Dr. Gary W. Shanafelt of the McMurry University history department was one of twenty-five scholars, and the only one from Texas, selected nationwide to participate in a Summer Institute in Washington, D.C. The institute, entitled American Immigration Revisited, was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the National History Center. Participants met for four weeks in July, 2009, in the Library of Congress. There, they deliberated with specialists from around the country on the general history of American immigration and researched specific projects of their own interest using the resources of the library. The institute included a two-day trip to New York City to visit Ellis Island, where thousands of immigrants began their experience in the United States, and the Tenement Museum, a restored tenement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Dr. Shanafelt, a specialist in German and Austro-Hungarian history, is interested in how the experiences of ethnic diversity in Central Europe shed light on the current controversies in this country over immigration and multiculturalism. He is working on revamping McMurry’s cultural awareness course, History 2300: Persons and Communities, to reflect the insights he gained from his attendance at the institute.