Conflict in America

This COPLAC digital liberal arts course is focused on exploring the nature of social conflict and exploring examples of conflict resolution. Our students will be designing websites that illustrate conflict resolution in their home communities.

“We The Resilient” by Ernesto Yerena


It has been quite a while since I have been able to blog but I will try to make up for the lost time here:

What I didn’t expect…

First I want to begin by talking about my challenges. I had a lot of difficulty managing the parts of my research and putting together my website. It always seemed like I had a lot of great ideas (sometimes too many) and that I couldn’t possibly narrow everything down. It was challenge trying to make sure that my research would follow the requirements in terms of evaluating conflict resolution. First, I had to decide to focus on one conflict withing my project to evaluate because there were several layers of conflict involved. I had to figure out how to satisfy my primary interest, which was how to evaluate the impact on the African American community. Initially, I thought I would be able to accomplish this by simply interviewing people and hoping for some revealing information. Since this project is so contemporary, I wasn’t sure of what other types of sources I could use without meeting with people. This is where the IRB came in and changed my entire project! Long story short, after all the weeks I put into putting together an extensive application I was denied. At this point I had to come up with another plan!

Of course my stubbornness would not allow me to change my topic, or change my research goals I wanted to do the same thing! So I did. For that reason, I struggled along lagging behind everyone else and that really gets to me because I am not used to asking for extensions or concessions when it comes to my work.  i met with several professors a long the way and they helped me devise a new plan which was to do a content analysis on the comments from a public hearing. I thought this sounded very boring and like a lot of work even though it would be an interesting way to accomplish what I needed.  With all the content in the database i was very overwhelmed and figured there was a computerized way to do this analysis through excel or some other program. I watched some YouTube videos to see if I could self-teach myself how to do a content analysis on the computer. This was not encouraging because again I am not a computer nerd, just a regular nerd! Dr. Manthei was able to help calm me down and show me at least how to narrow down the comments, but in the end I ended up doing it the old fashion way with pen/pencil, and highlighters. When I got this done I was so proud of myself I felt like I needed an award for just that but I had to snap back into reality because I still had an entire website to build!

At this point a lot had changed since I made the structure of my website and all the placeholders. This made it complicated for me because I had to decide what to keep and what was extra. I had to figure out what was visually appealing, and what made sense to the website visitor in terms of navigation as well. Around this time all of my other major assignments were due in my other classes so I had to do some prioritizing. It was really a different feel working on a large project like this where you never really know when you have completed a task or when you have completed the entire thing because its YOUR project. This project is something you could work on forever and never be done, so I ended up always doing work in my other classes first because they were more concrete in terms of what I needed to do. I really felt the impact of not having a partner at this point, I felt like it would have really helped me stay on task in terms of deadlines and having someone more accessible to share ideas with. I really appreciate everyone who did take extra time out to help me develop my ideas and connect with other people who could help me or provide resources.

I didn’t really get to play around with a lot of aesthetics on my website, but fortunately it still came out looking great! The only thing I really wish I had got a chance to put up there was information on the Springfield 1908 Race Riot, because the land where this riot happened will be acquired along with the rest of the project. I think this is a very huge and i will go back and add it later. This is very symbolic because African American people are losing a part of their history with this project.  My  project also pointed out how African Americans will be absorbing much of the impact made by this project and a symbol of their history will be lost as well.  Even though I was not able to expound upon this point, in the end I was really happy that I figured out a way to accomplish all the goals I set for this research project. I did not end up following my research plan almost at all, but I was able to bounce back from the challenges and accomplish all my research goals.

