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UW-Eau Claire History Graduate Student
Receives Prestigious Fellowship

 MAILED:  April 29, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — Christine Kadonsky, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire history graduate student, is a recipient of a James Madison Foundation Fellowship, provided by the U.S. Congress.

The fellowship will provide Kadonsky with up to $24,000 for graduate classes and an opportunity to study the U.S. Constitution at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“I am very excited about this opportunity,” Kadonsky, who earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies education from UW-Eau Claire in 2001, said of the fellowship.

Kadonsky, who is working toward her master’s degree in history at UW-Eau Claire, is in her third year of teaching ninth-grade U.S. history at Wausau West High School.

Experienced American history, American government and social studies teachers who are studying American history at the graduate level are eligible for fellowships, which fund up to $24,000 of the fellows’ master’s programs. Programs must include a concentration of courses on the history and principles of the United States Constitution.

Fellows are selected from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. island and trust territories. Fellowships are funded by income from a trust fund in the United States Treasury and from private gifts, corporate contributions and foundation grants.

Recipients must teach American history or social studies for at least one year for each year of fellowship support. The award recognizes promising teachers, and strengthens their knowledge of the origins and development of American constitutional government.

In 2003, Kadonsky enrolled in UW-Eau Claire’s 15-credit “Learning by Doing: Public History in the Classroom” graduate program, sponsored by a Teaching American History Grant.

The program allows elementary and secondary teachers from 30 school districts in central and western Wisconsin to earn certificates in public history, earn 15 graduate credits (at no cost to the teachers), and bring new skills to students and colleagues in their districts. It’s possible because of a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education awarded to the UW-Eau Claire history department, in collaboration with CESA 10 and the Chippewa Valley Museum.

“There are many wonderful history teachers in our elementary and secondary schools but there has been no money for professional development for the teachers,” said Dr. Patricia Turner, associate professor of history and project director. “The program appeals to teachers like Christine Kadonsky who are enthusiastic about teaching and excited about new opportunities in their classrooms.”

The “Learning by Doing” program is the first graduate public history certificate program in the United States designed for elementary and secondary education teachers, Turner said. Public history, a growing sub-discipline offered at more than 100 U.S. universities and colleges — including UW-Eau Claire — focuses on the public dissemination of historical knowledge. Public historians use venues like museums, community displays or events to bring history to the public.

“I’ve found the principles of creating good historical research displays for the public can be adapted for use in my high school classroom,” Kadonsky said. “The knowledge I gained from the program is helping me be a better historian and is enriching my U.S. history curriculum.”

Students learn to analyze information when they are challenged to find historical sources, synthesize information and present their findings in a meaningful way, Kadonsky said. “The hands-on approach fosters students’ critical thinking skills,” she said. “Students can research a topic of interest to them, so they’re excited to become an expert on a topic of their choice.”

As part of the James Madison Fellowship, Kadonsky will spend four weeks at Georgetown University, where she will take a 6-credit course on the history of the U.S. Constitution titled “The Foundations of American Constitutionalism.”

In past years, well-known government officials and constitutional scholars have given presentations to the fellows, Kadonsky said, noting that Supreme Courts justices have been among past presenters. The institute also includes visits to sites in and around Washington, D.C., that are associated with the Constitution, she said.

“The fellowship is an incredible opportunity,” Kadonsky said. “I think a big part of the reason I was selected is because of my involvement in the ‘Learning by Doing’ program.”

Founded by Act of Congress in 1986, the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation is an independent establishment of the executive branch of the federal government. Additional information may be found online.


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Updated: April 29, 2004