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Much as historians might want to take an article or conference paper from conception to completion in one semester, in fact we often take longer. Last spring, Dr. Matt Schumann’s rendition of our Historiography course (HIST 3797) won an award for introducing students to key elements and mindsets of the historian’s craft, including an appreciation that their projects might exceed the scope of the class. One student from last Fall’s course, AYA Education major Mr. Benjamin Stuck, has now spent a year on his project, a history of the War on Drugs, and he just received a CURS grant this Fall to support his ongoing research.

In this post, Dr. Schumann asks Mr. Stuck for some perspectives on his evolving project, where it has been and where it’s going.

  1. How did you decide on your original topic for Historiography, and what did it look like as your project progressed last Fall? 

When deciding on my original topic for Historiography, I was fascinated about the possibility of completing a school project focusing on the War on Drugs from a historical lens and perspective. With the class and lesson structure of Dr. Schumann’s Historiography class, I was provided the opportunity to explore the topic as I wished and garner immense amount of information. As my project progressed throughout the fall semester, I began to narrow my research down to focus on policy reformation regarding the legalization status of cannabis in the United States (an increasing subject of discussion when reflecting on the history of the War on Drugs). Upon completion of my project at the end of the Fall semester, I had accumulated extensive hours of research regarding the topic of the War on Drugs and became intrigued with the history I discovered throughout the class.

Upon completion of the original project, Dr. Schumann encouraged and inspired me to look beyond the scope of the class and continue the research I had conducted for my Historiography project. He suggested that if I were interested in continuing my research after the conclusion of the course, several avenues would be available to pursue as he would happily provide his assistance throughout the process. This would mark the beginning of the continuation of my research project after the Fall semester, so I eagerly anticipated the upcoming Spring semester and the opportunities that would be presented to me regarding the possibility of furthering my research. 

  • How did it evolve last Spring, and how was it impacted by events at that time, like COVID-19 and fresh incidents of racial violence? 

I began narrowing and evolving my research topic in the beginning months of the Spring semester in preparation for applying for an undergraduate research grant. With the focus of my research shifting from a historical perspective to one more reflective of Political Science (considering that policy reformation was going to be a crucial aspect of my research), I consulted Dr. Kalaf-Hughes of the Political Science Department to aid me in the development and narrowing of my research topic. With the help of Dr. Kalaf-Hughes, I began to focus on how the decriminalization of cannabis impacted incarceration rates in Toledo, Ohio.

However, the unprecedented events of COVID-19 and the fresh incidents of racial violence caused me to alter my research topic and change course once again. As the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice unfolded, Dr. Schumann and I collectively formulated another research topic that would respectively provide valuable insight on the current racial attitudes and the lasting impacts of the War on Drugs that continued to evolve. With a newly created research topic, I applied for a CURS grant in late summer to conduct research and examine my research question that states, “to what extent do current racial attitudes in Toledo, Ohio, reflect the legacy of the War on Drugs?”. 

  • What does your project look like now? How do you plan to pursue it, and what products do you think might come from your research? 

Shortly after the beginning of the academic school year, I received the news that my application for the Fall 2020 CURS grant had been accepted. With the acceptance of the grant, my intent to continue my project with the backing and support of Bowling Green State University had become an exciting reality. Through the following months of the fall semester, I will be conducting several interviews with residents of Toledo as I search for insight gleaned from first person accounts of the current racial attitudes there. In addition to interviews, I will be obtaining an abundant amount of information through archives and locally recorded moments of history that may aid me in my research. There are several possible products and outcomes that may result from the completion of my research, I fully expect to shed light and gain more personal insight on current racial attitudes in Toledo and surrounding communities. As I interview residents and sift through information and prior research, I fully expect to answer my research question and discover the extent to which the legacy of the War on Drugs reflects the historically current racial attitudes that we have been observing throughout 2020 in Toledo, OH.

  • Now that your research is passing the one-year mark, how do you feel about taking your project longer-term? Do you have any tips or tricks to recommend to your peers?

It is hard to believe that my research is rapidly approaching the one-year mark; it is even harder to believe that this journey has stemmed from a class project that I completed in Dr. Schumann’s Historiography class a year ago. I am extremely eager to dedicate more time and energy into my research project and thoroughly examine the results this upcoming winter. I feel the prospect of taking this project longer-term is a possibility that I will be seriously considering, as furthering my research would yield even more fascinating findings and results for myself and the general public.

Speaking from personal experience, I would like to urge my peers to look beyond the typical classroom structure and consider expanding their academic work outside it. I recommend students connecting with one of your professors and discussing the possibility of conducting research if you have any inkling or desire to continue working on academic material. Without the assistance and motivation from Dr. Schumann, I would have never pursued the possibility of conducting my research and would not be in the position I am in today.

Finally, I would like to personally thank Dr. Kalaf-Hughes from the Political Science Department for her insight and assistance, in developing my research topic. In addition to Dr. Kalaf-Hughes, I am incredibly appreciative of Dr. Schumann and his Historiography class. His continued support inspired me to apply and receive the CURS research grant, along with continuing and pursuing my research outside of the typical classroom setting. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this year-long (and continuing) process, I am eager for the undiscovered information and research that lies ahead!