Roots of Contemporary Issues News

Leadership Transitions

The end of the 2018-19 academic year has brought multiple exciting transitions in leadership for the program. While Jesse Spohnholz is on research sabbatical following his recent promotion to full professor (congrats!), Rob McCoy will serve as Interim Director for 2019-20. Rob brings teaching experience in RCI dating back to the earliest years of the program and a wealth of departmental leadership experience to the Interim Director’s position. Clif Stratton, who has served as Assistant Director since 2014, has accepted the position of Director of University Common Requirements (UCORE) for WSU. Stratton will continue to teach in the program and will now bring experience in RCI to the Office of Undergraduate Education. Katy Whalen will seamlessly step into the role of Assistant Director. Whalen has served as Curriculum Coordinator for the past two years, is a seasoned classroom teacher, and is therefore well positioned to assume the Assistant Director role. In her place, Ashley Wright will serve as Curriculum Coordinator. As a tenure-track member of the History faculty, Wright, like McCoy, also brings teaching experience in RCI to her new role.

Faculty Accomplishments

Our faculty have just completed another incredibly productive year of teaching, scholarship, and service. Their collective accomplishments reflect their commitments to these three interrelated endeavors. Our faculty remain award-winning scholars and classroom teachers. In Spring 2019, Rob McCoy was awarded the Learning Communities Excellence Award from the Office of Undergraduate Education for exemplary work in WSU’s First-Year Focus program, of which all Pullman History 105 sections are a part in Fall semesters. Rebecca Ellis was nominated as the best online course instructor for 2018-19 by her students. Likewise, Clif Stratton received two teaching awards in 2019: the College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching by Clinical Faculty Award and the WSU President’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Clinical Faculty. Stratton was also promoted to the rank of Clinical Associate Professor in March. Andra Chastain, who courageously taught RCI right out of the gate upon her arrival as a new Assistant Professor at WSU Vancouver, received Yale University’s Arthur and Mary Wright Prize for outstanding dissertation in a field of history outside the United States or Europe for “Vehicle of Progress: The Santiago Metro, Technopolitics, and State Formation in Chile, 1965-1989.” Lastly,  Jesse Spohnholz’s most recent book, The Convent of Wesel (Cambridge, 2017) won two prizes: the 2018 Book Prize in German History from the German Academic Exchange Service & German Studies Association, along with the 2018 Albert C. Outler Prize in Church History. Publishing and other scholarly activities remains another impressive strength among RCI faculty.

See more about RCI faculty publications here!

Program Outreach and Service

RCI faculty and the program itself remain important models for scholarly engagement beyond WSU and beyond the academy. This year’s RCI events included  “Roots of Contemporary Issues: An Innovative Approach to Core Humanities Curriculum;” a delivered address at Pullman’s Neill Public Library on the history of the electoral college and the US political system, the release of Rijn Religies, a dual language (German & Dutch) smartphone app introducing history of religious refugees to travelers of the Rhine River Valley; two roundtable events – one on decolonization pedagogy at the Western Association of Women Historians Annual Conference, and one on publishing in the field of empire and decolonization for the French Colonial Historical Association; service on the board of the Spokane Preservation Advocates and Washington Trust for Historical Preservation.  RCI further hosted a lecture by Dr. Lawrence Pintak regarding the relationship between America and Islam, as well as a George and Bernadine Converse lecture by Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble regarding mental health and depression disparities in black youth.

Further expansion on RCI Programming can be found here!


The Year Ahead

As indicated at the outset of this edition of the Roots Review, the coming year will be one of exciting transition and change, even as we remain focused on our core mission of high impact undergraduate education at Washington State University. We have three main goals in this regard. First, as we continue to hone and refine our assessment of undergraduate learning outcomes, we are also exploring new ways to enhance the research profile and visibility of our students, including the securement of support for faculty-mentored research and public presentation. We hope not only to increase our students’ presence at WSU’s Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) in Spring 2020, but to create or seek out places and times off campus for students to showcase their work. Second, we also intend to further strengthen our presence and relationship with co-curricular partners at WSU. Rob McCoy, incoming interim director, will serve on WSU’s University Common Requirements committee, further strengthening our relationship with the Office of Undergraduate Education begun by Jesse Spohnholz and continued by Clif Stratton, who will now serve as UCORE’s Director. Additionally, Katy Whalen has already begun discussions with WSU’s Center for Arts & Humanities to become partners with us in our George and Bernadine Converse Lecture Series, which continues to demonstrate the cross-disciplinary nature of problem-based inquiry at WSU. Third, we have planned a significant re-design of our Global Campus versions of History 105 and 305. The courses, first developed in 2014, are in need of updating in the ways we have updated our face-to-face offerings. Katy Whalen will be leading a team that will complete this re-design, which will integrate the forthcoming RCI book series with Oxford University Press. These volumes will serve as the backbone of the new Global Campus course, providing students with direct engagement with RCI faculty members’ research and teaching expertise.