Sunday, August 11, 2013


McNair Scholars Program
      I'm sad to say that this will be my last post for this summer internship project. It's difficult to put into words how much this summer experience has meant to me, but I'll try. I've learned so much on so many levels. Whenever I think of Camden, NJ I will think of a city in different phases. It has certainly been a city plagued by much of the same misfortune that many other formerly industrial cities have experienced in the United States during the second half of this century. However, this is only the frame of the full portrait that is Camden. In analyzing its evolving demographic, political culture, and key events, Camden becomes a city with a specific character. On a micro level, the individuals that I interviewed and those I encountered in Camden have left an impression upon me of perseverance and progress amid tragedy. The story of the "Puerto Rican Riots" provides us with lessons regarding local government and community communication, the ills of police brutality, and the importance of fair representation for minorities. I will not forget Camden. I intend on studying it and other places with similar issues in the sake of action and progress.
Philadelphia from side of Camden
       As much as the issues in Camden left an impact on me, the experience of researching was the most enjoyable part of this internship. Waking up and heading to the archives or library and spending the day walking through Camden in search of what was hidden, was spectacular. It wasn't always easy but it was certainly worthwhile. It was the thrill of pooling resources together in an attempt to ultimately create vital knowledge that made the internship significant. I had the opportunity to sharpen my researching skills and increase my historical IQ which will both serve me well in my future researching endeavors. Mostly, this research helped me comprehend the importance of understanding history as a guide to action. Decisions are fueled by what is known and understanding the past is essential in this.
         In addition to my loved ones who are my perpetual motor, a constant source of support during this internship came from my mentor Dr. Michelle Nickerson. She has truly become my role model and I can only hope to emulate the sort of dedicated historian and person she is. She's taught me what it means to dig deep into an issue to find truth and the significance of it. The directors and members of the McNair Scholar's program have also been central in motivating me to higher feats. The program has sparked an ambition in me that will continue to burn until I've achieved my audacious goals. Lastly, thank you all for taking the time out to read this undergrad's work. I hope you've enjoyed my posts and learned a couple things along the way. 

Thank you! 

Fruit of Organization

       Since being back from the both coasts of the country, I've gotten the opportunity to settle back at Loyola and prepare for the coming semester. I've been trying my best to stay organized: not always an easy task. But as I reflect on this summer's internship researching experience, I thought about how essential it was to make sure that all my sources were well organized. Organization keeps our lives in the order in which we want them. This project, in particular, may have not gone as well as it did if all the information was not kept in order. Newspaper articles, interview questions, transcribed interviews, IRB materials, census information, photos, all had their respective digital folders for easy access. Now the reason I thought it was so important to lay out all my sources in this way is because the foundation to this whole research project was a marriage between sources. In order to present something as true, I tried my best to corroborate one source with another. For instance, when examining the interviews I conducted with those with close ties to the events surrounding the riots, I searched my other sources to see if the information was matching or contradictory what was stated. In some cases it made a certain point stronger, and in others it proved uncertainty. But that's exactly what you want when creating knowledge. As students of history, it is our responsibility to make sure that we present the facts as they truly are. 

          Now that my draft for the paper is done, the next step is to make it better. First, I'll do this by taking into account the suggestions of my mentor Dr. Michelle Nickerson and graduate student Crystal Jackson of the McNair Scholars Program. The next step would be to work on it during the upcoming fall semester in the Honors History seminar. Making this project into an honors thesis would allow me to make it the best it could possibly be so that it may be used as a springboard to graduate school but also to make a final product with significant implications. Much will be added. An appendix featuring maps, original graphs and charts will help to add to the comprehensive nature of the paper. My hope is that the findings of this project will shed light on the complexities of the human condition of those living in an urban environment, in this case, a very strained one. But until then, I have much to learn and I will continue to work on mastering this craft.

