This story was originally published in the fall 2023 edition of The Honor Role, the official newsletter of the Honors Program at Newman University.
By Hayley Stewart, Newman sophomore
This past June, I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Reacting to the Past Annual Institute in New York City. If you need a refresher, Reacting to the Past is a series of immersive role-playing games that transport you into historical events. It’s a shift away from the traditional lecture-style teaching toward something more interactive, engaging and memorable. Honors students will remember either coming out victorious in the French Revolution, thanks to your careful strategizing, or still holding a grudge toward your friends in the crowd who targeted you in a violent rage.
During the institute, I had the opportunity to revisit the bloodshed and play the French game for two days. I was playing alongside professors, who, believe it or not, play the game quite a bit differently than my classmates. As it was my second time playing the French game, I thought I could get away with flying under the radar. After all, I knew how this game panned out.
It’s one thing to give a speech in front of your classmates but another thing entirely to do it in front of a room of seasoned Reacting professors. As my fellow Feuillant faction members became quickly vocal, I thought for sure I could finish the game without ever having to brave the podium. It didn’t turn out that way.
I played another Reacting game while at the conference titled “Diet and Killer Diseases: The McGovern Committee Hearings, 1977.” The game takes place at the hearings that resulted in pushing the low-fat diet as a way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The best game strategy involved presenting reputable scientific studies to back your claim and knowing how to poke holes in the research other scientists cited.
When I wasn’t immersed in a game, I was exploring New York City. Although I was pleased with myself for being able to navigate the subway, Professor Kelly McFall offered that complete reliance on Google Maps was not the same as knowing your way around a place. Of all the things I did, some of my highlights were seeing “Moulin Rouge” on Broadway, visiting the 9/11 memorial, wandering up and down Broadway in Morningside Heights, and watching the sunset from our 12th-floor dorm rooms at Barnard College. It was a wonderful experience that I’m so grateful to have been a part of.
As part of my internship, I had the chance to interview multiple conference attendees, both returners and newbies. Guided by my interview questions, each professor, retired professor and student had some moving things to say. It was inspiring to be amongst people who I could say without a doubt love what they do and care deeply about how it affects their students.
I’m grateful I got up to that podium in the French game. The response from the professors made it all worth it. Their support was genuine, and I questioned why I was ever anxious to go up in front of a group of professors whose sincere goal was to provide me with the best learning environment.
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