Joining the Voices of SMU Oral History Project

This blog post was written by Jonathan Angulo. He is currently a PhD Candidate at SMU’s History Department. His research focuses on undocumented economies in the Imperial-Mexicali Valley California Borderlands during the mid-twentieth century. 
During the Summer 2019 break, Professor Jill Kelly (SMU’s historian of Africa) emailed me about an opportunity to work for an oral history project. I was a Ph.D. student at the time and was excited to hear about the job. I decided to reply to Dr. Kelly about my general interest, and we decided to discuss this alongside Cindy Boeke, Assistant Director for the Norwick Center for Digital Solutions. Professor Kelly emailed me a day later with the job offer, and I was thrilled to join the team. Since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
I spent my first week familiarizing myself with normal procedures. For example, the project meets weekly to discuss who we have interviewed, who we plan on interviewing, and how we want to improve the initiative. I had an enjoyable experience getting to know everyone working for Voices of SMU.
In the first month, Camille Davis, my fellow Ph.D. classmate, introduced me to others and taught me about normal procedures. Elisa McCune informed me on how to edit and access transcriptions. She also showed me how to create and edit metadata information for the archives. I also got to meet Robert Walker who is the audio and visual backbone of Voices of SMU. He also showed me the amazing oral history studio where we interview narrators.
One of my favorite experiences is seeing the Research Assistants’ work. India Simmons is the Senior Research Assistant and leads our weekly gatherings. She also networks with school organizations to find SMU alumni, so they can discuss their histories at the university. Seeing how the students have expanded the project and continue to makes me proud of their work.
Research Assistants like Nia Kamau have highlighted the histories of SMU alumni. For example, Nia, Cindy, Camille, and I formally presented to the SMU Black Faculty and Staff Association. Ms. Kamau discussed the importance of multicultural organizations and mentors to Black students. She argued that both factors greatly contributed to the students’ success.
Camille, Joan, Nia, and Jonathan after presenting for the SMU Black Faculty and Staff Association
Since the coronavirus pandemic, Professor Kelly, Cindy, and Joan (SMU’s archivist) have masterfully provided us opportunities to work remotely. Fondren Library (where we interview narrators) is currently closed, and we do not want to expose others to the virus. As a result, the research assistants are working on numerous projects which will be featured on our blog and website.
I look forward in continuing to work with Voices of SMU to discuss the experiences of communities of color at the university and make them accessible to DFW communities and abroad.

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