My goals were:

  • Create a website that explained to the visitor (in easy terms) what the Springfield Rail Improvements project was about.
  • Make the website easily navigable
  • Provide links for visitors to learn more about the topic and related topics
  • Tell a story in some way
  • Relay the impact on the African American community
  • Evaluate conflict resolution and communication
  • Use the website as a tool to give a voice to underrepresented groups
  • Create a website that could be used as a tool for similar projects in the future, or for conflict resolution in general
  • Challenge myself to do something I had never done that would give me a lot of skills

What I learned…

I learned SO many things from this project i don’t think I can list them all here. I learned a lot about African American History and African American people in Springfield. I learned a lot about Springfield history and became more accustomed to the character and culture of the city. I learned how to build a website, and write for a website. I learned that research projects are often ongoing things and cannot always be accomplished in a short amount of time. I learned the importance of networking, time management, and planning for higher level academic work. Collaboration is a really important tool when it comes to research in my opinion. You can learn so much from one person to the next, but you also have to be careful with learning too much if you have hard deadlines because if you’re anything like me you will get lost in learning! Even though it all went so fast, I really want to commend our professors for how they structured this class I look up to them and hope I can be this creative and effective in my future career.  As a future professor, I am always double learning in a class. I have to learn the material and pay attention to effective and ineffective ways of teaching.

How I grew and transformed…

At the end of this project I became a better researcher and a better student. I believe moving forward I will be able to better prioritize my assignments. I learned more about myself during this challenge with technology including not to compare myself to others. I learned that I will probably always be a pen and paper kind of person and I will learn how to embrace that and plan for it. I have learned how to connect my ideas better and learn how to relate findings on the micro level to the macro level. I also learned the value of having evidence to back up an opinion rather than simply writing based on emotion. It feels good to be able to have valid evidence back up your research.


Peace & Love,

Abriana Robinson



Reflection Post

It’s always a little bitter-sweet, the ending of a semester. You work so hard for a few months and you have an end product that gets a grade, maybe you show it off a little, and that’s it. Boon. Finished. End. Done. Then, afterwards, all your left with is a better understanding of something and a little more insight into the world and how it functions.

So, this COPLAC course… What a ride.

Maybe it was not made clear to me that I needed to design my own website (with my partner, made it a lot easier).  Maybe I figured it would be harder than I imagined. Maybe I didn’t have as much internal support as I should have had on the day Professors Wallace and Welch told us we would be making a website. Who knows. But I was horrified. Then it happened. I look back on it now and it was relatively easy. My partner, Shane, was the biggest help. I’d meet with him and he would have figured something else out, and I would say “Wow, that’s pretty awesome. How’d you do that?” He would walk me through it and then we both knew. It was really that easy. Shane wasn’t afraid to try and fail. And when I knew something he didn’t (rarely happened), I’d show him. It was an awesome collaborative process. Then, one day, we had a website. I poked through the final product the day of our presentation and thought “Wow, that’s pretty awesome. How’d we do that?” It was really impressive to me that two kids, one who can’t figure out how to use a slide-rule, could design a website with nice pictures, colors, text, and whatnot. I owe most of it to my partner. His willingness to try and his not being afraid to fail really made the website. A round of applause for Shane.

Then the other students in the class also helped. I would post a problem of mine onto my blog and within a day there were two or three comments on how to fix it. Or nice words of encouragement. Either way, both were necessary. That’s what got me through the class; the students. Part of it was also competitive. Someone has a really nice website, well then lets make our better. And maybe ours wasn’t better but it was comparable. Each team, in my opinion, made my team work harder to do the best we could. But, I also learned a lot from my classmates. I don’t really know what goes on outside of Berkshire County, all  I have is the news (ew). So, hearing students present on current events and historical ones about where they’re from opens your eyes a little to the world you live in. They’re not lying to increase their ratings, they aren’t doing it to impose some political agenda on you, they just want people to know the truth. It was nice to read and learn so much about things I had no idea about. Isn’t that why we go to college in the first place? To learn more?

Then there were the professors. You’ll both get a student evaluation so I’ll keep this section short. They made the class. Their timely responses to emails, knowledge of website building, knowledge of conflict resolution, knowledge of presenting things, everything was great. Their energy and excitement at the beginning of each class. It’s what made the class, it’s what made the website building a little easier. Like, I said, this will be short. But thank you both. (P.S. I put 10/1 in one of your reviews, meant 10/10. You know who you are!)

I guess I should wrap this up. (Get it? Like a present cause it’s almost Christmas!) The class was great. I really did learn a lot. I’m surprised how much I enjoyed it, I’m not usually a fan of online courses. But this was awesome. I’m also very proud of everyone in the course with me, everyone did a stellar job and made some awesome websites. Again, thank you Shane for your dedication to the class. And thank you Professors Wallace and Welch!


