Laura Browder, Tyler and Alice Haynes Professor of American Studies, has investigated a number of subjects in her research, from ethnic impersonators to the evolution of gun culture in America to the impact of war zones on women soldiers. But one theme always prevails — research inspires the most change when presented in a medium that’s relatable to the general public.

For Browder, that medium is most commonly the documentary. This idea drives much of her current work, including “The Reconstruction of Asa Carter,” a film to be aired on PBS later this year; and a documentary film about mothers at war inspired by her photography and oral history project, “When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans.”

It’s also a message she’s sharing with students at the University of Richmond.

“In my class on documenting the Iraq war, we were reading graphic novels and blogs, watching movies, looking at photography books, watching YouTube video clips — all kinds of documentary forms,” she says. “And I think that helped students gain an appreciation of how many different ways there are to look at a single event and how the lens that you use, or the particular genre that you use, affects the way that you understand something.”

This semester, Browder is taking documentary to the stage. She and Patricia Herrera, assistant professor of theatre, received a faculty fellowship to combine documentary theater with community-based learning and study massive resistance and the desegregation of Virginia schools — a subject that first grabbed Browder’s attention after seeing her own children attend public schools in Richmond.

“It’s really striking how strong the legacy of segregation and massive resistance still is in our schools,” she says. “Only 7 percent of white parents send their kids to Richmond public schools.

“In a lot of ways, this is not ancient history — this is something that’s very much with us and it’s had a huge impact on the city and kids of all races going through the public school system. Because of the University of Richmond’s location, it’s very easy for our students to never really explore the greater Richmond community, but it makes the academic learning real in a very different way.”

Browder and Herrera’s students are conducting archival research and interviewing people who experienced segregation and desegregation in Richmond schools. Ultimately, the class will collectively write and produce a documentary drama based on the oral histories and historic documentation, which will be performed at venues at the University and in the community.

“I want students to make connections between what happened in the 1950s when Virginia’s governor and state government fought Brown vs. Board of Education so bitterly, and what’s going on today in the public schools,” she says. “And I hope they’ll get excited about the process of making documentaries and see how the power of live theater can stimulate debate and open up these questions.”

Throughout the process, Browder may be sharing her love of making documentaries with her students, but she insists she gains just as much from them.

“We have a generation of students who are as used to looking at blogs and watching movies and listening to podcasts as they are to reading books,” she says. “I learn a tremendous amount from my own students about the use of new media. And perhaps they can learn from me how to look at some of these new media forms in a more critical way.”