DePaul Documentary Corps launches new internship course


Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia

DePaul University Lincoln Park campus.

DePaul students will now have the opportunity to produce primary documents for the university archives and be an integral part of the first draft of history. 

In partnership with HumanitiesX Collaborative, DePaul Special Collections and Archives has initiated a new course entitled DePaul Documentary Corps. Through this course, students can gain internship experience as well as satisfy their experiential learning credit, since it has an ISP 392 designation. The first installment of this course has already begun for this winter quarter, but students will be able to sign up for next quarter as soon as registration opens.

Through DePaul Documentary Corps, students will learn how to conduct successful one-on-one interviews, apply documentary practices in a variety of settings and successfully execute a documentary using the basic technology needed to do so. Students will also be provided with the opportunity to improve upon their oral skills and to learn how to be ethical in every step of the oral history and documentary process.

Amidst the difficult events of 2020, the DePaul Documentary Corps was created to provide a creative outlet where students can engage with the events happening around them. The course will focus on prominent issues such as race relations and the pandemic as they pertain to those related to DePaul, whether that’s students, faculty or alumni. Material generated by enrolled students will also be added to the Special Collections and Archives, allowing them to be a source of reference for future students as well. Students will be able to document current experiences and become part of the written documentation of these historical events.

 “Making sure that students had the opportunity to gain practical experience collecting, preserving and providing access to oral history interviews was an important factor for us in the course plans,” said Brittan Nannenga, DePaul University archivist.

Program Director Lisa Dush said Covid-19 regulations have not hindered the experience or learning of the course. 

“The students will do their oral history interviews remotely,” Dush said. “While oral history interviews are ideally done face-to-face, they can also very feasibly be done via Zoom.” 

The winter session currently meets Mondays and Wednesdays, but the days for next quarter are Tuesdays and Thursdays. As there are only fifteen spots in each session, students are encouraged to add the course to their cart in Campus Connect as soon as it becomes available. 

The class is currently engaging students with a wide variety of disciplines, such as journalism, health sciences and philosophy. Madeline Falk is a freshman at DePaul who intends on practicing law after graduation. “I love documentaries, so I thought it would be interesting to learn about the process behind them- learning how to ethically interview someone appealed to me as well” says Falk. All areas of study are encouraged to enroll and there is no additional application.

In the classroom, students can expect a variety of guest speakers as DePaul Documentary Corps is focused heavily on involvement with local members of the Chicago community. 

Those in the winter course have already been visited via Zoom by Nannenga, and soon they will be visited by Peter Atler, director of the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History at the Chicago History Museum. Other notable guests include Beverly Cook, the Senior Archivist at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection and Vashon Jordan Jr. a documentary photographer from the Chicago area. On days students are not enjoying guest speakers, they can expect to be developing their oral history skills or their technological skills alongside classmates. In week one, students learned the power of silence in drawing information from interviewees, and in the weeks to come they will learn different forms of audio editing and indexing softwares.

HumanitiesX does not plan on stopping their involvement at the conclusion of ISP 392. Potential future collaboration could include follow up projects for students to be completed for internship credit. Additionally, HumanitiesX will offer a limited amount of paid internships in the future.