Campus Spotlight: University of Oregon

Our Reacting Consortium Member Campus Spotlight series highlights Reacting to the Past on different Consortium Member campuses. Keep reading to see how the University of Oregon integrated Reacting into existing programs to help realize the full pedagogical potential of Reacting to the Past on their campus.

The University of Oregon recently integrated Reacting to the Past classes into their First-Year Interest Group (FIG) program where students take three courses, all connected by an overarching theme. The University of Oregon has had Reacting classes on campus since Professor Ian McNeely first went to a Reacting workshop and brought this pedagogy back to his classroom in 2009. According to intake questionnaires, many of the students chose to take part in the FIG program because of their interest in Reacting, and in role-playing pedagogy; these courses have fostered so much student passion, that students founded an independent Reacting student club to continue learning, working, and playing. First year student and FIG participant, Yasmin Camacho added that, while she didn't know what to expect when she signed up, “reacting has changed the way [she] see[s] different views,” and also made her feel more comfortable speaking publicly. 


Reacting To The Past games at the University of Oregon from UO SOJC on Vimeo.

The fall semester Reacting FIG, “Hidden History,” featured two RTTP games in the Reacting course: Forest Diplomacy: War, Peace, and Land on the Colonial Frontier, 1756-1757, and Red Clay, 1835: Cherokee Removal and the Meaning of Sovereignty. The students’ experience was enriched by the University of Oregon’s unique resources, community connections with native and indigenous organizations, the Native American Studies department, and the history of the area.

The FIG’s structure also facilitated deeper and broader student learning experiences, as Kevin D. Hatfield, Professor of the Reacting class explained:

coupling these two games with Professor Brian Klopotek’s ES256 Introduction to Native American Studies enriched the students’ game playing experience, and the overall nuance and sophistication of game play directly because of the immediate knowledge and theory they could apply from Brian’s course.  Reciprocally, the engendering of empathy for historical actors and the emotional learning that emerges from the RTTP game play enriched their comprehension of the content in Brian’s course and informed their Hidden History research projects. The RTTP games re‐invest a sense of contingency, complexity, and conditionality into historical study by situating students within liminal or boundary spaces lying between cultures, ideologies, motivations, and behaviors. They also experience “liminality” in taking on the new identity of their assigned roles that are distant in time and culture from their own.  This positioning places historical decision making back into the hands of the students, and the Hidden History FIG project became a space to expand this experiential learning into a community-based context.


RTTP | Red Clay & Forest Diplomacy from UO SOJC on Vimeo.

Using both Forest Diplomacy and Red Clay, “offers several benefits for students as both learners of history and game players,” continues Hatfield. Both games involve treaty councils between Native Americans and settler-colonizer Euro-americans, at two different historical moments and geographic places. Forest Diplomacy occurs during the late colonial period in British North America on the Pennsylvania frontier, while Red Clay takes place in the antebellum United States during under Andrew Jackson’s administration. Both games center on fundamental themes of settler colonialism, indigenous sovereignty, intercultural contact and conflict, forms of captivity and slavery, conventions of negotiation, assimilation, acculturation, and contested notions of race, land, and identity. Hatfield notes that “the primary sources informing game action and character development allowed students to explore change-over-time within these themes.” The Hidden History FIG class concluded with a formal presentation of projects and donation ceremony to the University Archives. Students also presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in spring 2018, a portion of which focused on how the RTTP experience shaped their research on indigenous peoples and issues.

Sometimes student investment and energy was so strong, the FIG course actually had to institute a good-natured Thanksgiving Break moratorium on RTTP-related texting and social media interaction. Student Yasmin Camacho seems to have taken it all in stride, reflecting on her time, "I can positively say that I had so much fun in Reacting to The Past and I'm so glad I was able to be apart of the class at the U of O this fall." 

The students continue to funnel the passion and excitement for Reacting outside the classroom, founding the student group, the University of Oregon RTTP Club. Students from this Reacting FIG and from Professor Ian McNeely’s History 411 Reacting to the Past course in winter 2018 and are currently playing the games: Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945 and The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations, and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994.



Reacting To The Past - Confucianism & the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor, 1587 (Spring 2017) from UO SOJC on Vimeo.

Reacting To The Past - Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791 (Spring 2017) from UO SOJC on Vimeo.

RTTP | Religions of India and China from UO SOJC on Vimeo.

RTTP | Suffrage, Labor, & The New Woman from UO SOJC on Vimeo.

Thank you again to Kevin Hatfield, Ian McNeely, and Eleanor Vandegrift, and Yasmin Camacho for their willingness to share from their experiences with Reacting!