Course Syllabus

A6790             Historic Preservation Thesis Colloquium



Paul Bentel --

Chris Neville --


TA:  Allison Arlotta <>


Fall 2017 -- Wednesdays, 9 am - 11 am

Location: Avery Hall Room 115

Instructor office hours:  by appointment


Course Description and Syllabus



Colloquium is a collective inquiry into preservation practice and theory. As a workshop structured around the development of student thesis projects, Colloquium uses the thesis process as a lens for students to reflect not only on preservation’s role in the world, but also on their own roles within preservation. Framed by the range of heritage values addressed in this year’s thesis projects, and informed by both the common interests and the diverse backgrounds of the group, the course emphasizes interdisciplinary dialog and critical thinking in a collaborative, research-driven, and process-oriented setting.

Colloquium students will support and challenge each other in their thesis work, and by extension in the formation of their professional identities within this complex and expanding field. Their individual and collective engagement with a range of “works-in-progress” – embracing not only their thesis projects, but also the field itself -- will reinforce their understanding of preservation’s theoretical and practical development through active participation in the discursive process by which it unfolds.

Students and Colloquium faculty will work in increasingly close coordination with students’ individual thesis advisors throughout the semester. Students’ thesis work will provide the core material for Colloquium discussion. At the same time, Colloquium assignments, readings, and class discussion will reinforce, complement, and build on the thesis process.


The semester’s work will be carried out on several tracks. These tracks are interrelated, and progress will be cumulative, all in support of overall progress with the thesis process.

  • Framing will focus on formulating a researchable hypothesis and set of research questions, outlining an appropriate conceptual and organization structure for the project, and planning a suitable methodological approach.
  • Research will focus on compiling and analyzing the body of requisite data and sources, whether from existing published and unpublished materials, or original work in the laboratory or the field.
  • Content will focus on analysis, and on developing a sequence of drafts of written and graphic content, culminating in the final thesis product come spring.


The semester will be divided into several phases, punctuated by successive iterations of thesis elements:

  • Weeks 1-4: Initial development of approved thesis proposals, Colloquium project proposals, and overall research plans; thesis advisor selection.  Preliminary and revised/expanded proposals due.
  • Weeks 5-6: Individual student conferences with Colloquium faculty (scheduled around Advanced Studio travel dates).
  • Weeks 7-8: Mid-semester Thesis Review (preparation, presentation, and debriefing).
  • Weeks 9-14: Colloquium working group project presentations and discussions (student-led).
  • Week 15: Final written deliverables due: Colloquium project paper, Thesis Progress Report (including literature review).

(See further below for detailed schedule and descriptions of deliverables.)


General Requirements:

Work for Thesis Colloquium is cumulative and interconnected. Students are expected to complete all readings and assignments on time, and to engage fully in group collaboration and discussion both inside and outside of class.

Communication is central to the thesis process.  While a master’s thesis is by definition an independent project, it is not a solitary one, particularly in an interdisciplinary field such as historic preservation.  Colloquium faculty will work closely with students and their thesis advisors throughout the semester. Students should begin discussions with potential advisors about their theses right away, if they haven’t done so already.  (The program office will provide information about the list of available advisors.)  Beyond officially required contacts (with Colloquium faculty, one thesis advisor, and two thesis readers), students are also encouraged to speak with other faculty members and outside experts, and to do so both early and often.

Likewise, it is important that students support and collaborate with each other.  Students will be working on their Colloquium projects in ad-hoc working groups starting early in the semester. The entire class will also serve as an audience and sounding board for discussions and presentations throughout the term. Students should also select partners to serve as "scribes" for when they make presentations, the better to document feedback and discussion.



Assignments for Colloquium are configured both to structure and to advance student thesis work as it develops.  They emphasize the iterative, mutually-reinforcing processes of planning, research, analysis, writing, and design, while maximizing opportunities for constructive feedback and exchange along the way. Assignments are also designed to support coordination of the many overlapping tasks involved in carrying out long-form independent academic research.

The following summary maps the relationships among assignments.  (See further below for a more detailed week-by-week breakdown.)

Week Thesis Milestones Other Events Thesis Colloquium Deliverables
1. Introduction  
  1. Student questionnaire
  2. Reading discussion
  Thesis Topic Presentations  
  1. Thesis topic 1.0:  1-page (max.) synopsis, plus short preliminary working bibliography
2. Research Planning Revised topic: submit to Program Office for approval  
  1. Expanded Topic Proposal:
    • Thesis topic 2.0 (revised)
    • Colloquium project topic 1.0 (preliminary proposal)
  2. Reading discussion
3. Colloquium Project & Working Groups Proposed advisor: Submit 1st- & 2nd-choice names to Program Office  
  1. Draft working group rationale (themes/formats/rosters)
  2. Working bibliography 2.0: expanded
  3. Reading discussion
4.  Expanded Research Proposal    
  1. Expanded Research Proposal:
    • Hypothesis/thesis statement
    • Research questions, goals/objectives
    • Colloquium project topic 2.0 (revised proposal)
    • Preliminary methodology (in outline form)
    • Preliminary outline 1.0
    • Working bibliography 2.x (expanded)
    • Preliminary workplan/project timeline
  2. Reading discussion
5. Conferences Advisor confirmed by Program Office

