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Over the summer Dr. Cindy Salmons, Assistant Professor of English and co-chair of the English Department, decided to take a leap of faith and travel to Yale University to take part in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s Seminar on Slave Narratives in American Literature and History. The seminar, cosponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, spanned from June 19th to June 24th. “I received a piece of mail because Alice Lloyd is a part of the CIC. I thought, ‘This looks really fun! Why don’t I apply for this?’ I was honored to be chosen,” said Dr. Salmons.

Part of the application process included a letter of recommendation from the Academic Dean, Claude “Lafie” Crum. Dean Crum was very supportive of Dr. Salmons and was more than willing to help. When asked about the seminar Dean Crum stated, “I think the seminar Dr. Salmons attended will help to inform her teaching, especially in the area of Early American literature. I am thrilled that she was able to share her work and scholarship with such a well-informed and distinguished audience.”

The seminar was geared towards educators from small independent colleges across the country. “There were 25 of us and we are all from small independent colleges. We all teach a little bit of everything,” stated Dr. Salmons. “The seminar consisted of mostly literature and history professors and getting to interact with colleagues from small colleges like ours was a highlight of the trip for me. All of these people were interested in teaching and how to get our students interested and invested in this material.”

The seminar, focused on strengthening teaching and research skills, consisted mostly of group discussion. The participants received a reading list, watched several films, and had access to original documents related to slavery. “It was mostly seminar-type discussion,” Dr. Salmons explained. “We read things and talked about how we would approach them in our classroom, how we would teach them, what we could do to get students to understand about this tradition, and how we, as teachers, could engage in this material.” Dr. John Stauffer, professor of English and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, also presented a lecture on Frederick Douglass and the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Dr. Salmons spoke highly of Dr. Stauffer’s lecture, even stating that it was “my favorite part of the seminar itself!”

Dr. Salmons plans to incorporate her new knowledge into the classroom this semester. “I’ve already made some changes to my English 215 syllabus. We read Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave but now I feel like I can contextualize more effectively,” Dr. Salmons detailed. “I’ve also added some of Frederick Douglass’s novel and I haven’t done that in the past.” Dr. Salmons also hopes to team up with Dr. Steve Wilson, Professor of History, in the future to create a class based on slave narratives.

“I’m really glad I got a chance to go,” reflected Dr. Salmons. “I haven’t been that far away from home by myself so I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone and benefit my teaching. I’m glad I did it. It was a really good experience.”