Island University History Faculty Wins Prestigious National Award

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Laura K. Muñoz, Ph.D., Joe B. Frantz associate professor of history at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, won the 2017 American Historical Association’s (AHA) William and Edwyna Gilbert Award for the Best Article on Teaching History. Her article, “Civil Rights, Educational Inequality, and Transnational Takes on the U.S. History Survey,” illustrates how American history can become inclusive when we shift our perspective towards the diverse populations of the Southwest United States. Muñoz accepted the honor during the Association’s 132nd Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 4, 2018.

The “History of Education Quarterly,” a peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the history of education, asked Muñoz to write an essay explaining how she used educational case studies to teach United States history at the Island University.

“I use the case studies to illustrate how vital how American Indian, Mexican American, and Asian American experiences are to U.S. history, which is important given that we’re a Hispanic-Serving Institution, as well as the location and history of our University,” said Muñoz. “I teach students how their freedom, such as the right to go to college, is connected to a much longer, more complex past.”

The notions of “America” and “Americans” are explored within her article, and Muñnoz asks questions about how race, citizenship, equality and opportunity are linked across generations. One relevant intersection is the access to education. Her work brings to light legal cases that occurred during the modern era that delved into minorities gaining equality of education. By using a local example, Cisneros et al. v. Corpus Christi Independent School District (1970), Muñoz demonstrates to her students how inter-group unity led to massive school desegregation victories and changed how Americans talk about race and citizenship.

“The struggle for educational equity lingers in our present,” said Muñoz. “Teaching students about their history helps them to recognize not only the diversity of our nation, but also their duty to preserve the freedoms we have promised ourselves for generations.”

In her award-winning article, Muñoz illustrates several teaching techniques that made history personal for her first-year Islander students. One of her methods was to ask students to snap “selfies” and write about historical significances in their own lives. Then, she had them apply their analyses in class discussions about historical images. Through a personal connection and empathy, her first-year learning community students considered how individual experiences matter and are shaped by larger structures.

“The interpersonal dynamic creates a safe space for students to recognize that I am serious about not only revisioning American history, but also incorporating their narratives,” said Muñoz.

The AHA William and Edwyna Gilbert Award for the Best Article on Teaching History is a nationally recognized award. The award annually distinguishes outstanding contributions to the teaching of history through the publication of articles in journals, magazines and other serials. The prize carries with it a cash award of $1,000 and a complimentary one-year membership to AHA.