Adv. Studio trips (Tech & HP/UP)

[Individual conferences]
6. Conferences   Adv. Studio trip (HP/MArch)
APT, Ottowa
[Individual conferences]
7. Mid-Term Review
  1. Research Proposals 3.0 (revised/condensed): due to Program Office for distribution at review
  2. Digital presentation files due to Program Office
  3. Mid-term Thesis Review

Mid-term review preparation

8.  De-brief

Adv. Studio mid reviews

Fitch Colloquium

  1. Working bibliography 3.0 (annotated)
  2. Mid-term presentation notes

[Mid-term Review debrief]

[Working Group update]

9.   Group 1 Working Outline 3.0: due to advisor  
  1. Presentation:  Working Group 1
  2. Reading discussion
10.  Group 2   Election Day Holiday (Mo-Tu)
  1. Presentation:  Working Group 2
  2. Reading discussion
11.  Group 3   NTHP, Chicago
  1. Presentation:  Working Group 3
  2. Reading discussion
12.  Thanksgiving  Holiday

[No class]

13.  Group 4    
  1. Presentation:  Working Group 4
  2. Reading discussion
14.  Group 5    
  1. Presentation:  Working Group 5
  2. Reading discussion
15.  Final papers Thesis Progress Report: submit to advisor and Colloquium faculty Adv. Studio final reviews
  1. Colloquium Project Report
  2. Thesis Progress Report, including revised/updated versions of:
    • Hypothesis/thesis statement
    • Research questions, goals/objectives
    • Outline
    • Methodology
    • Workplan/project timeline
  3. Literature Review, including bibliography
16      Grades due





Colloquium Project:  This term paper project is essentially a head-start on a targeted area of the thesis draft content.  While students will each deliver a completed paper at the end of the semester, they will do so as part of a working group which will conduct a group presentation and class discussion during the last weeks of the semester. 


  • Individual work:  Every thesis project has at its core a set of key concepts, themes, and questions. These can relate to content, approach, intent, or a combination of all three. Together they define the character and thrust of the project, and likewise form the basis for its relevance to the field. The Colloquium project gives students an opportunity to zero-in on these central conceptual elements early in the thesis process for focused exploration during the first semester of their work. (It is understood -- and expected -- that these explorations may shift in unexpected directions as the research process unfolds.)  The Colloquium project will inform the thesis in terms of both process and final product. It may evolve into a full chapter of the final draft, or just an extended footnote, or anything in between.
  • Working Groups:  Colloquium students will carry out their investigations independently in support of their own individual thesis work, but will do so in the context of small ad-hoc working groups that will be organized during the first weeks of the course. These groupings will be determined by the way topics overlap and/or complement each other, with the goal of identifying areas of greatest potential cross-fertilization. Students and Colloquium faculty will collaborate on criteria for establishing these working groups, and groups will set the agenda for their joint presentation.  Individual students will use this group setting as a laboratory for collaboration and to expand their thinking about their own areas of growing expertise.


  • Individual research papers:  Students will submit written versions of their work, reflecting not only their individual findings, but also on the feedback and re-thinking generated both within the working group and during the final discussion.  In addition to grappling with the fundamental questions underlying their own individual thesis projects, their task will be to articulate what distinguishes each of their points of view from the others, thinking specifically about where their hypotheses, methods of inquiry or evaluative criteria converge or diverge, and whether those differences/similarities are substantive or not.  The final product will thus reflect students’ engagement with their peers as well as with their own chosen research topics.
  • Working group presentation:  To formalize this effort and to clarify the work product for this track, the final weeks of the semester will be devoted to joint presentations by these working groups to the rest of the class followed by student-led discussions. Selected faculty, including thesis advisors, will be invited to attend. Working groups will provide background reading for their presentations, uploaded to Canvas at least one week prior to class.

Overview of Colloquium Project Deliverables:

  1. Initial proposal (due Week 2, two hard copies in class)
  2. Revised proposal, and working group rationale/plan (due Week 4)
  3. Individual student-faculty conference (Week 5 or 6; individual schedule TBD)
  4. Final student-led working group presentation and discussion. Background readings must be posted to Canvas no later than one week prior to class. (Weeks 9 -14; individual schedule TBD)
  5. Summative research paper (10-20 pages, plus illustrations): project content, group process, discussion/response (due Week 15)



Assignment overview:

  • Written work: Due by class time via upload to Canvas unless otherwise noted.  (Some weeks we may ask for hard copies in class as well.)
  • Readings: Available on Canvas. Reading response is due the Sunday evening before class, also on Canvas (via Canvas "Discussions" tool). Readings for end-of-semester student-led presentations must be posted to Canvas at least one week prior to the presentation date.
  • Presentations: Formal presentations will include the initial Thesis Topic Presentations (week 1), the Mid-Term Thesis Presentations (week 7), and final Colloquium Working Group Presentations (weeks 9-14). Additional informal presentations may take place, on an ad-hoc basis, as current events determine.

