This post was written by Collections Services Archivist Amanda Fisher.
This past summer, in 2019, the W. R. Poage Legislative Library hosted a professor from the School of Social Work, Dr. Stephanie Boddie, as part of the Baylor Libraries Teaching Fellows program. Fellowships are available each summer to Baylor faculty members and graduate teachers of record and encourage the use of special collections materials in a class they are teaching the following year. Fellowship recipients receive a $1,000 stipend and spend approximately 20 hours in the archives researching with the guidance of an archivist.
Dr. Boddie’s fellowship in the Baylor Collections of Political Materials at the Poage Library involved research to inform content in her Social Policy course. She worked with archivist Amanda Fisher to examine correspondence, newsletters, transcripts, and YouTube videos from the papers of the Honorable Chet Edwards (1951-), Marvin Leath (1931-2000), Sam B. Hall, Jr. (1924-1994), and John Dowdy (1912-1995). Highlighting the words of Dr. Boddie, she sought to include voices across the political spectrum:
I hoped to find letters from people from all walks of life writing to these legislators in support of or in opposition to social welfare policies along with the positions of these lawmakers… The resources of the Poage Library exceeded my expectations. I found letters from 10-year-olds to 90-year-olds. Some from everyday citizens and others from professionals representing their guild or a specific organization. Other letters were clearly part of a campaign by lobbyist or other professional organizations. Some correspondence was handwritten on flowery stationery or postcards and many were produced on typewriters and the more recent ones on computers.
Dr. Boddie intends to incorporate this material into her Social Policy class this fall using 6-8 case studies. As Boddie outlines below:
For my class this Fall, constituent correspondence along with the messages from the legislators will serve as the basis for Social Policy for Social Work Practice case studies. The policy topics for these case studies will range from food stamps and social security to the family medical leave act and health care policy. These case studies will highlight particular social welfare policy issues as well as the following:
- Ways to oppose or support the policy
- Societal attitudes common at the time related to the policy issue
- Events or situations that precipitated interest in the policy issue
- Ideological stance of legislators and citizens in the policy issue
- Values and assumptions underlying positions for particular policy issues
- Other policy options
In her research on food stamps, for example, Dr. Boddie discovered sources for case studies that present support and opposition to the policy.
By reviewing case studies inspired by the kind of letters provided…I hope that students will come to see how social policies impact our everyday lives. I will encourage students to develop a deeper understanding for those that share policy views unlike their own by looking for the common ground and shared values. I will also invite students to consider issues or concerns that would inspire them to write to those that currently serve in Congress and become a part of the policy making process.
It was a joy working with such an enthusiastic researcher this summer who seeks to foster thoughtfulness, dialogue, and critical thinking in the classroom through Poage Library’s archival material. Sic’Em, Dr. Boddie!