A Love of History and Research

Muhlenberg College hosted the regional National History Day Contest for over 250 students from area middle and high schools.

By: Sara Tressler '19  Wednesday, April 17, 2019 11:40 AM

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Melissa Reph '20 (L) evaluates a student's National History Day Contest project at Trexler Library.

Last month, hundreds of regional middle and high school students bustled throughout Seegers Union, putting final touches on their National History Day (NHD) Contest projects. The NHD Contest encourages more than half a million students around the world to conduct historical research on a topic of their choice and their projects take the form of presentations, performances and documentaries.

Muhlenberg College hosted the regional Pennsylvania NHD Contest for the second year in a row. Sponsored by Trexler Library, the history and education departments, and the President's office, free registration was offered to all participants.

The event is a “culmination of months of the students' hard work and allows students an opportunity to demonstrate their learning and show their expertise on their topics,” said NHD Pennsylvania state coordinator Jeff Hawks. Students present their projects and are evaluated by a panel of judges, with top students advancing to the national contest.

Susan Falciani Maldonado, the College’s head of public outreach and information literacy services, is the regional co-coordinator and organized the event on campus. She was also responsible for selecting the nearly 30 judges for the event. Three Muhlenberg faculty members, three librarians and five students were chosen to participate as judges as were Lehigh Valley historical professionals from libraries, historical societies and museums.

While some of the student judges are history or education majors, others, such as Emily Robison ’19, hailed from a different academic field. A media & communication major, Robison was selected to be a judge because she is studying the historical side of communications and has an interest in working in museums.

Muhlenberg student judges found working with the younger students both rewarding and inspiring. “It’s been gratifying being able to engage with them about their topics and learn how they did their research,” said student judge Melissa Reph ’20, a political science major. “It has been amazing to connect with these students and inspire their desire to learn.” Reph also noted she was very impressed with the students’ fact-finding efforts and attention to detail. “A lot of the kids were very thorough; they were able to show their advanced knowledge of best practices and finding credible information.”

This year, in response to unequal financial resources impacting some of the participating schools, the Muhlenberg library staff provided free library cards and research assistance throughout the year for students doing history day projects from four Allentown middle schools.

“We wanted to give all students access to the same resources,” said Falciani Maldonado. “We invited those students to come and use our databases and library resources at no charge so that they could create the best projects possible.” 

Rose Spady ‘19, a student judge and history major, appreciated the opportunity for Muhlenberg students to celebrate historical knowledge, inspire younger students and connect with Lehigh Valley community members. “I think NHD is all about the love of history and the love of research,” she said.