The year is 1718. The exiled king of England’s intended bride—a beautiful Polish princess—has been abducted and is held captive. After months of protest and excruciatingly fruitless negotiation, no release is at hand. An Irish soldier of fortune decides that this is an affront that his king should not be made to endure. He must rescue the princess. The king agrees to his bold plan. He then leads a band of seven heavily disguised commoners into hostile territory and whisks the princess out of captivity from under the very noses of the authorities. After the rescue, his party must travel many miles in a rickety carriage over rugged and snowy mountain passes while being hotly pursued by determined cavalrymen with orders to stop them at any cost. Will the rescue party make it?
Riveting? Steeped in history? This is the real-life scenario that forms the basis of one of the history courses at the University of St. Francis. By the time students are finished with the story, they have an excellent grasp of the history of the times.
The history program at the University of St. Francis encourages students to visualize, feel and experience history.
• Debating the merits of historical films
• Putting on a trial of accused witches in 1692 Salem
• Negotiating the terms of the Versailles Treaty after World War I.
Technology also allows students to explore a medieval castle in 3-D or step into the World War II Battle of the Bulge.
Most courses use computers in the classroom or have assignments using image-rich CD-Roms or Internet resources. USF offers students software that will allow them to animate a map.
While incorporating time-honored traditional methods, history courses also use many active-learning techniques as well as state-of-the-art technology.
Students take a history and Social Sciences seminar to learn the methods and skills of historians so that they can discover how to piece together historical puzzles.
There’s no limit to the sense of accomplishment as you sift through original documents to decide issues like these:
• Why conflicts developed between fur traders and Native Americans
• How the North won the Civil War
• Why the United States got embroiled in Vietnam.
Students become real historians as they present their findings regarding historical questions in significant papers.
The department also creates opportunities for local and global experiences. Students take courses in Illinois or Chicago history, where the classroom moves to historically relevant sites. Students also are encouraged to participate in local history organizations, like the Joliet Area Historical Museum, the I & M Canal Heritage Corridor, or Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.
There are global opportunities, too.
Students in non-western courses are encouraged to develop e-mail correspondence with people in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Trips-for-credit are offered to places such as England, Ireland, or Italy. Students have the wonderful opportunity to study abroad for an entire semester.