In the McMurry history department, you expect faculty who are active in the scholarship of their fields. But McMurry is also a place where students can pursue scholastic interests beyond the classroom, in conferences or publications. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and work ethic.
Students embarking on special research projects generally do so through the McMurry honors program. Than Dossman came to McMurry with an interest in the Civil War. This led to an honors research project on the battle of Corinth in 1862 which was then revised and published by the McWhiney Foundation Press as Campaign for Corinth: Blood in Mississippi. Dossman thus had a published book on his academic résumé even before he was accepted into the history Ph.D. program at Texas Christian University.
But you don’t have to be an honors student to excel. Ruth Ann Shirley's paper, “Prisoners among Prisoners: Conflicts at Camp Barkley, Texas,” originally written for Historiography and Methods, the intensive writing course required of all McMurry history majors, was named the 2009 winner of the West Texas Historical Association’s Best Student Essay Award. Camp Barkley outside Abilene was a P.O.W. camp during World War II as well as a training center for American G.I.s, and Shirley discovered that there were major conflicts between Nazi and non-Nazi prisoners as well as friction between those from Germany and those from Austria. She presented her paper at the Association’s 2009 annual meeting in Lubbock, Texas. The award comes with a $400 honorarium and publication in the association’s yearbook.
Nor has Ruth Ann Shirley been the only winner of the prize. Leman Saunders won it in the following year for his Historiography paper, “Six-Man Football Comes to Texas.” Saunders rejected the accepted view that organized six-man football began in south-central Texas in 1938. Instead, he argued that the game was first played in Texas no less than two years earlier, by several high schools in Fisher County. To prove the point, he didn’t just go on the Internet and do a key word search. Instead, he jumped into his car and literally crisscrossed West Texas between Abilene and the Southwest Collection in Lubbock. He unearthed forgotten issues of local newspapers, tracked down longtime residents with yearbooks from high schools that no longer exist, and even interviewed several surviving members of the original teams. Thanks to his work, the history of six-man football will never be the same. Photo: Saunders with Melvin Clements, a member of the original Dowell High School six-man football team from 1936.
More recently, McMurry students have garnered awards for their writing at the 2014 meeting of the Texas State Historical Association and the 2014 regional conference of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society, at Texas Woman’s University.