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Sattler Capstones: History


Sattler Capstones: History

Sattler College graduated three History majors this spring: David Anderson, Matthew Baugher, and Lois Friesen. Each student conducted a major research project, writing a seventy- to one hundred-page thesis.

The students documented:

  • experiences of the first generation of Latin American immigrant students in the public schools of Lebanon, Pennsylvania (1970-2000) (Matthew Baugher)
  • adaptations of Protestant humanitarian aid organizations working in the Middle East over the course of the 20th century (Lois Friesen)
  • debates among American church leaders, writers, and scientists about the “subconscious” in the 19th and early 20th centuries (David Anderson)

To research their topics, they traveled to archives, rare book libraries, and local historical societies and
read fascinating primary source documents, such as:

  • a female mission worker’s account of the efforts of Protestant mission schools to serve Orthodox
    Christians and Muslims in Turkey alike, even in the midst of the genocide of Armenian Christians
  • a 1909 essay by a prominent Presbyterian moral philosopher warning pastors against mixing the
    secular psychology of the subconscious with Christian pastoral counsel (David)
  • the high school yearbooks and newspapers of the Lebanon (PA) School District (Matthew)

In addition to using documents, Matthew interviewed three dozen school teachers, administrators, and immigrants from Puerto Rico and Latin America about their experiences in Pennsylvania schools. Through these interviews, Matthew found that his project had bearing on more than the past; researching history gave him the opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with people he had never met before, even though they had been living in his home community. He writes: “Through the interviewing process, I learned that simply being interested in someone’s life story is enough to make their day. Doing historical research can be a way to connect with others and help reveal the meaning in other people’s lives.” Matthew also reflected on history’s potential to lower social barriers of suspicion by telling a community’s story in a way in which many people see their experiences reflected. “Throughout my project, I noticed the cultural gap and lack of understanding between the Latino community and the whites. In the same line of thought as Paul when he talks about no barriers between Jew and Greek, I believe places like Lebanon need Christians who are willing to foster a culture of trust and build bridges across cultures and communities of people.”

All three history majors reflected this uniquely Christian approach to history in their dogged attempts to investigate their topics accurately and in their empathetic coverage of historical figures who had very different experiences and ideas than their own.

To provide an example of a history capstone, David Anderson has shared some insights from his research project, as well as a video of his final presentation on his findings.


David Anderson, The American Subconscious and the Borderlands of Science and Spirituality: 1829-1916


The What

My capstone consisted of a written thesis that explored the history of the idea of the unconscious: the parts of a person that they are not immediately aware of such as motivations, fears, childhood memories, and more.  Though most associate this topic with the discipline of psychology or figures such as Sigmund Freud, the reality is a lot more complicated (and interesting!): the idea of the unconscious has been used by psychologists, faith-healers, philosophers, pastors, mystics, and more. In my capstone, I attempted to find the thread of development between these disparate fields and make sense of an idea that blurred the boundaries of science and religion. 


The Why

As a Christian, I have never known what to make of the idea of the unconscious: certain aspects of the idea have seemed true and beneficial while other aspects have seemed highly troubling. That, combined with the fact that ideas surrounding the unconscious self have pervaded nearly all aspects of American thought (often without people realizing it) gave me the desire to explore the history of the idea more deeply. In turn, this project has helped give me the intellectual tools to assess, evaluate, and critique one of the most dominant ideas in American culture.


Interesting Note

One of the most fascinating aspects about this project was the blurred line between science and religion. Just to highlight one example, in the early 1900s, there was a debate regarding the nature of soul-care. Was the healing of the mind and the soul the domain of pastors or physicians? This question persists to this day, and it illustrates the difficulty in pinning down exactly where ideas of the unconscious mind belong.  

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