A former editor’s take on life after Union

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By Erica Fugger

Since that fateful day in June, I have somehow escaped the grips of early onset college nostalgia and have lived to tell the tale.

The truth as distressing as it may be to hear: there is life after Union.

While the months ticked by at what was likely my last summer as a town lifeguard, I was readying myself for the entirely new experience of graduate school.

I would be pursuing a field with which I have become completely and wholeheartedly enamored. It turns out my master’s program of choice is in the subject of oral history.

Never heard of it? Don’t fret; you are not alone. I cannot rightly say that I had dreamt from birth of becoming an oral historian. Instead, I gratefully attribute my introduction to the discipline to history professors Andrew Morris and Melinda Lawson. And my work on the Concordiensis and Union Book took the interest to a practical level.

Oral history is basically the process of interviewing someone and recording their life stories. It can be used in publications and documentaries, human rights advocacy and government, in the academic world and genealogy.

Spoken tradition has long been the way that information was passed down through the generations.

It was only through the advent of recording technology that twentieth century initiatives like the New Deal Era Federal Writers’ Project could begin to capture personal narratives nationwide.

The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s further transformed the field, giving a voice to women and minorities and additionally to the oppressed and the working class.

As a result of the progression of these events, I have had the fortune of attending Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts program—a freestanding degree in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Yet, somehow each week I have been in the city, I run across a Union College connection; a fellow student at the International House who graduated back in ‘08 or  the friendly passenger I strike up a conversation with on the subway who hails from the Schenectady area.

Union is continuously on my mind. In fact, I will be back on campus for Homecoming to give a talk alongside Wayne Somers, the author of The Encyclopedia of Union College History, on forging campus history and the creation of a new class historian position.

The event will be held on Saturday, October 20 at 10 a.m. in Breazzano House.

If you would like to learn anything more about oral history, I highly encourage your attendance.

So, I do stand by my initial statement: there is life after Union. But what I have learned in the four months that have followed graduation is that you always take with you the lessons you learned while residing on campus—especially the ways that you grow and the people you meet over the course of four years.

From my vantage point, I would confidently say that this sense of connection to my alma mater will certainly be one that lasts a lifetime.

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