This blog post was composed by Ph.D. candidate Nolan Reisen, a student in the Political Science Department and Poage Library’s 2023 Dowdy Summer Intern.
This summer, I had the privilege to be the Dowdy Intern at the W. R. Poage Legislative Library. My main task for this internship was to organize the Poage Library’s annual iEngage Day, a day camp meant to educate school children from the local area about the workings and importance of being civically engaged. This is a project done in conjunction with Baylor’s School of Education and Dr. Karon LeCompte, with the iEngage portion itself being a part of the national iCivics program. Still, our focus is local, both in audience and subject matter. Our goal was to encourage these children to become civically engaged through their local community, and this was done in large part by focusing on local issues relevant to the Waco area.
At the beginning of the summer, I met with administrators from both the Baylor Libraries and the School of Education in order to brainstorm ideas for what to teach the children for this year’s iEngage Day. A number of the station topics had been selected already, but everyone welcomed my own suggestions as well. In the end, we settled on a good mix of station topics that were sure to be both informative and fun for the campers.
For the first half of the internship, I focused entirely on research for our stations. I spent significant time in the library stacks and in the Texas Collection, learning a great deal about how to conduct research in an archive. This proved to be a very valuable experience for me as an academic, and I feel much more equipped to conduct further research in the future. For iEngage Day, I let the primary sources dictate the direction of the individual stations. Indeed, I discovered many interesting things about Waco’s and Baylor’s histories while in the stacks. Such learning only increased my own appreciation for this very special place, and I believe such appreciation could be seen in the stations for iEngage Day. I truly hope this carried over to the campers themselves, as they will be the guardians of this community in the future. The second half of the summer was a bit more technical as I began nailing down the details of the stations and started crafting lesson plans. The final payoff was well worth the effort.
When iEngage Day finally arrived, I could hardly believe it. So much preparation had gone into this one day, and yet it seemed to pass by so quickly. I now better understand all the work and care that goes into crafting such an experience as iEngage Day. I can see how all of the work pays off in the engagement of the campers themselves – indeed, I was very heartened by the level of engagement I witnessed. Many of these students were very curious and had heartfelt opinions on the political system within which they live. That is to say, these campers were already more politically engaged for their age than I would have expected – certainly more than I was at their age. I truly hope that their experience at the Poage Legislative Library this summer will stick with them in their futures.
Overall, this summer was a pleasure and quite the learning experience for me. I branched out of my usual line of work and was firmly rewarded with an amazing experience. My work at Poage this summer will better equip me as both an academic and a civically engaged citizen, and I hope to continue to share what I’ve learned with others.