Writing Comp Students Gain Firsthand Experience with UTSA’s Historical Treasures

Mario Salas speaks to first year students
Mario Salas speaks to first year students about his experiences as an activist and his personal papers housed within UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

It’s one thing to hear or talk about the past, but it’s something else entirely when you can see and touch it.

Knowing the potential of archives to breathe new life into history, Darren Meritz, a lecturer for the Writing Program and a winner of a 2016 Special Collections faculty grant, developed a new curriculum to incorporate UTSA’s historic materials into his fall 2016 Writing Composition class.

Using UTSA Libraries Special Collections, Meritz’s first-year students experienced a new way to learn by examining texts that were instrumental or representative of ethnic, gender, religious or LGBT social justice issues in San Antonio and its surrounding areas.

“Working with these collections gives students the opportunity to learn with primary source materials for the first time,” said Meritz. “It’s not sitting in a classroom and watching a PowerPoint, it’s an interactive way to learn.”

In addition to studying archival material from Special Collections in class, Meritz also invited fellow UTSA faculty member Mario Salas to speak about his personal papers on activism, African Americans and civil rights, and Naomi Shihab Nye, esteemed poet and former columnist, to talk about her background and early writings.

Meritz plans to continue teaching with UTSA’s special collections this semester by further examining social justice in San Antonio during the mid 1900s.

“If you look at the collections, you see some qualities distinct to San Antonio that we should be talking about,” he said.

UTSA Libraries Special Collections brings national recognition to the university for distinctive research materials documenting the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas. Signature collecting areas include the histories of the Mexican-American, African-American and LGBTQ communities in San Antonio, the history of women and gender in Texas, the Tex-Mex food industry, as well as regional photography, architecture and urban planning.

Applications are now being accepted for 2017-18 faculty grants for teaching in the archives