When I was asked if I wanted to take this course I was hesitant, the idea of making a website was a bit daunting to me as someone who had no experience in this field. Honestly, the only thing that got me to join was, first it counted as 400 level class for me and I thought that it would look good in the future somewhere to have the experience of building a website.

Now that the class is over I can say I was happy to have taken the class, and while yes I do have the website as experience now I also gained more than that out of it. I feel that I can now better present and place into context this kind of  historical research into a more presentable format. It has also changed the way I think about things in this manner, I had no idea how much I would be thinking about things like a header image. I really learned through that that every part of a website really needs to be thought through, even the negative space. There was also more work involved than I imagined. Normally with a paper you research then write, here you had the extra step of then designing a website to fit your writing.

Another thing I had to learn to get better with was working with a partner. I’m lucky to have known Anthony since my first semester here at MCLA but I still can be a control freak when it comes to school work. When the entire class is basically one group project it took some real self control on some parts to not just work with Anthony but to take his suggestions and let him handle a lot of the website independently, with me only suggesting very basic things and proof reading. I think I did really well in not trying to be a control freak and I think it has made me a better team player because of it.

I am thankful for this class and I think I have grown in my ability to not only be more technologically savvy but also as a team player and just thinking about how visual images can work along side research to give better context.

Reflection Time

Hello everyone,

We are really done with this class. It felt really weird logging off for the last time. I just would like to say that everyone did so well! I am proud of all of us. It was really fulfilling seeing all of our projects done. All of our projects were really different, so it was so cool seeing them in action.

Kailee and I were talking after our classes this week, and we realized all the work we all have put in for this project. It was new for everyone, including the professors, so I think having that same learning experience made the class work. I can say I know how to use WordPress, know how to make maps, know how to make timelines, and overall know how to make historical research digital. I for sure did not know what to expect before we started meeting as a group, but I think that is what made it more exciting to be done with the process. First, finding and researching a topic was its own adventure. We really were looking at different topics, and we are glad we picked desegregation in schools.

The search for digital aspects to the website was a struggle. For sure the pictures were a big roadblock. I think we did well for what we were given, or I guess not given. We really tried picking a simplistic look for the website, but I did not think it was going to be such a long process to make it look simple. We were glad for Leah Tam, who helped us here on our campus. It was a lot of trial and error, and so I felt accomplished learning on our own. This really tested the way we would usually go about doing research. We had to think about all audiences, and we had to make sure it was accessible for anyone to read. Since it is digital that is what the purpose is. This really is the future of teaching, so I am glad to have taken this class. At one point teaching will turn very digital, so it is nice to have this under my belt. This project was also very much an emotional journey for Kailee and I. I want to thank her for keeping me accountable on my work, and she made sure to ask about how I am doing. I hope I did the same for her. This project taught me how to work with someone. I usually like doing things on my own, but this project really showed great things happened with collaborative effort. With the help of fellow students and faculty we all were able to make great websites. I want to thank Dr. Wallace and Dr. Welch on helping us throughout this. This really tested how I can accomplish things with my own motivation and planning, so it was a good foundation block for my Senior projects for next year. I know Kailee and I really struggled on finding time with each other to work, but we made it work!

Throughout we were worried we would not make the deadlines for the class, but we are glad now with finals coming that we are finished with this class. We did it! I also wonder if we will ever see each other in person. That will again be the weirdest experience. Positive vibes from the University of Mary Washington! 🙂

-Alyssa Macaranas

Reflecting on Conflict in America.

Going  into this class, I had really no expectations because I never did anything like this before. Being able to connect with everyone from different schools across the country, while  building a class  community in a completely different manner was pretty fun.  In the beginning of the semester I wasn’t sure what the final product was going to look like even though, but it was fun to see the project take shape.

One of the take a ways that I have learned from this class it to work progressively on time management skills. It is something that I have to be conscious of  and  to make sure your being held accountable in doing things well. With that being said this class was a great experience in learning how work in a new  medium that we all adjusted to quickly.

Another aspect that was entirely new to me was the legalities that followed conducting these projects. Prior to this class I did not know what the IRB was or that it was even on my campus. It was a interesting process simply because it was new to me.

