Shippensburg University senior and Wood Honors College student Matthew Zemba has turned his love of storytelling and genealogy into an amazing opportunity to present at the 2021 Northeast Regional Honors Council Conference this spring.

Zemba will present his senior capstone project, “The Zemba Family Story: A documentary on the impact of Slovak Migration in Pennsylvania,” which he describes as the culmination of everything he has learned during his undergraduate experience at Ship. The conference is affiliated with the National Collegiate Honors Council, and brings together nearly 200 member colleges and universities.

Fascinated by his family history and curious about his family name, the communication/journalism major and Trinity High School graduate began researching his family genealogy in 2018. He’s identified over 6,000 people on his family tree using newspapers, birth records, death certificates, church records and other sources.

“My great-great grandparents were born in a small town named Lechnica near the Polish border. They immigrated to America in the early 1900s and settled in East Vandergrift, near Pittsburgh. Now that I’ve found their ancestral village, I am looking to understand why they came to America,” said Zemba.

He was excited to turn all of his research into a meaningful narration of his family’s past and credits his experience in the Wood Honors College and the Communication/Journalism Department for giving him the skills he needed to do it.

“My education has brought me in-studio experience with SUTV and WSYC, and my coursework has guided me on how to perform intensive research,” he said.

He will debut the 20-minute documentary during the virtual conference in April, an experience he says is a humbling opportunity.

“I’m honored to have been accepted to the 2021 Northeast Regional Honors Conference. I’m hoping to use my family’s story to tell a much broader story of Slovak migration, a story of human triumph and perseverance,” he explained.