SJC Brooklyn students documented history during the third annual Voices of SJC oral history project this spring.
During the oral history project, appropriately named “We Are All In This Together,” a cohort of Honors program students interviewed their peers about life during the Covid-19 pandemic. The McEntegart Hall Library/Archives documents the interviews on its website.
In usual circumstances, students taking part in the Voices of SJC project interview the Sisters of St. Joseph, current and former faculty/staff members, and alumni. The students develop interview questions, discuss the theoretical implications of capturing histories orally and gain interviewing skills. Library faculty moderators lead the project, teaching students how to interact with its archives.
This year, students also learned the importance of adaptability.
When St. Joseph’s College announced in early March that classes for the remainder of the semester would be held in a remote setting to comply with social distancing requirements by the state, adjustments needed to be made to the project. Instead of interviewing a subject in person under the supervision of Mayumi Miyaoka, an archivist, assistant professor and librarian at the McEntegart Hall Library, students had to change their project methods. They scrapped the plans they had for their interviews and create a new strategy to interview their peers from home.
Miyaoka said she is proud of the way her students — Alondra Rodriguez Cruz, Gianna Decrescenzo, Andrew Wenzler, Peter Maxham and Dhiraj Chaudhary — stepped up to the challenge.
Click here to listen to the interviews compiled in the SJC Voices “We Are All In This Together” series.
Meet the Voices of SJC Students:
Alondra Rodriguez Cruz
Major: Child Study with a Concentration in Spanish
Graduation year: 2020
Interview subject: Pamela Castillo, a senior child study major, with a Spanish concentration and a bilingual certification. Cruz and Castillo became fast friends when they met three years ago. Both students are in the Academic Center for English Language Studies (ACES) program, are immigrants, and graduated together with the same major.
Reflection on the project: “My interview flowed like a conversation, which was awesome, and at the end, both the interviewee and I enjoyed it. We were able to look at the positive side of things amidst what is going on now. The whole experience taught me how important it is to learn more about the people around you and reach out to them during hard times — especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, it taught me the power and value of anecdotes, stories and conversations.”
Major: Child Study and Speech
Graduation year: 2023
Interview subject: Matthew Parra ’23, who is double majoring in child study and speech. Decrescenzo and Parra are classmates; they met in a child study class in Spring 2020.
Reflection on the project: “Completing the Voices of SJC project at home was definitely different from what I expected. I was not face-to-face with my interviewee, and I was conducting questions about a subject (quarantine/our current situation) that I would have never anticipated speaking about. I enjoyed getting to email Matthew about his experiences with the situation we are facing. From this project — being that I never conducted an interview before — I learned how to act as an interviewer, how to conduct questions that someone can easily talk about, and how to expand on my questions to show an interviewee that I cared for what they talked about.”
Major: Child Study
Graduation year: 2021
Interview subject: Peter Maxham’21, a secondary education and history major. Wenzler and Maxham met in their SJC 100 class freshman year. This project was their third time participating together in the Voices of SJC project.
Reflection on the project: “I think by doing this project it made me realize that we are living history! This recording will live in the SJC archives for many years, and one day our children or grandchildren can look at this recording and see what life was like during the 2020 pandemic.”
Major: Secondary Education and History
Graduation year: 2021
Interview subject: Andrew Wenzler, a child study major. Wenzler and Maxham are both in the SJC Honors program and on the Campus Activities Board (CAB).
Reflection on the project: “It was a strange experience doing this project from home. One of the key components of oral history is getting to conduct an in-person interview and doing research to compose questions for the interview. While we still did all the necessary research, unfortunately, we were not able to conduct the interview. However, we were given the option to conduct an interview with a friend, on any platform we felt comfortable using. This was a fun experience and allowed me to still feel like I contributed to the oral history project.”
Major: Mathematics and Computer Science
Graduation year: 2022
Interview subject: Prasna Gurung, a Class of 2020 accounting major. Chaudhary and Gurung are international students and met in the College’s ACES program. Together, they talk about moving to the United States and the differences between education systems and cultures that they have experienced.
Reflection on the project: “This is my second time doing the Voices of St. Joseph’s concentration for the Honors program. It felt different while doing this at home … The interview was a great experience overall. I never thought I would have to interview Prasna. I remembered different things about my home country while conducting the interview and I reevaluated the challenges that I face as an international student.”