Students uncover decades of history in CPH’s 100 Years of Stories Project

Story by Jordan Hart

“Aerial view of University of Houston and downtown.” UH Photographs Collection, University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.

“Aerial view of University of Houston and downtown.” UH Photographs Collection, University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.

Photo by University of Houston

This summer, the Center for Public History will mark two years of documenting the intertwined histories of the city of Houston and the University of Houston through 100 Years of Stories. Through a collaboration of personal stories and archival research, this storytelling initiative is capturing major milestones ahead of the University’s centennial celebration in 2027.

Debbie Harwell with undergraduate students Usosa Too-Chiobi and Alejandra Sanchez.

Debbie Harwell with undergraduate students Usosa Too-Chiobi and Alejandra Sanchez.

Debbie Harwell with undergraduate students Usosa Too-Chiobi and Alejandra Sanchez.

Driven by student research, 100 Years of Stories has involved over 40 students since the project’s inception. They have produced 30 stories to date, many of which are featured in the latest edition of the Houston History Magazine and Houston Public Media multimedia stories

“Our students have done the bulk of the research for the pieces that Houston Public Media is producing, and that’s where it all starts,” Debbie Harwell, Houston History Magazine editor, said. “We have stories that represent the key themes of diversity and inclusion, innovation and health.” 

Debbie Harwell quote

In their research for Houston Public Media, students covered the University’s start as a junior college in 1927, prolific female leaders such as LGBTQ+ activist Phyllis Randolph Frye and former University president Marguerite Ross Barnett, and other defining moments in UH history. 

“They provide the student perspective to events on and off campus. The resources in the archives show the roots of activism and action that began with UH students who later impacted the city of Houston and beyond,” Mary Manning, University archivist and librarian, said. “The University of Houston archives has been heavily used during the 100 Years of Stories project; however, the materials across the UH Special Collections also help us understand the history of UH’s impact on the city of Houston.”

Harwell, who wields dual roles of magazine editor and instructional assistant professor, invited students in her classes to work exclusively on the 100 Years of Stories project over the past semester.

Houston History Magazine intern Grace Conroy and Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories graduate assistant Samantha de Leon have worked on the project for over a year while attending the University of Houston. They are producing articles for publication well into the 2022-23 academic year for this project.

“I did an oral interview with President Renu Khator last fall that was indescribable,” de Leon said. “It was an invaluable experience because she’s a woman of color who has elevated UH to the status that it has today.”

History graduate student Catilyn Jones.

History graduate student Catilyn Jones.

History graduate student Catilyn Jones.

History graduate student Catilyn Jones, and undergraduate student Usosa Too-Chiobi.

History graduate student Catilyn Jones, and undergraduate student Usosa Too-Chiobi.

History graduate student Catilyn Jones, and undergraduate student Usosa Too-Chiobi.

Samantha De Leon quote

So far, Conroy has covered three different decades of the University’s history. She found 2017 to 2027 most memorable as it offers a glimpse into the future of UH. 

As the end of their three-year grant approaches, Harwell hopes that their work to publish UH’s history will inspire another grant that will help carry this project through 2027. 

“I think it’s really important to continue to tell those stories, so we can take it up to the centennial and maybe beyond,” Harwell said. “There are so many stories out there in the history of the city of Houston that have their origins here with people at the University.”

100 Years of Stories is a three-year funded project supported by Carey Shuart, founder of the Carey Shuart Women’s Research Collective, and produced in partnership with Houston Public Media and M.D. Anderson Library. Ten of the stories were featured by Houston Public Media, each covering a decade of the University’s 100-year history. 

To learn more about the initiative and how to support it, visit the 100 Years of Stories website.

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Debbie Harwell, Editor of Houston History magazine, Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate, Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories Graduate Assistant, Carey C. Shuart, Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, Fujio Watanabe, Manager of Media Production at Houston Public Media, and Dr. Monica Perales, Director of the UH Center for Public History

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Debbie Harwell, Editor of Houston History magazine, Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate, Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories Graduate Assistant, Carey C. Shuart, Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, Fujio Watanabe, Manager of Media Production at Houston Public Media, and Dr. Monica Perales, Director of the UH Center for Public History

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Debbie Harwell, Editor of Houston History magazine, Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate, Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories Graduate Assistant, Carey C. Shuart, Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, Fujio Watanabe, Manager of Media Production at Houston Public Media, and Dr. Monica Perales, Director of the UH Center for Public History

Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, with Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate.

Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, with Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate.

Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, with Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate.

Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories graduate assistant

Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories graduate assistant

Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories graduate assistant

Item 1 of 3
Pictured from left to right: Dr. Debbie Harwell, Editor of Houston History magazine, Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate, Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories Graduate Assistant, Carey C. Shuart, Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, Fujio Watanabe, Manager of Media Production at Houston Public Media, and Dr. Monica Perales, Director of the UH Center for Public History

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Debbie Harwell, Editor of Houston History magazine, Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate, Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories Graduate Assistant, Carey C. Shuart, Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, Fujio Watanabe, Manager of Media Production at Houston Public Media, and Dr. Monica Perales, Director of the UH Center for Public History

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Debbie Harwell, Editor of Houston History magazine, Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate, Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories Graduate Assistant, Carey C. Shuart, Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, Fujio Watanabe, Manager of Media Production at Houston Public Media, and Dr. Monica Perales, Director of the UH Center for Public History

Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, with Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate.

Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, with Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate.

Mary Manning, Associate Librarian at the UH Libraries, with Grace Conroy, recent UH History graduate.

Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories graduate assistant

Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories graduate assistant

Samantha de Leon, Carey C. Shuart 100 Years of Stories graduate assistant

This story was produced by the CLASS Office of Communications. To learn how you can support College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences programs and initiatives, visit our Opportunities to Give page.