Such was the case with my ongoing project "Academic Journeys," an oral history featuring African American students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville about their experiences choosing majors and moving toward graduation.
The project is now in its third year, and my student assistants and I have coordinated more than two hundred interviews. Years before the project though, I had conversations with my colleague Mary Z. Rose about the possibility of interviewing students once per year over the course of a few years. We figured that it might be fascinating to ask the students a question and then pose it again the next year to consider changes.
At the time, I was working with Rose on an oral history project with Eugene B. Redmond. She took the lead on organizing a series of interviews with him about his life and career. We were interviewing Redmond after he had retired from a long, amazing career. So I was wondering, what would it have been like to interview someone at the start of their career, before they even graduated from college?
All of that was back in 2012, about four or five years before I began this current Academic Journeys project. The conversations with Rose, though, were central to what I decided to do focusing on African American students and this Academic Journeys project.