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With over 35 majors and minor areas of concentration, Elmira College lays the foundation for a diverse, cross discipline education, encouraging you to both specialize and explore.
Alumna Megan Barney ’17, recently visited campus to give a presentation called, “Co-Creating a More Inclusive History.” Barney earned a BA in History and American Studies at EC and an MA in Public History with a Certificate in Digital Humanities from Northeastern University. She works for Facing History & Ourselves, an educational non-profit organization that uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate.
In her presentation, Barney challenged faculty, staff, and students to learn about the people and voices not typically listed in the history textbooks. The information is based on her research for a project called History Needs New Heroes.
"It was a treat to see my former student provide an engaging and thoughtful presentation on one of the most pressing questions facing the History curriculum today: Whose stories get told? Whose stories matter? What happens when you include a forgotten/lost/ignored voice in the discussion?” shared Dr. Charles Mitchell, Professor of American Studies. “As Megan so deftly pointed out, one of the things that happens when you go beyond the textbook, is you get a more thorough, and a more interesting, history."
Barney helped visually demonstrate the skewed view of history many people - including those in the audience - received in school. She asked attendees to think about the historical figures they learned about. Then, she had them submit their responses electronically. The responses formed into a word cloud on the presentation screen. Overwhelmingly, the list of names included United States presidents. Except for Martin Luther King Jr., very few names were of women or people of color.
This resonated with Rachel Hevey ’26, a Biology major, who attended the presentation. Her main takeaway from Barney’s presentation is that the history lessons don’t have to end with the textbook.
“There are many resources available to give kids the full picture of history,” she said.
Similarly, Jessica Graham ’26, a Psychology major, plans to do her research and “not always take information at face value” moving forward. She was excited to hear from an EC alum and learn about Barney’s career.
“I love hearing new people's stories and perspectives, as well as hearing about what our alumni are doing after graduating from EC,” she shared.
For Barney, a more inclusive history can help prevent history from repeating itself. Barney applies this principle in the way she does her work.
“The way I’ve thought about it in my work is by ensuring accessibility and access,” she explained. “It can apply to practical things like paying attention to the level you are writing at and who has access to that and who doesn’t.”
Barney also enjoyed returning to EC and seeing a few classmates and former professors. She credits EC for helping to shape her into the professional she is today.
“Professionally, I was given many opportunities at EC to speak and take on leadership positions,” she shared. “I was an orientation leader and helped run the orientation program and that built my leadership skills in ways you can’t do in bigger colleges and universities.”
“It’s cool to see the people who I was learning from, who were teaching me and giving me lessons. Now I can come back and say, this is what I took with me and what I’ve evolved into.”