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SMU Students Explore Research Avenues at the Library of Congress

Dedman College News

Originally Posted: Jan. 1, 2019

Dr. Joseph F. Kobylka, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, leads a Supreme Court seminar of 12 undergraduates every other spring, which allows these exceptional students to conduct research using the papers of Supreme Court justices in the Library of Congress. Read on to learn more about how the class came to be and experiences from some of his students.

Dr. Kobylka on the origins of the Supreme Court Seminar:

I have been doing research in the Library of Congress since the mid-1990s as a part of the research for my biography of former Justice Blackmun. In addition to uncovering a wealth of previously unknown-to-the-public information, working in the case files of Justices Marshall, Brennan, Blackmun, and White and others was justĀ fun: it gave me a new window into the construction of constitutional law. Over lunch with Jeff Flannery, head of the manuscript division of the Library of Congress, the plan to bring a select seminar to the Library was hatched. The idea of undergraduates doing original research on projects of their own design in the Library was new; Jeff said that it would be unique in his experience, despite dozens of colleges and universities in the Washington, D.C., area. Back in Dallas, I set out to create a way to share the fun with SMU students.

Not just any student would be up to the task of research design and execution involving archived materials. Further, this would be expensive. Enter Dr. David D. Doyle and the Honors Program. Through the generosity of the Richter Foundation, the Honors Program provided funds to help make the idea a reality. We designed a course built around spending spring break working in the Library. We crafted a seminar of 12 students who would spend six days working in the papers of the justices. READ MORE