Letter from the Chair

Dr. Steve Kale

Welcome to the latest issue of History News!  This installment contains highlights of some department accomplishments in the 2017-2018 academic year and updates on plans for 2018-2019. Thanks for reading!

The History department will be experiencing a lot of departures at the end of the current academic year. Professor Marina Tolmacheva began teaching at Washington State University in 1987.  Since then, she has served as an Associate Dean for College of Liberal Arts, as Director of the Asia Program, and has held a number of prestigious position overseas, all while publishing a dizzying array of translations, commentaries, and articles on Islamic history.  Professor Candice Goucher is Professor of History and Co-Director of the Collective for Social and Environmental Justice. She taught courses in world history, African history, the history of food, and Caribbean studies and published numerous journal articles, book chapters, and essays, including Congotay! Congotay! A Global History of Caribbean Food, which earned her the Gourmand World Award for best book on Caribbean cuisine and culture in 2017.  In April of last year, she received the Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award at WSU-Vancouver.  The department is also bidding farewell to Yvonne Berliner, who taught courses in Latin American history, Sean Wempe and Matt Unangst, teaching postdocs in the Roots of Contemporary Issues Program, both of whom obtained tenure-track positions in Florida and California, and Jared Secord, who taught Ancient history and to whom legions of undergraduates are indebted for his excellent mentoring in History 300.  Last but not least, we will be saying goodbye to Patricia Thorsten-Mickelson, the department’s former financial manager who was promoted in 2009 to run the Wilson-Short service center, where she oversaw financial and personnel management for History and three other departments.  Everyone in History would tell you that without Pat’s knowledge and skill, the department would not have run nearly as smoothly.

As we move into the 2018-19 academic year, the department will be welcoming three new RCI teaching postdocs: Ben Nobbs-Thiessen (PhD Emory University); Brenna Miller (PhD Ohio State University); and Sarah Walsh (PhD University of Maryland).  We will also have a new assistant professor on the Vancouver campus.  Professor Andra Chastain is a Latin American and World historian who received her PhD at Yale University in 2018.  Her dissertation examines the development of the metro in Santiago Chile as a lens through which to study state formation and the transnational politics of development in the era of the Cold War.  Another newcomer is Jordan Pike, our Senior Secretary, who was hired last winter to replace the retiring Pam Guptill.

As in previous years, the department saw a number of significant scholarly publications in 2017-18. Professor Spohnholz published The Convent of Wesel with Cambridge University Press, in which he discusses an event, long believed to have helped establish Reformed churches in the Dutch Republic and northwest Germany, that never happened.  The book not only offers a snapshot of Reformation history but explores the nature of historical inquiry.  Professor Peabody (WSU-Vancouver) published Madeleine’s Children: Family, Freedom, Secrets, and Lies in France’s Indian Ocean Colonies with Oxford University Press, for which she earned the David Pinkney Prize from the Society for French Historical Studies for the best book on any aspect of French history by a U.S. or Canadian author.  The book explores the story of an enslaved person challenging his status in court and winning his freedom but is also a family saga of love, betrayal, hope, and struggle set against the broader context of plantation slavery, Parisian society, and colonization.  Robert McCoy and Steven Fountain published History of American Indians: Exploring Diverse Roots with ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Publishing, a comprehensive look at Native American history, focusing particularly on native peoples within the geographic boundaries of the United States.  One of our RCI instructor, Charles Weller, edited 21st-Century Narratives of World History Global and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, published by Palgrave-MacMillan.  The book makes an important contribution to the burgeoning field of World history by bringing together top scholars for an exploration of the foundations and future of the field.  Finally, Orlan Svingen, working with graduate students in his Public history seminar, produced a film and a podcast and gave numerous presentations on the Washington National Guard’s 161st Infantry Regiment during World War II, funded with a generous gift from Edwin G. Park.

Department faculty and students received a number of notable awards in 2017. Jesse Spohnholz (Director of the Roots of Contemporary Issues Program), Clif Stratton (Assistant Director of RCI), and Katy Fry (RCI’s Curriculum Coordinator) received Provost Office Teaching Fellowships to for their efforts to promote educational innovation at WSU.  Robert McCoy received a Summer Fellowship from the Center of Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC), with which he will begin a new public history project on the Spokane River system as a site of contested cultural narratives about the Columbia Plateau region.  Jennifer Thigpen nominated for the Associated Students of Washington State University (ASWSU) Faculty and Staff “Exceptional Professor Award.”  Graduate Student Karl Krotke-Crandall, who is writing a dissertation on the memory of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union under the direction of Brigit Farley, received a Stephen F. Cohen-Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship.  The Department of History as a whole received an award from the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning for not only the success of the general history courses being offered, but also for the success of the Roots of Contemporary Issues UCORE program, thanks mainly to the efforts of Clif Stratton and Theresa Jordan.  The department was recognized by the Provost’s Office for its high quality learning and assessment practices while RCI was recognized for its exemplary student learning assessment system for a UCORE program in partnership with WSU Libraries.  I would also like to applaud our undergraduate students who participated in the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities and to recognize Krista Brutman and Will Millick who received awards that were mentored by Lydia Gerber.

Finally, the department is using generous gifts from donors to start two new initiatives. One is being spearheaded by Professor Peabody, who is coordinating an oral history project entitled “Clark County Stories: How We Came to this Place”, which opened for community interaction and participation in January.  This project seeks to establish a data base related to the establishment of Clark County and the significant growth of the regional population.  The other initiative is being led by Jeff Sanders and Robert McCoy, who are working to create an online data base for researchers using materials associated with the Hanford History Project in Richland.  Sanders and McCoy are also working with the CDSC to incorporate the use of digital technology in the class room and in student research, with the ultimate goal of allowing the department to make digital historical scholarship one of the learning outcomes associate with the History major.

Last but not least, 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 harder time supporting and rewarding the fine teaching, learning, and scholarship for which the department is known.  As the 2017-18 record of achievement indicates, this help is having a positive impact.