In 2014, I had the good fortune to study the D-Day invasion with the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Institute. My participation culminated in a life-changing trip to France. Standing on Omaha Beach and staring up at the massive cliffs and picking out the draws still guarded by German artillery illustrated to me perfectly why seeing such a place is so integral to understanding it. I continued my study of World War II this summer with a residency at the American Air Museum in Duxford, England. While both programs provided stimulating intellectual opportunities, the possibility embedded in each to research a local fallen soldier was perhaps what I will cherish the most. Exploring the lives and service of men who made the ultimate sacrifice was truly a privilege.
I believe strongly in the power of immersive experience to invigorate course content. When students engage in primary research, their findings resonate more deeply than if I had simply lectured to them. I am less concerned about my students memorizing particular dates and facts than I am providing them the tools they need to become critical thinkers and informed, engaged citizens.