Local History Research by UNK Graduate Gives Voice to Community

Posted: January 16, 2018 9:30:00 AM CST

Madelina Cordia photo with awardMadelina (Lina) Cordia is deeply rooted in her community of Jackson County in Southern Oregon—home to a large Hispanic population that now understands more about its history in the region, thanks to her research.

Before completing the online Master of Arts in History program at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2017, Cordia completed her undergraduate studies in history and Spanish from Southern Oregon University. Because of her prior research, the local Veterans Administration asked her to give a speech on Hispanic heritage. The event not only shaped her master's thesis research at UNK, but also uncovered a wealth of historical resources for her hometown.

“Somebody [attending the speech] asked me about the Bracero program, and I'd heard only a little bit about it. I did some research and discovered what happened in this area that no local historian had looked at,” she said.

Cordia set out for the research library of her local historical society. In its archives, she found 46 boxes of previously unexplored manuscript collections, which unfolded the story of the Hispanic population that had been in the region for decades. She went through each box thoroughly, compiling a case study for her thesis that also empowered the community in knowing and understanding their past.

“Now I kind of feel like this huge part of my community has a voice, and they've never had one before,” Cordia said. “That's why I'm so driven to continue [researching]. I feel like there are so many aspects to my home that I didn't even know existed.”

Cordia frequently presents her work at conferences and enjoys networking with other historians about her research. She has given public history lectures in partnership with the Southern Oregon Historical Society and Jackson County Library, which have led her to Medford Mail Tribune and Jefferson Public Radio interviews. While completing her online M.A. in History program at UNK, she received the department's Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Award (shown in photo).

By the end of her program, Cordia made many connections between UNK and her hometown that paved the way to future research and publications. She met David Vail, a new assistant professor of history at UNK who had been placed on her thesis committee—and whose story also began in Southern Oregon, at the same undergraduate alma mater. Vail introduced Cordia to a historian in her community who mentored him through his own research and writing. Additionally, Cordia accepted a position as an adjunct instructor for Southern Oregon University, teaching two undergraduate history survey courses.

“I have been introduced to a highly respected and published historian who now resides in Southern Oregon and who is well acquainted with my new colleagues,” she said. “He is currently assisting me by reading a draft article manuscript that I am adapting from an excerpt of my graduate thesis from UNK. I plan on submitting it for publication.”

Cordia is a role model herself, and her educational endeavors do not go unnoticed.

“I'm a single mom with two kids, and they've seen me as a student their whole lives,” she said. “College wasn't talked about when I was growing up, so I brought my kids with me purposely when I graduated with my B.A. For them to see me go through college, and struggle, and study, and feel rewarded—when they get to that stage in their lives, they'll be more motivated to seek out opportunities for a good career and pursue their dreams.”

Cordia plans to pursue a doctorate with the ultimate goal of finding a tenure-track position at a community college or university as well as writing, researching, and publishing.

“I love what I've been doing,” she said. “I am so grateful for the amazing experience I had with UNK as a graduate student, being able to interact and engage with my peers and UNK's faculty. It was a one-of-a-kind experience. I know I would not have gotten that with any other program.”

Learn more about the online M.A. in History, online B.A. in History, or online undergraduate history minor at UNK.

By: Rosanna Vail

Category: eCampus, General

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