VC honor society receives statewide honor for Hispanic Oral History Project
Dr. Karen Hagan
Dr. Karen Hagan

Victoria College’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society was recently honored with the Mary Faye Barnes Award for Excellence in Community History. The statewide award is bestowed annually by Baylor University’s Texas Oral History Association, which has been recognizing outstanding projects since 1999.

VC’s honor society received the Barnes Award for its Hispanic Oral History Project that spanned a year. The project began in 2010 when history professor and PTK consultant Dr. Karen Hagan sought to help students examine their local community by conducting interviews.

“The purpose of the project was to preserve the stories of individuals often overlooked in history, namely Hispanic residents,” said Hagan.

Throughout 2010-11, PTK members Laura Banda, Jose Aguirre, Rosa Muzquiz and Tina Eggemeyer took the lead in recruiting and interviewing members of the local Hispanic population. Aguirre was instrumental in recruiting interview subjects through Revista de Victoria, a local Spanish-English newspaper, and at a VC Lyceum lecture featuring cartoonist Hector Cantu.

The students found community members not only willing to speak, but comfortable speaking without reservation about their beliefs, successes, employment histories and life stories.

In total, 28 men and women provided interviews. The recordings were transcribed by Aguirre and Hagan. Aguirre conducted and transcribed a number of Spanish-language interviews, and Hagan later compiled selected quotes from the transcripts into a book titled “Our Vidas, Our Historias: Hispanic Voices from the Crossroads.” Hagan is currently seeking a publisher, but readings from the book have already been used to highlight some of the stories at local historical events.

Quotes from the interviews were also featured on a poster that PTK members displayed at the 2011 International PTK Conference in Seattle, Washington.

Phi Theta Kappa is an international scholarship society for community college students intended to foster scholarship, character and fellowship. VC’s Zeta Gamma chapter was chartered in 1947. Developing a project is not a requirement of membership, but students can choose to do so in order to elevate the standing of their chapter within the society.

PTK advisor Matthew Weiler, a VC geology instructor, believes the recent honor will motivate many of the current PTK students, who are working on a mentoring and tutoring project with Communities in Schools.

“It is wonderful being able to see the hard work of past students being rewarded,” Weiler said.

Katie Molina, the current PTK president, agrees.

“I’m honored to be a part of an organization that was looking to preserve a piece of history that is oftentimes overlooked,” said Molina. “I’m proud of the work that was accomplished.”

VC’s PTK chapter is now recognized among notable past award recipients, including NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, for a project that was characterized by innovation in community preservation, resulted in documented histories that could be preserved, and included an outreach or education component, among other criteria.

“When we started the project, I wanted to teach students about interviewing and make something that might help Victoria College,” said Hagan. “This award completes that goal.”

The interview transcripts from the project are now archived at the VC/UHV Library, and many are available to the public with full access or partially restricted access.

Published: Thursday, 04 February 2016

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