FYS Students Host One-Day Conference on JFK & His Legacy

By Emily Hollenbach ’18

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On April 26, history was brought to life when Dr. Sara Dwyer-McNulty’s First Year Seminar students orchestrated a conference called “JFK and the Legacy of the New Frontier.” Although Dr. Dwyer-McNulty coordinated the class’s work, the students bore the primary responsibility for producing a professional conference.

conferenceAs Dr. Dwyer-McNulty recounts, students “interviewed panel participants, wrote program copy, filmed the conference, and created promotional materials.” The students worked closely with the four panel speakers, all of who have “first-hand accounts and personal reflections” of JFK and his administration. Marist College President Emeritus Dennis Murray, Associate Professor of Mathematics James Helmreich, recent Marist President’s Award recipient Ellie Charwat, and Bard College Men’s Cross-Country Head Coach Fred Pavlich all generously agreed to serve as panelists at the event.

The conference not only highlighted a piece of history, but helped students understand historical research in a practical sense, Dr. Dwyer-McNulty reflected. She was motivated by “the unique makeup of First Year Seminars,” and said she wanted students to appreciate the “diverse and transferable skills historians utilize” and “engage them in a historical activity that drew on the talents the students might not associate with history.”

This is exactly how the conference worked out for Julia Luff ’20 (pictured above), who was able to incorporate skills from her Fashion Design major into this project. She and her partner created a poster centered on Jackie Kennedy. Luff explained that the project gave her insight into her own career goals—“I am currently in an internship in NYC and sit in on meetings where I see how important collaboration and compromise are. This conference helped me step outside my comfort zone and unify my partner’s and my vision.”

The class's work on the conference was informed by course readings, class discussions, and a special lecture by Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel (pictured below, at center), who discussed his experiences serving as Assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy during JFK's presidency.

jfkPhoto by Robert Lynch