Letter from the Chair

Welcome to the latest issue of History News!  This installment contains highlights of some department accomplishments in the 2018-2019 academic year and updates on plans for 2019-2020. Thanks for reading! 

Next year will be a time of transition for the History department.  I will be stepping down as chair after four years.  The incoming chair, Professor Matt Sutton, will inherit a department that has grown over the last half decade (due mostly to the RCI program) and has undergone a considerable amount of internal reorganization.  The department was fortunate to have seen many members of the faculty earn sabbatical for 2019-2020 (Professors Spohnholz, Hatter, Hoch, Peabody, and myself).  Each one of us plans to conduct research overseas on a wide range of topics, from sixteenth-century refugees to nineteenth-century Russian economic history.  As a result of our good fortune, and Professor Sutton’s appointment, there will be a lot of leaderships changes.  Rob McCoy will take over as Interim Director of the RCI Program, Katy Fry will become the program’s Assistant Director, replacing Clif Stratton, who will be moving into a position in the Provost’s Office as Director of UCORE, and Ashley Wright will take Professor Fry’s former job as Curriculum Director for RCI.  Professor Sanders will be our next Director of Graduate Studies. 

We were all pleased to have Professor Jennifer Barclay join the History department in 2018 as a transfer from another department.  Unfortunately for us, she has accepted a new position at SUNY Buffalo, beginning in August 2019.  The move makes a lot of professional and personal sense for her, and we wish her well.  Peter Boag will remain on the faculty but he will be transferring to the Vancouver campus.  Professor Eugene Smelyansky was hired in the summer as an RCI teaching postdoc.  He earned his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Irvine in 2015His research interests focus on the history of religious persecution in medieval Central Europe and the history of urban culture, society, and environment. Another of Dr. Smelyansky’s academic passions is the study of the survival and popularity of medieval themes in popular culture from books and movies to video games.  Except for Professor Barclay, everyone on the faculty who was with us in 2018-1019 will remain, and we will have a new colleague to teach courses in Ancient Greek and Roman history.  Nikolaus Overtoom (Ph.D., Louisiana State University, 2016) is currently Visiting Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of New Mexico.  He has previously taught as an instructor at LSU, Baton Rouge Community College, and Missouri State University. His book Reign of Arrows: The Rise of the Parthian Empire in the Hellenistic Middle East is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.  This year, we also welcomed a new Financial Manager, Jaime Colyar, who is doing an amazing job. 

As in previous years, the department saw a number of significant scholarly publications and projects of various sorts in 2018-19.  Since they can be found on our website, I will mention only the most noteworthy.  Julian Dodson’s book, Fanaticos, Exiles, and Spies, was published this spring by Texas A & M Press.  It explores conflict on the U.S.-Mexican border during the era of the Mexican Revolution.  Jeff Sanders organized a very successful symposium at the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation around the theme of “Reframing Landscapes: Digital Practices and Place-based Learning” which highlighted projects both external and internal to WSU that seek to reframe assumed narratives, representations, and relationships to and with place, new digital projects and techniques, and innovative pedagogical practices with an eye toward collaborations and meaningful partnerships.  Professor Svingen’s compelling documentary, entitled In Good Faith, appeared on public television in April 2019.  Filmed over the course of eight years, In Good Faith documents research on an unratified treaty between the U.S. and the mixed-band of Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheep-Eater people.  Shot in Idaho and Montana, the film reveals new discoveries about the tribe, the history of the United States, and historical revelations that could change the history of southwestern Montana.  Professor Kawamura was selected as the Arnold M. and Atsuko Craft Professor. The professorship lasts for three years, with her term beginning in August 2018.  She will be using the fellowship to travel to Japan to research her next book, which examines the role of Emperor Hirohito during the Cold War.  Finally, Professor Sue Peabody organized a WSU Alumni Mixer for WSU History graduates in the greater Portland-Vancouver region.  It included a Calling Party, a series of short talks on careers for History majors, socializing, a raffle, and organizational work for the History Alumni Club for social and service purposes in the wider community. 

Nothing facilitates doctoral research better than substantial external funding.  This year, a number of the department’s PhD students succeeded in obtaining some very high-profile grants and fellowships that will allow them to undertake prolonged research trips either abroad or in the U.S.  Karl Krotke-Crandell, whose thesis advisor is Professor Farley, was awarded the Stephen F. Cohen-Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship for his dissertation, “The Holocaust in Russian Life: New Perspective on Soviet Jewish Memory.  He is current in Russia working in private archives and conducting oral history interviews.  Ryan Booth, who is completing a dissertation under the direction of Professor Boag, received a Fulbright U.S. Student award to spend nine months in India exploring socio-cultural characteristics attributed to indigenous soldiers during the British Raj up to a century ago.  Booth is WSU’s 62nd student to receive a Fulbright since 1949, the ninth from History, and the fifth to study or teach in India.  He also received a $1500 grant from the Arizona Historical Society.   to do research for his dissertation in their archives.  Daniel Fogt, who is working with Professor Spohnholz, was awarded a Graduate Student Research Fellowship at the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, in Grand Rapids Michigan to support research for a thesis tentatively titled “Regulating Marriage and Socio-Religious Boundaries: The Reformation and Acts of Nonconformity in Netherlandish Refugee Communities, 1550-1590.”  He also received a grant from the Catharina Halkes Foundation, a Dutch institution that provides support for scholarship relating to gender and religion.  

Department faculty and staff received a number of notable awards in 2018 from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Provost’s Office.  Professors Ashley Wright and Clif Stratton both received Arts and Humanities Fellowships for WSU newly inaugurated Arts and Humanities Center.  Professor Wright will be working on a book entitled Difficult Cases: Governing Marginal Women in Colonial India and Burma, 1855-1915 and Professor Stratton will be working on a book on Race and the Atlanta Braves from Summerhill to Cobb County.  Stratton was also selected to receive selected to receive the 2019 College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching by a Clinical Faculty Member Award.  Professor Sanders received the CAS International Travel Grant, the CAS Block Grant, and a summer fellowship for the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation to support summer research and a trip to Estonia this summer to attend an Environmental History conference.  Professor Spohnholz also received a CAS International Travel Grant to travel to the Netherlands, where he is receiving continual funding for his research on Dutch refugees during the Reformation from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.  History faculty also received a number of awards associated with instruction:  Professor Phoenix was made a LIFT Faculty Fellowship; Professor Fry received an   Undergraduate Education Curriculum Grant from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education for a proposal entitled “Roots of Contemporary Issues Library Research Assignments Analysis Project”; Professor Faunce was awarded a Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Grant from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education; Professor Sun was made a   Faculty Fellow in the WSU Honors College; Professor McCoy was awarded a Learning Communities Excellence Award for 2019 in recognition of his exemplary work in First-Year Focus in Fall 2018. 

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 2018-2-19 record of achievement indicates, this help is having a positive impact.