FURSCA Feature: Chris Blaker, '14

Chris Blaker, '14

Your Major:

History

Your Adviser:

Wesley Dick

Briefly explain your FURSCA project.

My project is called "The War: The Impact of World War II at Albion College." I've been looking at old records and documents to better understand the many ways in which the Second World War affected both the college and the town of Albion. I've also studied the ways in which the college changed and evolved as a direct result of its participation in the war.

What have you learned so far in doing your research?

Albion College, like many other colleges and universities in the United States, was greatly affected by the largest war in the history of the modern world. Many students entered military-sponsored programs to continue their education while receiving military training and earned officer's commissions upon graduation. The campus itself was involved in the military buildup, as detachments of Army Air Force cadets lived and trained there in 1943 and 1944.

Why did you pick this particular project?

In years past, I've completed research detailing the memories and experiences of World War II veterans, so I wanted to expand on my research to include experiences of those on the homefront who found themselves affected by the war. My advisor, Dr. Wes Dick, was the one who suggested I research Albion College as a wartime case study.

How will this FURSCA project help you after Albion?

I have already began writing a departmental thesis, which combines all of my World War II research into an organized and chronological story of varying wartime experiences of those in Michigan. I plan to use this thesis, as well as my research knowledge gained from two summer fellowships through FURSCA, to prepare me for graduate studies in history following my graduation from Albion this coming spring.

What is your thesis, and how is it coming together?

The thesis itself explains that the war affected Michigan in many different ways, sometime in more ways than we had thought. I've been able to organize the stories of three United States Marines, one Army Air Force officer, and of course the stories of those on the homefront at Albion College. Thus far, I have completed roughly 80 pages of text, but it's impossible to tell how long the thesis will be by the end.

Looking back, how has the project worked out?

I think that this has been a great project to work on. There is certainly no shortage of interesting materials, and I am always excited to find something new that takes my study in a completely new and different direction. I'm impressed by how interested my fellow students and members of the faculty are by my research findings; we at Albion cannot deny that our college's past really is fascinating.