By Chelsea LoCascio
Eight members of the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta (PAT) attended the Biennial Convention at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista Hotel in Orlando, Fla., from Wednesday, Jan. 6, to Sunday, Jan. 10.
Hosted by the University of South Florida’s chapter of the honor society, the national conference was broken into 90-minute panels composed of a faculty moderator and three students presenting their original work, according to senior history secondary education major Linda Chamesian, co-president of PAT. With topics ranging from economic history to women’s rights, the presentations were 15 minutes each and followed by a Q&A, Chamesian said.
“It was an amazing opportunity to be exposed to historical research that was conducted by students across the nation,” said senior history secondary education major Joseph McQuoid, co-president of PAT. “What’s both empowering and humbling about history is that there’s no way to know it all, so being able to meet with a large group of others where each person knows so much about one specific subject really helps you learn about events and subjects you may have known very little about.”
Also in attendance was Cynthia Paces, the history department chair and faculty advisor to PAT, who was there to support her students.
“(She) was a great mentor throughout the entire conference. She not only attended each of our panels, but commented as an active audience member during the presentations, showing great support for us and our fellow panelists as well,” Chamesian said.
When Paces and the students were not at the conference, they took advantage of their proximity to Walt Disney World.
“It was not only a fun experience to bond within our own chapter, but it was a great opportunity to meet other students from all over the country outside of an academic environment to share our experiences and ideas about non-historical topics,” said McQuoid of being in Orlando. He also encourages others to participate in the experience of attending the convention.
During their time in Florida, the College’s chapter was not one to be ignored as other students and professors regularly complimented them for their work, McQuoid said.
“The national executive board of Phi Alpha Theta definitely took note of our chapter’s presence at the convention,” Chamesian said. “The board was impressed with our chapter’s attendance at the convention and also from the work we had done this past fall semester. We were active on social media and they loved to see students involved and excited for Phi Alpha Theta events.”
According to Chamesian, an Instagram picture of their visit to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on their final day in Florida prompted an email from Graydon A. Tunstall, the executive director of Phi Alpha Theta at the University of South Florida.
“I would like to take a moment to say thanks to you and your fellow PAT members who attended the conference and posted the terrific and creative photos on Instagram. Your enthusiasm is greatly appreciated and you definitely set the bar high for our other chapters,” Tunstall wrote in an email to Chamesian.
Though the College’s chapter was not awarded for their efforts in 2015, they intend to apply for “Chapter of the Year” in 2016, Chamesian said. However, to her it is not about winning awards, but rather what the students learned during their time at the conference.
“The conference was definitely an unforgettable experience, one that combined a love for history and the magic of Disney,” Chamesian said. “A pairing that might be overlooked by some, but appreciated by others.”