Friday, August 9, 2013

California Pt. 2

        Just about an hour south of Berkeley, CA sits one of the most beautiful university campuses in the country, Stanford, and the place where we spent our second day in California. Stanford University is enormous. It boasts over 600 major buildings, 43,000 trees, and 49 miles of roads. At times, the campus seemed more like a resort than a school. While we were there, we had the opportunity to stroll about the colossal campus and enjoy the architecture which seemed to be characterized by tan walls and red roofs. We were there to attend a graduate school workshop that would walk us through the application process and give us tips on how to prepare ourselves in order to be successful. It featured a McNair graduate student panel which was quite helpful in showing us what we could achieve, especially since we come from similar backgrounds and circumstances. Their advice ranged from continuing to conduct research to how to contact potential professors and schools. Dr. Brown, a Stanford professor, was the host of the event. He was clearly knowledgeable in the application process and made it quite clear that his goal was to help us in any way he could. Generally, the workshop was a good way to familiarize ourselves with all the requirements that will make us the strongest candidates for PhD programs.  
       There were roughly 200 students that attended this workshop at Stanford. Of those 200, I only met two students who studied history. Many represented fields in medicine, engineering, and other social sciences. So although much of the advice that was given to us was of great help, much of it was not specific to our respective disciplines. For instance, the GRE was stressed as, potentially, the most important part of one's graduate application. In my conversations with various history professors at different programs, it was further down in the list of priorities. So when our lunch break came, I set about finding the history department. After 20 minutes of walking around the labyrinth-like campus, I was finally successful in finding it! There, I met Art Palmon, Graduate Student Services officer. Art was friendly and gave me some great advice. He walked me through the specific application process for history at Stanford and what I should make my priorities. A strong statement of purpose and transcript seemed essential. After our conversation, I felt much more confident and reinvigorated knowing that I had my objectives laid out in front of me.
   At times it was stressful to think that, in order to be accepted to the best possible program, we must go beyond our best effort to show that we are worth the investment. But ultimately, it is up to us to look within ourselves to discover what our really passions are. My passion is history and just this thought makes it all worth it. What I've learned most during this trip to California is that graduate history programs aren't as concerned with what you've done as they are with what it is that you plan to do. Being specific in what research we'd like to pursue is key. With this information in mind, I will continue to go about this process in a methodological manner while remembering why I'm doing this and continuing to give it my all. The future is exciting. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

California Pt. 1

 Sather Gate
Reading room atUC, Berkeley
     So, it's been a while since I've posted on my research about the "Puerto Rican" riots but not without good reason. For about a week, I was able to travel to California with the McNair Scholars Program here at Loyola. Our purpose for being there was a four day McNair Symposium at the University of California at Berkeley which featured presentations by other McNair Scholars from all around the country who represented various fields. While we were there, we also visited the resort-like Stanford University which will be the subject of my next post. In addition to learning from the student presentations, we received vital information and advise about graduate admissions programs for different schools and fields. It was very comforting to meet so many other students who are in the same position of applying to graduate programs and now the stress that comes with that. We met some wonderful people, both students and administrators, who were passionate about what they did and their notable research presentations displayed this. It was a very motivating experience.

      We stayed at the UC,Berkeley dorms which were right on the edge of a beautiful campus on hills and by the famous Telegraph Street in Berkeley.The city of Berkeley is a diverse and vibrant community that is filled with restaurants, museums, parks, and many small private shops. The campus of the university itself gave off a relaxed aura. Everyone I encountered seemed very comfortable with themselves and who generally seemed pretty happy to help (a bit different in my native NYC). As I walked about the campus, I noticed how many old buildings there were and how much significant history took place there during the civil rights eras of the 1960's and 1970's. It was there that remarkable individuals like Mario Savio gave passionate addresses on the right to free speech and human rights. Those moments were part of what helped make this trip so worthwhile.

Sather Tower 
      During those few days, I was also fortunate enough to meet with two professors of History at the university: Mark Brilliant and Waldo Martin. Both were not only helpful in advising me on the application process, but they were also individuals who inspired me. They teach, not only to communicate facts, but to foster a mind that asks complex questions, understands historical methodology, and is focused enough to manifest their passion into a thoughtful final product. All in all, my visit to Berkeley was productive and quite relaxing, a nice break from the arduous, but enjoyable, research from last month. Without a doubt, I will take the necessary steps to submit a strong application to this prestigious school.