The Encyclopedia of Milwaukee has been fortunate to have the involvement of not just graduate research assistants, but also high-achieving undergraduates like Paul Newcomb. Paul has been working with the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee project since January of 2018. A sophmore, already committed to completing an Ethnic Studies major and African and African Diaspora Studies minor, Paul is also now considering a double major in History.
Paul’s aspiring nature was revealed when asked why he wanted to get involved in the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee project. He explained, “Towards the end of my first semester at UWM I started thinking more seriously about attaining research experience, I really wanted to learn more about Milwaukee, which is my home now for at least the next few years, and so it seemed a good fit for both personal reasons and to gain research skills.”
Paul’s major task for the project has been to cross-reference every entry in the Encyclopedia. This means he has read every entry, then identified connections to other entries. His job involves identifying not just keywords but also conceptual relationships. Cross-references aren’t enabled on the website just yet, but soon there will be both hyperlinks to related entries within the body of the text for the entries, as well as a “See Also” section below each entry that will direct readers to related entries. EMKE anticipates that this will become a vital tool for researchers, making expanded research more efficient and helping to highlight the interconnectedness of entries. Paul says that getting to read each entry has been one of his favorite parts of the job, “I’ve learned a lot about Milwaukee, and this job has given me the opportunity to read about topics I might not otherwise have chosen for myself.” He explains further, “before starting this internship, I didn’t know much about Milwaukee’s strong trade union and socialist background, and I might not have chosen to learn about those on my own, but the entries were really interesting and now I understand more about those aspects of Milwaukee history.”
In addition to interning with the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, Paul was also involved in a course-based research project that Senior Editor and History Professor Dr. Amanda Seligman led this past fall semester. During the course, students learned to do archival research and collaborated to author a 3,000 word entry on community-based organizations. So, what has working on the Encyclopedia done for Paul’s scholarship? As Paul sees it, working on such a large project has taught him more than research skills, it’s also taught him how to coordinate and collaborate with others. A large-scale academic project requires more than just outstanding scholarship; it also demands that participants have the ability to adapt to the methods and organizational styles of many scholars and collaborate effectively. These are the types of interpersonal and professional skills that many students find difficult to explain when they apply for internships and grants. But Paul’s ability to communicate both his concrete abilities and soft skills has landed him two more impressive internships—an internship this past summer with the Black Holocaust Museum as well as an internship with the Documenting Deportation Project, led by UWM History Professor Dr. Rachel Buff. The Encyclopedia of Milwaukee has been happy to have such a mutually beneficial experience working with Paul over the past year and can’t wait to see the amazing work he’ll continue to produce as he completes his degree program at UW-Milwaukee.