City of Chattanooga partners with college students to tell 'Her stories, not just history'

UTC student Sara Leach interviews Chattanooga Councilwoman Dr. Carol Bertz as part of a project to document the lives of women in Chattanooga. (Image: WTVC)

City leaders in Chattanooga are working with college students to document history makers in our area.

The people being interviewed come from different backgrounds, but they are all women.

UTC senior Sara Leach spent hours preparing for her interview with Chattanooga Councilwoman Dr. Carol Berz.

"Remembering what needs to be asked because this is for a reason so I try hard to do that and also be genuine."

The interviews are part of the Mayor's Council for Women's project to record and archive interviews with women from all walks of life who have impacted our city.

"I love talking about experiences if it's for a purpose," Berz said during her interview with Leach.

The mission is to tell "her stories, not just history."

They're hoping to inspire and teach future generations by highlighting women of the past and present.

"I get to see a genuine Chattanooga community leader and how she operates within that," Leach said.

The students work with professors to come up with a wide range of questions to get to the heart of that person and their influence on Chattanooga's history.

"It was wonderful, we had a great conversation," Berz said. "I didn't think of her as a student, I thought of her as another woman and we were learning from one another."

The interviews are easily accessed by the public on UTC's digital collections page.

"I think they shouldn't take people for granted," Leach said. "I think that everyone has something they can say."

UTC's assistant professor of history Susan Eckelmann Berghel works with students to find the women, draft the questions, and then summarize what they learned.

"That's exciting to learn a little bit more how women's perspectives change, especially in the city over time," Berghel said.

They're taking 200 snapshots of women from different professions, ages and cultural backgrounds.

Women in Chattanooga who have dealt with issues including racial segregation. gender inequality and cultural barriers.

"To connect some of these issues that it's not just something that happened elsewhere, but in fact happens all the time in the city as well," Berghel said.

It's about connecting the dots between the past and present, and taking the time to look at our city through someone else's eyes.

"If they can hear that there are these stories out there it might inspire them to talk to their own friends and constituents and women in their lives, and see what made them who they are and how they can function better," Leach said.

The goal is to have 200 interviews completed by this fall.

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