.) and government and law major Caroline Bailey ’08 (Gladwyne, Pa.) have been helping Miller with research that eventually will become a book titled “Supreme City: New York City 1927.” The book will be the second installment of a trilogy in a series that first looked at Chicago in 1893 and later will examine Los Angeles as cities that shaped a nation.

  • Marie Stavrovsky ’10 Researches the Roaring Twenties

According to Miller, the book will look at the Big Apple as it stood during a pivotal time in American history. The nation had not yet been hit by the Great Depression, and New York emerged as an epicenter in major growth in industry, transportation, communication, and entertainment.

For Miller, the book will cover a year that, he says, marked when “the twenties congealed.”

“The stock market was going crazy, there was the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney fight, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, NBC was formed, there were big shows on Broadway that showed black people in a real way and not as caricatures, and these big engineering projects,” Miller says. “It’s a sprawling book.”

In addition, the book will examine an issue often glazed over by historians – the rising tide of organized crime and its many prominent figures, including Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and other gangsters.

Of course, getting historical perspective as well as detail on all the major changes of the time period requires a lot of work. That’s where Stavrovsky, Karasoulas, and Bailey came in. They worked with Miller through the EXCEL Scholars program.

In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

The students poured through old microfiche copies of the city’s daily papers, particularly The New York Times and the Daily News, to cull information about the important events of the day. They also watched documentaries about the era and have engaged in group discussions.

Karasoulas found the experience enthralling, especially considering her love of the city. She has been working with Miller for two years and considers the work they have done together invaluable in preparing her for her career.

“The book reflects a new age and cosmopolitan culture in New York City during the roaring twenties,” Karasoulas says. “The New York as we know it came to fruition during this period. It’s a fascinating history that I am especially interested in, since I live so close to New York City and visit it so often.”

Stavrosky also found the research valuable even though she doesn’t intend to enter the publishing field after graduation.

“This project helps me to be very organized. When I become older, I would like to work with children, and you have to be organized in your plans of how to work with the children,” she says. “Professor Miller and I communicate very well and he always tells me what he needs and what I need from him.”

To be sure, the type of research required in the book project is work that can stretch across many disciplines, as Bailey discovered.

“Learning how to research is such an important skill to have in college, and will continue to help if I go on to law school,” says Bailey. “This is the kind of research that most scholars do in preparing to write a book, so it is a great tool to have in any career path.”

Miller says the EXCEL experience gives students the opportunity to learn beyond the classroom.

“The kids that have worked for me over the past years have really done well with placement in graduate schools and jobs,” he says. “They have something to show for their work. It’s not just grades. They have a long-term project they worked on. It’s good experience for training in any kind of profession. No matter if you go into newspapers or law, you’ve got to do research.”

Miller has published eight books and has included student researchers in a great deal of the work. His latest book, Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany (2006), has garnered international attention. The book was recently nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and it has been reviewed and Miller has appeared in media outlets around the world including the Daily Telegraph, the London Times, The New York Times, Air and Space Smithsonian, The History Channel,, PBS, NPR, C-Span, and many others.

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