Overall this experience was great and it was awesome learning about each others final products, after the long year. We all worked hard and it showed in these presentations we all gave

Thank you Dr. Welch and Dr. Wallace, both of you did an great job being our small video framed professors . Both of you were super helpful in this experience.

Congrats everyone, Enjoy the break coming up, and good luck on Finals!


Reflection Post

Well the time has come and it’s finally over. This class has been such a challenge but ended with such a rewarding product. My American Studies adviser nominated me and registered me for this class with little description about what it was and what I would be doing. The fear of having to video conferencing strangers for a class worried me the whole summer  and it was defiantly nerve wracking at first but I got used to it. Probably my biggest struggle with this class was working out how to use the video conferencing and feel confident asking questions on there. It didn’t help that my Chromebook has a weak internet connection no matter what I tried to do to fix it so I constantly felt self conscious about speaking because I thought the internet connection would be too weak to work. In the beginning of the class I felt a little strange about the whole set up and I felt strange about being in a class but not really ‘being there’. I can’t count the number of times that I had to explain to my friends and family what a coplac class was.

Another struggle for this project was the fact that I was younger than the other students so I felt self conscious that I didn’t have as much college level independent research experience as everyone else. But working in the archives was a great experience. I loved looking at the school newspapers because I’ve always been interested in culture and the school news paper showed the culture and the personal perspective about not only the Pumpkin Festival but also my school in the past.

Constructing the actual website wasn’t that much of a struggle for me. The website revolved around the narrative that the newspapers told so it wasn’t that hard building it. Adding the media was hard at first but once I figured out how to do it in a faster way it came together well. The presentation of the website wasn’t too hard because we had spent so much time explaining the site and the conflict to the other people in the class so it felt like we were just doing that for a wider audience. Overall the product was defiantly worth all the hard work.

Congratulations to everyone on some great work! Stay in touch

Reflection Post

Hey everyone!

First of all, congratulations on making amazing sites and on some great presentations! All the presentations were very informative and to see the final products of your sites was awesome! You all had so diverse topics and each of your sites showed the importance of these conflicts and showed the passion and effort put forth as well! I’m so glad I got to be a part of this process with you all!

Overall, this experience wasn’t always the easiest, but so rewarding. I signed up for this class, having no idea what it would bring. I had never done a class over videoconference or create a site so all was new for me. I knew from the beginning that this would be a unique and unforgettable course. Alyssa and I encountered some hardships and bumps along the way, but in the end we were able to create a site that showed all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it and that we were proud of. I think the most interesting thing I learned during this experience was the importance of digital history and humanities in allowing forgotten pieces of history to see the light of day and to be experienced by people all around the world. This project challenged me to reconsider the way that I’ve done research in the past and how I can take what I’ve learned this semester to better supplement my future research endeavors.

Initially, I was hoping to learn about a new part of our community’s history that I had never heard of before and to learn how to tie in technology with research when it comes to using digital tools and develop a site. What I learned exceeded my expectations. Not only did I learn more about how school desegregation occurred in Fredericksburg, but also I was able to learn about the stories of those who walked through it and even about events that occurred in the county I have lived my entire life in. I was able to not only learn how to develop a site, but how to format it to look visually appealing, how visual elements add to the topic’s significance, and how various digital tools can enhance the experience that the viewers of the site who learning about this information for possibly the first time.

This project also encouraged me to seek out all avenues for potential primary or secondary resources to aid the research topic. Prior to this class, I had never set foot in a library or archive center to find sources. I solely relied on the Internet, which I learned with this project isn’t always sufficient. All of the sources we found for our project site came from archive centers and without them the site wouldn’t have been as successful. I can apply this skill to future undergraduate research to make sure that I cover all bases when it comes to finding sources for my topic. The knowledge and skills developed while in this experience also broadened my perspectives on the world by allowing us to connect with classmates around the country and see diverse range of topics that were found in each state. This expanded my knowledge on what conflict and conflict resolution can look like and what lessons we can all draw from historical and current examples of conflict.

