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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


WHS-UCM Collaboration with Veterans Enhances Understanding of Vietnam War  

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (May 5, 2017) – History books are helpful, but when it comes to studying about the Vietnam War, nothing beats the opportunity to learn about the event than stories shared by the men and women who actually experienced it. Bringing a real-life perspective to their history studies, Warrensburg High School sophomores this spring participated in an innovative program with the University of Central Missouri that allowed them to learn from and share the stories of Vietnam veterans and other individuals who lived in the war era.

WHS Vietnam Project

Ashtyn Bevans, a sophomore at Warrensburg High School, discusses her interview with a Vietnam War veteran as part of a “doing history” project that involved participation with students and faculty from the University of Central Missouri.

The project involved 85 students who created reports based on interviews they conducted with primary sources that included family members and other individuals who either served in the war or knew people who served.  Project direction was provided by their teacher, Abby Allen, with support by UCM faculty members and students in the Department of History, Anthropology, Africana Studies and Social Studies.

 The high school students’ efforts also coincided with the UCM McClure-Archives and University Museum’s designation by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) as a Vietnam Commemorative Partner. As such, the university is playing a role in gathering and sharing veterans’ stories leading up to the nation’s 50th anniversary observance of the Vietnam War in 2025.  Furthering these educational efforts, UCM will host The Wall That Heals, a mobile half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall), in Washington, D.C., June 29-July 2.

“The biggest thing I was able to take away from this experience is a different perspective…because on my own I would have never done this,” said Ashtyn Bevans, a student in Allen’s World History honors course who participated in the interview project. On April  26, she was one of 12 students who made presentations before her classmates and a group of UCM faculty, staff, students in the school library.

 “Honestly, when you think about war, it doesn’t seem like a real thing,” Bevans shared, commenting from information limited to mostly what she has read in school. “But,” she added, “this made it feel more real and I was able to understand Vietnam in a totally different way.”

In what UCM educators term “doing history,” the program gave Bevans and her classmates the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the Vietnam War beyond their textbooks by learning from veterans whom they interviewed in person and by phone during the spring. While reaching out to veterans, Allen’s students said they made many personal connections with those they interviewed. They learned a lot about the war, but in many cases, more about the individuals with whom they spoke and their roles in war.  In their reports, the students noted a variety of exchanges – sometimes tearful – about the physical and emotional scars of war. They heard stories about what it was like to lose former high school classmates and fellow soldiers. They also learned about the war’s psychological effects and the kinds of injuries that follow soldiers home. Some individuals who were interviewed even shared less-frequently-told stories about their encounters with a beautiful Vietnam landscape.

While a number of students spoke about grandparents they interviewed, they noted the interview experience gave them an opportunity to hear their family members open up about a topic they had seldom discussed with them previously.

 “I got a lot out of this because I know my Papa so well, and I got to hear all these stories I have never heard before. It was so interesting to think about all the things he went through that I was completely unaware of,” said Grace Kennedy, who interviewed her grandfather, David Rest, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran from Warrensburg.

Allen’s students entered the project by learning interviewing techniques from UCM students who were enrolled in a social studies course taught by Star Nance, assistant professor in education. The curriculum that was used by Nance’s students was modeled after a curriculum that Amber Clifford-Napoleone, associate professor of anthropology and director of the McClure-Archives and University Museum, shared with her ethnography students. Consistent with the cooperative partnership with the DoD, Clifford-Napoleone’s students have been interviewing area veterans on video during 2016-2017 in cooperation with UCM’s public television station, KMOS-TV.

“These interviews will be available to the public when The Wall that Heals is on campus as part of a kiosk at the McClure Archives and University Museum exhibition ‘Commemoration,’” Clifford-Napoleone said.

Nance noted that the WHS-UCM project benefits university students who are preparing to become teachers as well as the high students.                    

“From my perspective, this is a service learning project. My students are learning pedagogy, then they are implementing the pedagogy, and watching high school students do the same thing,” Nance noted. But she added that the opportunity for WHS sudents to speak with veterans is a valuable learning tool.

 “The more you can help students learn about what happened in different eras and times, and put a real person with it, the better they will learn the content,” she remarked.

Allen said the opportunity to participate and interest shown by students “makes me feel validated and really great” as their teacher. She will help ensure the student work and knowledge of the Vietnam War is not forgotten.

As she noted, “In the classroom, the students have written their finals. The information they have will be documented. I will show them how to archive their audio files so they can be accessed 20 years from now.”

WHS Vietnam Study group

Twelve Warrensburg High School who interviewed veterans of the Vietnam War and others who lived in that era as part of a joint project with University of Central Missouri faculty and students gather for a photo in the WHS school library. With UCM students and faculty identified, shown are front row, from left, Connor Staponski, (UCM), Natalie Fatka, Rachel Stark-Wroblewski, Grace Kennedy, Ashtyn Bevans, Caitlin Kenney (UCM), Star Nance (UCM assistant professor in education ), Amber Clifford-Napoleone (UCM associate professor of anthropology and director of the McClure-Archives and University Museum ), Abby Allen (WHS teacher); back row,  Eric Tenbus (UCM chair of the Department of History, Anthropology, Africana Studies and Social Studies), Daltan Sweet (UCM), Chasity Wilson, Caroline Schumaker, Victoria Kampel, Andrew Duhamell, Drew Burgess, Abigail Dempsey, Caly Comfort, Michaela Brawley, and Jonathon Ortbals (UCM).