** Schedule and content subject to change. **


Week 1

9/6               Assignment: Colloquium student questionnaire.

Please complete this two-part questionnaire describing your background and your relationship to Historic Preservation. Part 1 will be distributed via email. When you have completed Part 1, please post a digital copy to Courseworks in the “Student Questionnaire” folder (using file name “[Last name] Questionnaire”), and please bring two printed copies (one for each instructor) to the first class meeting. Part 2 is a survey on Google Docs, to be completed online. You can access the survey using the link in the distribution email.

Required reading: J. B. Jackson, “The Stranger’s Path,” in Landscapes: Selected Writings of J.B. Jackson, Ervin H. Zube, editor. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1970, pp 92-106. Originally published in Landscape, vol 7, no. 1, Autumn 1957

9/8               Thesis Proposal Presentation (9am-1pm, Conservation Lab)

Please use the Canvas Thesis Topic Presentation Sign-up tool linked in the Course Summary section at the end of this document to schedule your time slot.

Thesis topic summary plus preliminary bibliography, with preliminary list of potential faculty advisors (ONE PAGE MAXIMUM, plus bibliography.  Upload to Canvas and bring 5 printed copies, for distribution at the review)


Week 2

9/13             Assignment:

Expanded Topic Proposal:  Thesis topic 2.0 (revised) and Colloquium project topic 1.0 (preliminary proposal)

Required reading:

"Thesis Research 2016," and review other materials (slides, Writing Center info, sample literature reviews)


Week 3

9/20             Assignments:

Draft working group rationale:  Using the list of students, thesis topics, and Colloquium project topics, devise a scheme for five working groups and assign students accordingly.  Outline the rationale for your scheme, including organizing criteria, and potential formats for discussion and presentation.

Thesis bibliography 2.0 (expanded)

Required reading:

Christopher Koziol. “Historic Preservation Ideology: A Critical Mapping of Contemporary Heritage Policy Discourse.” Preservation Education & Research, vol. 1 (2008), pp. 41-50.

9/22             Thesis advisor selection (due 9 am via email to Program Office):

Submit 1st- and 2nd-choice names to program office for approval. You must have obtained your advisor’s prior consent.


Week 4

9/27             Assignment

Expanded Research Proposal (including hypothesis/thesis statement; research questions, goals/objectives; Colloquium project topic 2.0 (revised proposal); preliminary methodology (in outline form); preliminary outline (1.0); working bibliography (2.x); preliminary workplan/project timeline

Required reading: Katharine T. Corbett and Howard S. (Dick) Miller. “A Shared Inquiry into Shared Inquiry.”   The Public Historian, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Winter 2006), pp. 15-38.

Recommended reading: Robert Garland Thomson, “Authenticity and the Post-Conflict Reconstruction of Historic Sites,” in CRM: The Journal of Stewardship, Vol. 5, No. 1, Winter 2008.  [Note:  This article started as a Colloquium project.]


Week 5

10/4:            Individual conferences (schedule TBD;  please use sign-up tool on Canvas for scheduling)

Advanced Studio Travel Week (Tech & HP/UP)


Week 6

10/11            Individual conferences (schedule TBD;  please use sign-up tool on Canvas for scheduling)

Advanced Studio Travel Week (Class schedule TBD)


Week 7

10/16           1-page summary project proposal

Due 9 am via email to Program Office for distribution at review

10/18           Mid-term presentation preparation

10/19           Digital presentation files due in Program Office

10/20           Mid-term Review:  presentations to collected faculty (time and place TBD)


Week 8

10/23-5        Advanced studio: mid-term reviews

10/25           Updates on working group presentations


Working bibliography 3.0 (annotated)

Mid-term presentation notes

Required reading: John Joe Schlichtman and Jason Patch. “Gentrifier? Who, Me? Interrogating the Gentrifier in the Mirror.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2013).


Week 9

11/1             Student-led working group presentation and discussion: Group 1

Required reading: TBD


Working outline 2.0 (also submit to advisor by 11/3)


Week 10


11/8             Student-led working group presentation and discussion: Group 2

Required reading: TBD


Week 11

11/15           Student-led working group presentation and discussion: Group 3

Required reading: TBD


Week 12



Week 13

11/29           Student-led working group presentation and discussion: Group 4

Required reading: TBD


Week 14

12/6             Student-led working group presentation and discussion: Group 5

Required reading: TBD


Week 15

12/11-16       Advanced studio: final reviews

12/13           Assignment:

Colloquium project individual reports

Colloquium working group slide PDFs

12/15           Assignment:

Thesis Progress Report, including updated/revised versions of:  hypothesis/thesis statement;  research questions, goals/obectives;  outline;  methodology;  workplan/project timeline

Literature review, including bibliography


Week 16

12/20            Grades due

Course Summary:

Date Details