There are a few struggles that we encountered in this experience. The biggest blow was being denied all access to the photos we found that were printed during the time of school desegregation in the Fredericksburg area. We were so excited and optimistic that we would be able to present the amazing photos we found to the public, so it was definitely a blow to the gut when it was all taken away. After taking a moment to recover and strategize, we were able to find great photos that we had permission to access and use that still greatly amplified our site, regardless of where they were taken. The other biggest challenge was finding time as a pair to meet and work on the site together. We were able to jump this hurdle by utilizing, texts, phone calls, and video chat to communicate to each other and stay on the same page so we could complete the site to the best of our ability.

I think we did well in every sense of the word. We effectively managed our time and made sure we always met the deadlines set for us. There were some times where we cut it close or our goals didn’t go as planned due to factors outside of our control, but we still got everything done in a timely manner. I feel like we were very organized and kept all our information in a central location that was easy to access for us both. We also worked great as a team and helped each other through the hard weeks. I personally feel like I couldn’t have done this experience without Alyssa. We each brought great knowledge and expertise to the table that complemented each other well. We came to be very knowledgeable and passionate about our topic and our site overall and that spurred us on to produce the best site we could possibly create to make sure this information would be presented for all the understand and learn from.

Personally, I would like to continue to strengthen the skills I’ve developed in this class. I want to grow my technology skills when it comes to developing sites and using digital tools to enhance projects. I also want to continue conducting research in all sense of the word by factoring in all the possible avenues of securing sources for the topic I choose or are assigned in future research. I also want to continue to develop my writing style. I learned from this experience that my writing style can sound too much like a research paper, which can lead to extraneous words and phrases being adding in that aren’t necessary in the long run. This project challenges me to remember to make sure that my writing is able to be digested by a general public, but not too informal that it takes away from the value of the research.

Overall, I don’t think this experience has changed my post-graduation plans, but it has helped me grow in my approach to research that will aid me in my graduate research and my future career. I don’t think I’ll ever become a full-time researcher upon receiving my graduate education, as research hasn’t always been my strong suit, but this project helped me tremendously to the point that if I’m ever given the opportunity to research, I would be more open and prepared to approach it. Once again, I am truly thankful for being a part of this unique course. I learned so much about conflict resolution and its various forms. I also learned from my fellow classmates and I’m so thankful for the encouragement and advice we were able to exchange with each other. Finally, I learned more about myself and how I can continue to grow and develop myself not only as a researcher but as a community member and maybe even be a part of conflict resolution in the future throughout my community as well. This is an experience I’ll never forget. I wish you all the best when it comes to finals coming up and even the rest of our college career and beyond. Go out there and change the world! 🙂

Looking Back on the Semester (Reflection Post)

When my adviser first told me about the COPLAC digital courses, I was excited because it sounded like an interesting learning opportunity. I had taken online courses through Mansfield, but never experienced a virtual classroom like this one. Originally, she suggested that Claire and I sign up for the science-related course, but it didn’t fit in our schedules. She then suggested Conflicts in America and though Claire and I didn’t have a lot of experience with the field, we decided to give it a try! Mansfield University requires a general education component to our degrees, so why not try a digital course? The course sounded very interesting and it was a unique opportunity to work on a type of research project outside our field of study and outside our comfort zone. When the classes first started, I was hesitant. Claire and I had very hectic and overwhelming semesters and we were not sure if we could handle the work-load accompanying this course. I’m happy to say that we proved our past selves wrong! While it was difficult finding time to conduct interviews, visit well-sites, and design our website; we managed. The time was well spent because we have a finished product now that we are very proud of.

One of the largest skills I have acquired from this course is an entirely different approach to research. We were able to get out and talk to people about their personal experiences and opinions. We searched our entire library for literature sources and even went out to explore the community and see first-hand how these well sites impact the area. Though we hit some bumps along the way, Claire and I found ways to work through them. The way we collected information, sorted through it, and presented it is completely different from our current undergraduate research in our majors. It’s something that we can take with us and apply to graduate school and our future careers. I also learned how to use various online tools, such as the mapping tool and the timeline builder. I also learned how to navigate WordPress and build a website that will genuinely interest people and hold their attention. I learned recently that a recent graduate in our major designed a blog and website in graduate school. This just emphasized how applicable these skills will be in the future.

