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USD Faculty Member Nathan Bates Utilizes Local Museum to Research German Heritage in South Dakota

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Nathan Bates headshot This summer, Nathan Bates, the German program coordinator at USD, conducted research to learn more about German heritage in South Dakota.
VERMILLION, S.D. – As part of his project called “German in South Dakota,” Nathan Bates, Ph.D., the German program coordinator in the University of South Dakota Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, conducted research at the Heritage Hall Museum and Archives in Freeman, South Dakota, to learn more about German heritage in the state and how to incorporate it into university language courses.
With over 20,000 items on display, the Heritage Hall Museum and Archives explores the history of German-Russian immigrants and others who settled in southeastern Dakota Territory in the 1870s.
Using a grant from the South Dakota Humanities Council (SDHC), Bates traveled to Freeman throughout the summer to identify artifacts and materials, including stories, personal histories and journals, books in German, maps and audio recordings, that could be used in courses he teaches at USD.
“These items speak not only to our state’s heritage and how that heritage defines who we are today, but it also gives students an opportunity to orient South Dakota’s identity and heritage with the international community of German language speakers,” said Bates.
Bates said he initiated this project because he believes that German immigration in South Dakota has been well documented, but little has been done to apply the heritage to teach language courses.
“Recent calls to decolonize and diversify the German curriculum across the country should also address the legacy and eventual assimilation of Germans in the United States,” said Bates. “With this curricular change, students will be able to connect local German heritage to an international community of language speakers, gain an appreciation for this link and acquire the intercultural competence necessary for success in an increasingly globalized world.”
Bates will present his findings at USD as part of the Humanities Research Forum on Nov. 4 from 3:30-5 p.m. in Old Main.
USD’s College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college’s more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.
Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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