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Connections lead to opportunities, career path for history senior

Campus Life Jan 10, 2024
A man stands in front of a national parks sign

KOKOMO, Ind. — Connections and travel were KEY to Gabe Franks’ success at Indiana University Kokomo.

Connections with faculty and staff gave him opportunities such as internships with the National Parks Service and the Howard County Historical Society, competing in Model United Nations simulations, assisting in formation of a student sustainability council, going behind the scenes at the Indiana State House, and job shadowing the campus archivist.

These opportunities led to his next steps after graduating in May: He plans to enroll in a Master of Library and Information Science program, to become an archivist.

“All of these experiences allowed me to take what we learned in class, and connect it to a real-world setting,” said Franks, from Greentown. “Making the real-world connections through KEY trips is super important.”

He began making connections on campus early, including striking up a conversation with Chancellor Mark Canada when he saw him walking on campus.

“We talked about our experiences both being first generation college students,” Franks said. “That really opened my eyes to IUK, and how accessible and inclusive it is.”

Franks wasn’t decided on a major when he arrived, and tried several before focusing his attention on history and political science. As he considered what he could do in that field, Sarah Heath, professor of history, connected him with the Howard County Historical Society for an internship. He especially appreciated working with Stew Lauterbach, the curator.

“As a first generation college student, I hadn’t had any experience of the inner workings of that kind of organization,” he said. “Stew is super knowledgeable. He really is passionate about the job he does. Their archives are substantial for a community of this size. It was there I figured out what I wanted to do.”

He also job shadowed Meg Galasso, IU Kokomo information services librarian and archivist, for an in-depth look at the specific field of archives.

“After my internship, I knew I wanted to work in some capacity in a historical field,” he said. “It’s hard to understand what a museum curator or an archivist does until you’re able to sit down with them or have a conversation with them. It was interesting to see what those jobs are.”

He experienced another perspective on careers related to history as an intern at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. The memorial honors the first Japanese Americans to be excluded, forcibly removed from their community, and incarcerated during World War II.

“The whole position was focused on cultural preservation and sharing stories,” he said. “In the listing for the job position, you had to be willing to learn about the history and share it. It was interesting to work for the federal government in that capacity.”

He met visitors to the memorial, guided them through the story of how the Japanese American community came to the area and were incarcerated in the Minidoka camp in Idaho or the Manzanar camp in California. He read extensively to answer questions as well.

Franks also heard first-hand stories from survivors at an annual conference at the Minidoka site, and followed survivor Lilly Kitamoto Kodama as she shared her own story. Kodama’s family was arrested and incarcerated when she was 7 years old.

“Getting to experience that level of community was unlike anything I’d experienced before,” he said. “A lot of the survivors shared their stories. Talking with people who lived something I read about in class was a completely different experience.”

Heath was happy and proud to have Franks represent IU Kokomo through the internship.

“Gabe stands out among our students because of his willingness to seek and accept opportunities,” she said, adding that he was already a finalist for the National Parks program before she knew he had applied.

“He worked with community members, engaged in public presentations, and traveled to Idaho for a related project and ceremony,” she said. “It’s a real delight to be reminded of how well people like Gabe act on the opportunities we provide at IU Kokomo.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.


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Erin Witt, director of media and marketing

Danielle Rush, communications specialist

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