One of the biggest surprises I experienced was through our research. As we stated in our presentation, Claire and I originally thought that fracking would be a scientific or environmental issue. We both did not have a strong background in the conflict and came to these conclusions from what we know as scientists and from passing opinions we have heard. After our research, we learned that this conflict is truly a social issue. Companies have to communicate the known positive and negative impacts of fracking as well as the changes in the community that people should expect while fracking is ongoing in their area. This is applicable across many conflicts, not just fracking. Poor communication in various situations can cause tension and knowing how to properly inform people can help ease tensions and better the situation.

All in all, I learned a lot through this course and I am thankful that Claire agreed to be my partner for the course and that we both decided to stick with it this semester. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the conflicts in other towns around the country and seeing the websites my fellow classmates have created.


This process has taught me a lot about using digital tools to conduct research and present the information in various other ways that I would not have considered before. With a science background, the majority of the information gathered is typically presented in a research paper with very few visual components. However, after creating this website, I realized that visual components are really useful for certain topics. Before this class I really did not know that some of the digital tools existed (such as timeline and map builders, etc.) and I definitely would not have felt comfortable utilizing them for any type of project. Now, I would be completely comfortable using these tools for other projects.

I also learned there are so many other aspects, to any conflict, that I would not have considered before. For example, our conflict of fracking seemed very much so like a scientific/environmental issue before we started our research. Halfway through this project, Jess and I realized that we would have to completely change our approach to the topic, as it was mainly a social issue. This was the complete opposite of what we thought, but we were pleasantly surprised rather than hindered by this realization. In fact, I think learning of the different aspects of our research gave us a new motivation to learn more about the topic. We started to contact people that we would not have considered contacting before (even though we sometimes did not receive answers from them), and we looked into any and all social aspects we could think of. We found so much information about how people reacted to fracking coming into the community, as well as how fracking is perceived, that we realized our interview section was that much more essential to telling our story. Having this background in interdisciplinary research will really allow me to succeed in other parts of my life in the future. Instead of viewing research in one specific light, from now on I will be able to appreciate the other aspects of any topic. This would be beneficial for me when I am forming an opinion on something, as I am now aware of how important it is to be educated on every aspect of a topic before forming my opinion. Also, it will allow me to be respectful and appreciative of other opinions that differ from mine.

I also really enjoyed learning about all the other projects that the rest of the students worked on. There are so many different things that I did not know about, as well as didn’t understand, before starting this course. I learned so much from their websites, and many of the other students also taught me tactics for presenting the research that were incredibly helpful. For example, I would never have thought to include more visual elements into the website. This is something that is not common in scientific research, so my brain is essentially wired to write in a very scientific- to the point- type of way. It was also a learning curve to alter my writing style so that it would be useful for both the general public as well as someone who understands science very well.

Although there were many difficult aspects to this course, I really did enjoy having the freedom to research a topic that meant something to me and was directly impacting my community. There are few things I would have changed, such as the amount of time spent outside of class to conduct the research (I felt that sometimes I really was running low on free time to do so), but overall I feel this course has increased my knowledge in a field that I was interested in, as well as in a field that I did not know I needed to learn more about- social aspects of any conflict and how to best convey information to people.

Final Weekly Blog

Hello everyone,

I am very glad that we all have officially finished our websites! Congratulations everyone! I am really glad that we spaced out this website because more things are piling up for me and Kailee. We are now able to feel good that we finished this class. We were able to clean up the citations, changing the coloring of the website, and add more line breaks to have a clear division between the citations and writings. We looked at the COPLAC comments, and we for the most part changed the parts of the website they mentioned. What we were not able to do was add more visuals to break the long paragraphs of writing we had. We will mention during the presentation that we were not able to get permission from photos from our local newspaper, so we were not able to provides many pictures for our website. We worked with what we were able to obtain.

As for the preparing for the presentation Kailee and I were able to find time to meet up to talk about the outline of our presentation. We were able to divide the parts evenly, and so having each other helps us in our time and nerves for the presentation. We will talk more about it, but first we plan to time it individually. We will then time it together to get a gist of the time we will reach when talking about the presentation. I think we will be able to do this presentation, and we will soon be done with the class! Good luck to all of us. 🙂

-Alyssa Macaranas