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Dr. Andra Chastain has been awarded the Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence!

Dr. Andra Chastain has been awarded the Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence. She will be honored for this at graduation. Details are below. Congrats Andra!

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Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence

Andra Chastain

Assistant Professor of History, College of Arts & Sciences

 

The Students’ Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes a faculty member who commits time outside of the classroom to prevent students from falling through the cracks, demonstrates an enthusiasm for the subject matter, and instills enthusiasm and passion in students.

Andra Chastain may ask a lot of her students, but she gives even more than she asks. In nominating her for the teaching award, a student praised her “desire and commitment to help students succeed” and her willingness to be available whenever a student needs her. “She inspires and helps encourage me as a researcher to dig deeper, think harder and aim beyond what I thought possible,” the nominator added.

Chastain teaches introductory and advanced history classes. Her research and teaching interests include modern Latin America, with a focus on Chile in a global context; the transnational history of aid and development; the global Cold War; urban and environmental history; and the history of science and technology. Her broad curiosity lends excitement in the classroom and an uncommon ability to make students fall in love with history. “I want students to see how knowledge about the past is dynamic and contested—and has serious implications for the present,” she said.

She encourages students to speak up, and her classes are lively with discussion. “I love the opportunity to build a sense of community in my classroom,” she said. “We establish a culture of respectful dialogue from the start.”

Chastain believes in setting high expectations, communicating them clearly and then showing how they are attainable. She is honest about the challenges of the research and writing process. “I know from experience that if a goal seems impossible, procrastination and guilt take over,” she said. “But if a seemingly insurmountable project is broken down into small tasks, and you have the support from peers and your professors to achieve these tasks, you can go farther than you had imagined.”

Chastain earned her bachelor’s degree in 2008 from Reed College in Portland, then went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012, both an M.A. and an M.Phil. from Yale University in 2014; and a Ph.D. from Yale in 2018. She has been teaching at WSU Vancouver ever since. She is currently revising her dissertation into a book about the history of the metro system in Santiago, Chile.

While she loves sharing her passions with students, she gains a lot from them too. “I guide the ship, but we are all learning together,” she said. “Their questions provide a foundation for a lively conversation in class—and the process of creating knowledge is all about keeping that conversation going.”

4 Center for Arts and Humanities Fellowships in HIST!

The department of history is proud to announce that we are celebrating the selection of four of our faculty members to receive Center for Arts and Humanities Fellowships! See some brief descriptions of their work below!

 

Andra Chastain

Chile Underground: The Santiago Metro and the Struggle for a Rational City”

  • “Chile Underground asks how and why the Santiago metro system survived political and economic upheaval from the earliest proposals for a subway in the 1920s up to the present day. This infrastructure project, which required massive state investment and foreign aid from France, remained state-owned and operated despite the implementation of radical neoliberal policies in Chile in the late 1970s. Although the Pinochet regime privatized many sectors, the metro was spared. By tracing the shifting meanings of this project from local, national, and international perspectives, Chile Underground argues that the Santiago metro became a crucial site of social and political struggle. Far from apolitical, as planners often described it, the metro became a powerful symbol that was mobilized for diverse political ends. Pinochet’s officials used it as propaganda for the military regime, while dissidents used it to push for political freedom and justice. It was a vehicle both for intensifying inequality in the city and for struggles for greater social justice. The metro became a space for building and contesting the shape that modernity would take in Chile. By studying the case of the Santiago metro, Chile Underground sheds light on how people use infrastructure for political purposes and the ways these projects have the potential to reproduce or undo inequality.”

 

Linda Heidenreich

“The Virgin Would Not Eat Grapes: Faith, Feminism, and the United Farm Worker’s Movement, 1965-1970”

