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Letter from the Chair

Dr. Steve Kale

2017 has been a year of growth and accolades for the Department of History. The Roots of Contemporary Issues Program, directed by Professors Jesse Spohnholz and Clif Stratton, has become a center for transformative learning across the University. Next year, the department will welcome Michelle Mann, the newest teaching postdoc in the RCI program. We are also hiring Tracey Hanshew on the Tri-Cities campus to oversee the state-mandated College in the High School program, which offers high school students around the state the opportunity to take college-level history courses from affiliated teachers, working in partnership with the History faculty at WSU. We will also be celebrating the careers of Professors Tolmacheva and Goucher, both of whom will retire at the end of 2018.

This year, History faculty have been the recipients of numerous awards from the College of Arts and Sciences and the University. Professor Katy Fry was chosen to receive the first-ever Global Campus Best Online Instructor Award from WSU’s growing online program. Professor Spohnholz earned the highly prized William F. Mullen Memorial Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor Noriko Kawamura won the CAS Award for Outstanding Achievement in International Activities Award. Professor Lydia Gerber, who directs the Asia Studies Program, received both the Honors College Fellowship and a special award for Excellence in Support of Undergraduate Research. Four of Professor Gerber’s undergraduate students won WSU Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) awards for their research projects. Professor Ken Faunce received the Richard G. Law Excellence Award for Undergraduate Teaching at WSU. Finally, Pam Guptill, the department’s Office Manager and Senior Secretary, who will be retiring in July after 25 years with WSU, was recognized with the CAS Civil Service Outstanding Career Achievement Award.

The work of two of our PhD students was also recognized: David Bolingbroke won the Arnold and Julia Greenwell Memorial Scholarship and the 2016 Boeing Graduate Fellowship in Environmental Studies to support his work on the environmental history of the Hanford nuclear site. Jennifer Binczewski received the American Catholic Historical Association’s Ellis Award for her research on Widowhood and the Catholic Community in Post-Reformation England. I would also like to acknowledge the nearly two dozen undergraduate and graduate students who were awarded department scholarships in recognition of their excellent academic achievements.

Department faculty and students have recently begun to integrate digital learning into the History Curriculum. With the support of the WSU Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, located in Holland Library and directed by Trevor Bond—who defended his dissertation in Public history in April 2017—Professors Robert McCoy and Jeffrey Sanders have developed assignments, term projects, and classroom lessons using new technologies and methods associated with the emerging field of digital humanities. The department is striving to make the teaching of these skills an integral part of the History major. In September 2016, the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC) at WSU honored Professor Sanders and two History graduate students (Halie Meredith and Brianna Webb) with fellowships to promote technical training for projects that use digital tools, technologies, or platforms to develop research and teaching agendas.

Last summer, Professor Orlan Svingen directed another Public History Field School, dedicated to creating and naming Tendoy Park in Virginia City, Montana. The Public History Field School involved not only graduate instruction but a set of concurrent research activities related to oral history, collaboration with Naka Productions on a film project entitled In Good Faith, and work with Virginia City, the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, & Educational Center in Salmon, Idaho, and the Culture Committee and Language and Cultural Preservation Department of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Idaho.

Departmental faculty continues History’s strong record of research production in 2016 and 2017. Most notably, Professor Matthew Sutton, who earned a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016, will receive a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars Fellowship in 2017-18 to support research for his forthcoming book, (Un)Holy Spies: Religion and American Espionage in World War II. Sutton and Professor Sue Peabody each received an Edward R. Mayer Distinguished Professorship from the College in recognition of their consistent record of scholarly productivity. Two new faculty books were published this year: Professor William “Puck” Brecher, who teaches Japanese history and who joined the department in 2015, published Honored and Dishonored Guests – Westerners in Wartime Japan by Harvard University Press; and Professor Lawrence Hatter, our Early U.S. historian, saw the release in 2017 of his first book, Citizens of Convenience: The Imperial Origins of American Nationhood on the U.S.-Canadian Border, which received the 2016 Walker Cowen Memorial Prize for “an outstanding work of scholarship in eighteenth-century studies.” Professor Charles Weller, who teaches in the RCI program, edited, translated, and published The Agony of Socialism: Kazakh Memoirs of the Soviet Past.  Professors Jesse Spohnholz and Ashley Wright published notable articles this year in prestigious scholarly journals, the first in Past and Present, and the second in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. Spohnholz, who is a Reformation historian, wrote on the changing use of archives by historians of the Reformation, and Wright, who is a historian of the British Empire, wrote on European women as barmaids in Calcutta and Rangoon. Finally, Professor Sean Wempe, who joined the department to teach in the RCI program last year, published his second article in The International History Review, dealing with German Colonial Interests, the Press, and the Spirit of Locarno.

In short, it’s been a good year.

In closing, I want to acknowledge the crucial role played by our donors, alumni, and friends.  Your support is critical to the success of our programs. Without it, we would have a much more difficult task in supporting and rewarding the fine teaching, learning, and scholarship for which the department is known. As the 2017 record of achievement indicates, this help is having a measurable effect.