Today, we’re pleased to share with you an interview with one of our undergraduates, Kelli Schultz, who was recently recognized as one of only twelve Dean’s Distinguished Graduates in the College of Liberal Arts at UT. Congratulations to Kelli on this very prestigious honor!
What was/is your favorite class in American Studies?
I loved Prof. Ware’s AMS 310: Intro to American Studies course. I have taken a lot of specialized AMS 370 courses which I loved but I’m intrigued by how each professor teaches the whole story of American History in one semester. Her underlying mission, it seemed, was to tell the untold accounts of US History, the ones you weren’t told in high school. We learned about the Carlisle Indian School, Japanese Internment and Coney Island. This was the first class I took in the Department and it sparked my interest in the pedagogy of social studies, which I ultimately ended up writing my honors thesis on.
What are your research interests? Any particular interests you were able to pursue in American Studies or elsewhere (in class or in extracurricular activities)?
I have always been extremely interested in the history of History. How do we talk about our identity as Americans during different periods of time and who we associate ourselves with? Which stories do we leave out? Who do we choose to include? How do we tell their story? My honors thesis is called “Our TEKS” and is a theatrical exploration of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills through Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It is a devised theatre piece about the controversial 2010 standards chosen by the Texas State Board of Education which was covered by the media internationally. Over the past year, I have watched hours of footage from Board meetings, followed the media’s response and interviewed educators and textbook publishers who are affected by these standards. My play incorporates all of this research in a documentary-style live performance on April 30 and May 1 in WIN 2.180 on the UT campus.
Did your work inform or influence your post-graduate plans?
My work absolutely informed my post-graduate plans. Next year, I will be venturing out to San Francisco, CA to join the 2012 Teach for America corps where I will be teaching English to high school students. Over the past year, I have learned innovative ways to talk about tough issues such as race, class and identity in the classroom. There is some extremely exciting research taking place using Theatre in Education techniques which help improve classroom participation and performance. Though I will not be applying these to Texas education standards (which my thesis covers), I will undoubtedly incorporate them into my teaching for the next two years.
Why did you ultimately decide to study American Studies?
I came into UT with two majors: Plan II and Theatre and Dance. I started my freshman year with a lot of credits from high school and had plans to graduate early. However, I had tested out of my US History credit and, when I was making my schedule for the first two semesters, I found that I really missed learning about American history. I took Professor Ware’s AMS 310: Intro to American Studies course and fell in love with the major, particularly because we focused less on dates and battles in history and were asked to look at currents of culture. We studied music, art, politics, philosophy and the changing thoughts of the country. In this way, we saw how these people lived at a particular moment in time and this method really spoke to me. I have never once regretted my decision to pick up this third major and am so thankful to Val for helping me find a way to complete it in 4 years!
Kelli Schultz will be graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II Honors, American Studies and Theatre and Dance. She chose the University of Texas as it allowed her to pursue all of her interests in just four years. Her Honors thesis is a performative analysis of the 2010 Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. These state-wide standards sparked international controversy two years ago when the Texas State Board of Education was accused of rewriting US History with a conservative bias. Over the past year, Kelli has conducted interviews with educators and governmentofficials and poured over hours of footage from Board meetings and public testimony. These transcripts, along with media coverage, will be incorporated into a documentary-based theatre piece to be performed in May 2012.
Over the past four years, Kelli has received substantial scholarships from both the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Fine Arts. She has been involved in numerous productions with the Department of Theatre and Dance including The Trojan Women, The Threepenny Opera, Br’er Wood and 360 (round dance). She has also starred in numerous shows in Austin including the original cast of A. John Boulanger’s House of Several Stories (now published in Samuel French) and ZACH Theater’s recent production of Next to Normal. When she isn’t in class or rehearsing for a production, Kelli serves as a student ambassador and tour guide for the University of Texas Visitors Center. Upon graduation, she will join the 2012 Teach for America corps in San Francisco, CA.