Monday, April 18, 2011

Boston University Offers New Genealogical Writing Course

Boston University, home to the Certificate in Genealogical Research, is offering a new one-week writing program this summer called "Writing Family History Narratives and Other Genealogical Works."  The course will be taught by Dr. John Philip Colletta and Dr. Thomas Wright Jones and will run from July 25-29, 2011.

I caught up with Program Director, Melinde Lutz Byrne and asked her some questions about the new program.

Why did you decide to create a writing course?

Three big reasons - 1. Most students seem to be problem-solvers or writers, but not both. Since BU's certificate program addresses problem-solving in many modules, providing something to develop writing skills had potential to be in big demand. 2+3. John and Tom are two excellent instructors with different strengths, which will stretch students in both creative and technical directions.

Is this class on-location or on-line?

The writing course is contracted to be an onsite class.

Is the class limited to a certain number of students?

I understand that one day may be in a computer lab now, and the size of the lab BU provides will limit the overall number.

Is the class almost sold out?

I believe we had quite a few within minutes of the announcement at NERGC - but not knowing the current number or the capacity of the lab - let's just say there is lots of interest.

Who would most benefit from this class? 

I think people who are deeply involved in research are sometimes 'way behind on writing up their results. If you don't cite as you go, you probably don't write as you go, either. Learning to put it down in an interesting, technically precise manner may improve not only writing skills but demonstrate big holes in research that looked complete when they're just a stack of notes. No matter what stage you're in with your research, it is not too soon (or too late) to focus on writing it up well.

How should students prepare for this class? 

Probably the most valuable thing students should have in advance is some research experience in one or more problems. It will be most useful to have drafts, first efforts, and/or things in need of polishing. Although examples will be provided in the classroom, learning is most meaningful when it is tied to things you know and have personally struggled to solve.

What should students expect of Boston at the end of July? How should they pack and should they expect any free time for activities such as catching a Red Sox game? 

July is always hot and sometimes quite humid. If students opt to stay in the dorms, it is more than half a mile to the campus buildings where most classes will be held, so comfortable shoes are a must. There is a green line subway on the surface that connects directly to downtown Boston and all the great dining, theater, museums, and parks are a short ride away. The Charles River is only a few blocks away, where there are jogging paths and picnic spots. Red Sox night games are great fun - the crowds are huge and Fenway Park is just a few blocks from campus. Getting tickets are another matter!

Are the classrooms and the on-campus housing air conditioned? 

Yes, as far as I know we will have top notch accommodations.

Do the students need to bring their own laptops or other equipment? 

Just about everyone comes to the onsite classes with a laptop anyway. These days it is pretty much assumed that you'll have one - there is little other way to do the assignments.

What strengths does each instructor bring to the course? 

Dr. Jones comes from a strong education background with decades' worth of research experience and almost ten years of editorial red ink. His command of citation principles and evaluation techniques makes him a great communicator of genealogical writing excellence. Dr. Colletta is a master of expression who can paint a scene or set the stage in that strange foreign country called the past in a compelling way. Combining the two should make for an incredible class!

This is the second course for the BU Genealogy Certificate program. Will there be other courses in the future? 

BU has not done a one week format previously and we are looking at this offering to judge if it will be a viable thing going forward. No plans are in place, but the alumnae of the certificate program have asked for several things and we always listen. I suspect an advanced forensic unit with Dr. Boyle and Dr. FitzPatrick would be in great demand. Pairing outstanding investigators who are also outstanding teachers has to make for great genealogical instruction, don't you agree?

Melinde Lutz Byrne, FASG, CG
Program Director for the Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research program

A fellow and president of the American Society of Genealogists, Melinde Lutz Byrne is one of only 50 living genealogists elected to the Society based on the quality and quantity of their published work. A cultural anthropologist and archivist, she is also vice president of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council, CEO of the Graceful Companies, and a Donald Lines Jacobus Award Winner. A national lecturer and noted author of numerous books, including volumes I and II of The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Byrne is editor of the New Hampshire Genealogical Record and co-editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

Photo Caption: Program Director Melinde Lutz Byrne with a Boston University staff member.
Photo by Marian Pierre-Louis, April 2011

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