For several years, I was part of the El Paso, Texas, academic community during my Ph.D. studies, serving as lecturer, assistant instructor, and teaching assistant in The University of Texas at El Paso’s (UTEP) history and philosophy departments. During this time, I had always had the interest of collaborating with fellow academics at the community college level, particularly at El Paso Community College (EPCC) as a faculty member.
"It simply isn't an adventure worth telling if there aren't any Dragons." -- JRR Tolkein
Our project Dragons, Heroes, Real People—Who’s Fighting the War? is a journey of discovery. How can fantasy literature, specifically dragon story, relate to real people fighting in real wars? What characters, what themes, in fantastical stories represent the everyday lives of soldiers and their families?
These past few months have been so momentous that I thought now would be a perfect time to highlight some events that helped us to amplify the mission of the Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP.
In 2012 I was a thirty-year-old undergraduate at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). I had been a bit late to the whole college thing after having endured a decade-long “career” in retail and foodservice. To me, college was a potential gateway out of the meaningless rat race of wage labor and living paycheck to paycheck. I loved college. Not necessarily the “college life” that many younger students were living, but a life of learning, hard work, and, most importantly for me, trying to prove my worth by doing well—so well, in fact, that I had maintained a 3.9 GPA throughout my tenure at UTA.
El Paso is often depicted as a unique place: a border community between two U.S. states and Mexico with a distinct local culture. But one of the goals of the project being undertaken by our team, Dr. Melissa Esmacher and Malia Nelson, was to try to research El Paso’s history during World War II and determine whether this portrait of El Paso as unique outlier applied to this time period, or whether the history is more complex.