  • “While volumes have been written on the history of the United Farm Workers, little attention has been paid to the role of women in the movement and the core ideologies that grounded their activism.  Yet from its founding in 1962, women, both secular and religious, played a critical role in its development.  This was, in part, because of the historical context of the movement.  In the 1960s through the 1970s four powerful movements came together to transform the relationship of Chicanxs to religion, the state, and each other:   the Second Vatican Council, Liberation theology, Chicana feminism, and the United Farm Worker’s movement.   Looking to the lives of the women in the movement, Heidenreich argues, allows us to see the dynamics of these multiple forces in the early years of the organization. Drawing on archived issues of El Malcriado, as well as published interviews, this project begins to map the intricate weave that was the relationship of Catholicism and feminism to the United Farm Workers during the Grape Strike of 1965-70.   “The Virgin Would Not Eat Grapes” builds directly on the work of Lara Medina, who began the critical excavation of Chicana/Latina Catholic activism in twentieth-century justice movements, as well that of Emma Pérez and Maylei Blackwell who mapped the emergence of feminism within Mexican and Chicano nationalism throughout the twentieth century.  Receiving a 2021-22 CAS Arts and Humanities fellowship will now allow Heidenreich to complete research of primary United Farm Workers’ documents for the years 1965-1970, located in a digital archive housed through the University of California Libraries.  Preliminary research indicates that the archive contains over 1,330 documents with references to Catholic sisters, 350 to nuns, and 812 referencing Catholicism.  These documents are diverse including statements by U.S bishops, interviews of Catholic sisters, amicus briefs, articles in El Malcriado (the newsletter of the UFW) and more.   The coming academic year promises to be fruitful indeed.”

 

Ray Sun 

“‘Fallen Cougars’:  Building a Digital Exhibit Honoring the War Dead of Washington State College from the Second World War”

  • “The mission of the Fallen Cougars project is to ensure that the approximately 200 World War II war dead from what was then Washington State College (WSC), who are currently almost entirely forgotten, will never again be strangers to the 21st-century WSU community and the larger public in the Pacific Northwest and across the nation.  With the assistance of undergraduate volunteers from my World War II history classes and graduate students conducting summer research, and in collaboration with Dr. Trevor Bond, Director of the WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), Fallen Cougars will create a permanent digital exhibit presenting the biographies of each of the WSC war dead.  The target date for opening the exhibit is Fall 2021.  Its immediate purpose is threefold: (1) To honor the legacy of these former students who served and died in the Second World War; (2) to integrate this important part of Washington State University (WSU) history into contemporary Cougar identity by connecting past, present, and future members of the WSU community to their peers from the 1940s; and (3) by providing the individual stories and photographs of each fallen serviceman, to make this history accessible and engaging for the larger public across the Pacific Northwest and beyond.  In the long term, the completed project will serve as the anchor for building a regional network of similar exhibits at neighboring institutions, and become a model for educators, historians, and communities around the country.  Given the intense ongoing popular interest in the history and culture of the Second World War – last year approximately 5 millionvisitors toured the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. — it is probable that the exhibit will generate strong and ongoing attention, showcasing the important role of WSU undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in enriching our local and regional culture.  Fallen Cougars will thus be a highly visible example of organically generated historical research being used to serve both the university community and the public, fulfilling WSU’s land-grant mission while underscoring the role of the humanities in preserving and representing our cultural heritage.”

 

Jenny Thigpen

  • “My new book-length project, tentatively titled “Marriage and the Making of the American West”, will consider the role of women in the story of American expansion. The book will explore the ways in which nineteenth-century ideas about love, marriage, and gender combined with emergent concerns about race to shape the American West in ways that are still felt today. In the nineteenth century, Americans were already convinced of the importance of the family unit to national and political life. Yet marriage took on heightened meaning as Americans pushed westward. A cursory glance of marriage patterns as they emerged and evolved in the American West suggest the ways in which this was so. Though early, male settlers frequently made matches with indigenous women, such partnerships became an increasing cause of concern and scrutiny over the course of the nineteenth century. My research suggests that interracial marriages came to be widely viewed as “unnatural” and, ultimately, illegal during the era of rapid American expansion into the West. By mid-century, just ideas about romantic love were gaining cultural currency, western male settlers came increasingly to seek Euro-American wives from outside the region. Though some historians have argued that “mail order brides” addressed a gender imbalance in the region, my research will explore how it instead addressed a perceived racial problem.”

A.P Chastain’s book under contract with Univ. of Pittsburgh Press

Assistant Professor Andra Chastain recently announced that Itineraries of Expertise: Science, Technology, and the Environment in Latin America’s Long Cold War, is now under contract with the University of Pittsburgh Press, in their Intersections series.  Andra is a co-editor, with Timothy Lorek, and has a chapter in the volume as well. Congratulations!

Hans-Petter Grav is now employed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology

WSU graduate (PhD History spring 2018) Hans-Petter Grav is now employed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway, as PhD program advisor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. In addition to his duties, he will teach occasional U.S. history courses for the University of Trondheim.

Washington State University