On November 6, 2013, 42 freshman undecided business majors, Assistant Dean Dot Gracey, and professors Bill McPherson and Elizabeth Ricketts traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a fun and informative learning experience through an Eberly Connections initiative.
Eberly Connections is a pair of courses linking American History (HIST 196) and Introduction to Business (BTST 105) for freshman undecided business majors. The courses are taught by Elizabeth Ricketts, a twentieth century American history professor, and Bill McPherson, who works primarily with the freshman business majors.
Eberly Connections strives to establish a strong relationship between the undecided business majors and the Eberly College of Business. It gives the students an opportunity to not only see a connection between history and business, but because they travel through two of the same courses together, they are able to build stronger bonds with each other, which enhances retention in the college.
During the trip, the students and professors visited a number of locations that were rich in Pittsburgh history. Charles McCollester, a former IUP Labor and Industrial Relations professor of 22 years, served as the group’s tour guide for the day. He is the author of two books, Fighter with a Heart: Writings of Charles Owen Rice and The Point of Pittsburgh: Production and Struggle at the Forks of the Ohio. McCollester is also president of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society and the Battle of Homestead Foundation.
With his background in labor relations in the Pittsburgh area, McCollester was able to provide a deep understanding of the history of the group’s first stop in Homestead, PA, near the Waterworks shopping area. He was joined by Steffi Domike and Rosemary Trump, former presidents of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society and labor historians.
The site was the scene of the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike, which resulted from a dispute between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and the Carnegie Steel Company. The strike was the second largest serious labor dispute in U.S. history and lead to several casualties and wounded on both sides of the dispute.
The group then visited the site of the U.S. Steel Mon Valley-Edgar Thompson Plant, an operating steel mill located in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Students gained a real insight into nineteenth century business and the history of American steel workers.
“I learned that the steel mills shaped the Pittsburgh area and the American culture in the 1900’s and how they truly defined the working class. During that time in history, all eyes were on Pittsburgh,” commented Ben Balish.
Colby Krahe added “I learned how much harder the steel workers had to work. They would work 12 hour days and then work 24 hours on a switched shift. Back then, you were either born into wealth, or you had to work in the steel mills all your life. There was no moving up. Carnegie had all the money. This trip really showed me how different business was back then.”
While in Braddock, Pennsylvania, the students also toured The Braddock Carnegie Library. Named a National Historic Landmark in 2012, the Braddock Carnegie Library was the first Carnegie Library in the United States.
During its time of operation, the library offered several facilities that are usually not included within a library such as a theater, gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, and billiard tables. The facilities were originally only for members of the “Carnegie Club,” who paid a fee. Employees of any Carnegie owned company received a 50% discount, which in 1903 amounted to $1/quarter.
Today the library consists of only library services for adults and children, and the bathhouse is now a pottery studio which produces water filters in order to improve public health in third world countries.
“My favorite part about the trip was exploring The Braddock Carnegie Library,” said Nick Franco. “It was neat to see the many different facilities it had like the basketball courts. I would never think that a library would have all of that. It was also neat to see a building as old as it is. It was like taking a step back into the past.”
The final stop for the Eberly Connections group was the St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Parish in Pittsburgh. The church is an ethnic Roman Catholic parish that was founded primarily for those of Croatian descent living in the Pittsburgh area. The murals within the church were a gift to the United States from Croatian artist Maxo Vanka. The murals were painted in the 1930s and 1940s and are said to be representations of the many struggles that Croatian people faced as immigrants in post-industrial America.
Other student remarks included:
“The trip was able to link history and business very well. The trip offered a lot of historical information but also showed us the business side of the steel industry in Pittsburgh.” –Allison Buchanan
“Eberly Connections has made me feel more connected to the college of business because of the immense amount of group work in both classes. I am able to work with the same people in both the business and history classes and can build stronger relationships with them. Through Eberly Connections, I have chosen marketing as my major. Seeing how the business world in regards to marketing has changed throughout history interests me.” –Vincent Agostini
“I do believe that Eberly Connections should continue to do more trips in the future because this really helped me realize that there is a huge relationship between business and history. History helps current businessmen make decisions on how to run their company based on what has worked and failed.” –Colby Krahe