Though there were some 20th Century efforts to document the institutional history of St. Cloud State, we have only begun to grapple with how this history shapes who we are as 21st Century Huskies. Over the course of the spring 2018 semester, I and four other graduate students had the honor of helping bring this history to life.
In Public History II, headed by Dr. Rob Galler, five students — Kayla Steilow, Lance Sternberg, Kasey Solomon, Blake Johnson and I — had the opportunity to reexamine St. Cloud State’s history. For us, this was the opportunity to bring previously neglected stories to light, particularly those of the students who have shaped and been shaped by St. Cloud State.
Each of us focused on one decade from the 1920s to the 1960s. Lance, for instance, inter- viewed community members about the college’s expansion in the ’60s, while Kasey researched growing political awareness among female students in the ’20s. As I looked into issues of the Uni- versity Chronicle and Talahi yearbooks from the 1930s, I found remarkable student resilience despite the Depression. While some students relied on loans or jobs in the National Youth Admin- istration — a New Deal program directed in Minnesota by President George Selke — they also showed a growing interest in culture and politics, helping lay the foundation for student engage- ment and diversity today. Students participated in thriving athletics and arts programs and orga- nized groups like the Inter-Religious Council and the International Relations Club. Students of color like Oneida woman Alma Baird and Filipino man Hilario Guiang shared their cultures with eager-to-learn students, and figures like Muslim Indian independence advocate Maulana Shaukat Ali spoke before thousands on campus.
We have begun to bring these stories to the public through Huskies Showcase presentations, radio interviews, upcoming articles in Stearns History Museum’s Crossings, and to-be-constructed exhibit boards on campus, all of which will continue into the university’s year of celebration starting fall 2018. In doing so, we have gained valuable experience in our field. Equally impor- tant, we have gained a greater appreciation for our alma mater while helping bring to life its long history.
As our sesquicentennial year of celebration approaches, we hope that this work is only the beginning of a deeper engagement with St. Cloud State University’s history by faculty, alumni and students.