MCLA Student Presents 'Century America Project' at Council on Undergraduate Research Conference in DC


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Alisia True '14, a history major at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and a participant in Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges' (COPLAC) Century America Digital Liberal Arts Project recently presented her research at the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Conference in Washington, D.C.

True also crafted a piece of the larger Century America digital project - a website that presents a snapshot of life and community in North Adams and at the College during an important moment in America's history.

During the spring semester, the Century America Digital Liberal Art Project, part of the Distance Mentoring Program sponsored by the Teagle Foundation, brought together 13 students from 10 COPLAC campuses founded before 1914 to research their home institutions to find out what those communities were like during the Great War.

The students used special collections and other library, campus and community resources - as well as digital technologies - to rethink the way research is presented and to share the experiences of students, faculty, townspeople, and other Americans before, during, and after World War I.

On Sunday, June 29, True and four other students presented their findings at the CUR conference with Dr. William Spellman of the University of North Carolina-Asheville and Dr. Jeffrey McClurken of the University of Mary Washington.

They discussed the challenges and opportunities of working in a digital environment under the supervision of distance mentors, and offered insight into the prospect of leveraging consortium size to open up new opportunities for innovative undergraduate research projects.

The project gave True, who is from Lyndeborough, N.H., and a transfer student to MCLA from Nashua Community College, an opportunity to learn more about the College and the surrounding community.

She found some of what she discovered to be surprising.

"What amazed me the most was witnessing the effect the war had on bringing MCLA and the North Adams community closer together. In contributing to the war effort, the school and the town truly banded together for what appears to be the first time," True said.

In addition to collaborating with the community on a war garden, the College offered sewing classes in the evening to all the women of North Adams. And, much like today, the College was very accommodating and encouraging when it came to student initiatives, especially when it involved the arts, according to True.

"It seems MCLA has always been an important cultivator of creativity," she said.

"But what I found to be most important was the way the school contributed to providing North Adams with patriotism, pride, and comfort during war time with its numerous concerts, plays, and community activities," True said. "MCLA was vital in keeping up the morale of the community during an intense moment in history."

For more information, go to and