Roots of Contemporary Issues News

Faculty Changes

Four of our post-doctoral RCI faculty are leaving us this year to take up jobs in other places.

Michelle Mann at a ruins.

Michelle Mann is currently an independent scholar working with the Cheeky Scientist PhD consulting service and is also the academic director for a pre-college literacy enrichment start-up called RISE, based in Montreal and Boston.


Sarah Walsh.

Sarah Walsh will be the Hansen Lecturer of 20th Century World History at Melbourne University in Australia.


Benjamin Nobbs-Thiessen.

Benjamin Nobbs-Thiessen will be moving to Canada to become an assistant professor of History and chair of Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnepeg. He will also be the new editor of the Journal of Mennonite Studies.



Jennifer Schaefer.

Jennifer Schaefer has accepted a position as a visiting assistant professor in Latin American History at Carleton College in beautiful Northfield, Minnesota.


We are pleased to welcome JoAnn LoSavio to our department as a Scholarly Assistant Professor. She will teach on the WSU Vancouver campus. She received her PhD from Northern Illinois University in 2020. Her book manuscript is titled Modern Mandala: A Transnational History of Southeast Asian Youth from Burma, Malaya and Thailand in Great Britain and the United States, 1950-1970. LoSavio has taught courses in Asia and world history at Northern Illinois University.

We will also be welcoming a new post-doctoral faculty member—Leone Musgrave. She received her PhD from Indiana University in 2017, and is coming to WSU from the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, where she has been a postdoctoral fellow. Her monograph Social Democracies, Mountain Republics, and Shifting Jamāʿāt: New Caucasus Solidarities and the Age of Eurasian Revolution looks at several local, Caucasian visions of collectivity and commons in the early-20th-century context of war and revolution. Musgrave has published in the journal Revolutionary Russia.

Clif Stratton has been appointed to the position of director of UCORE (University Common Requirements Program) in the WSU provost’s office. In addition to his duties there, he will continue to teach within the RCI program. Jesse Spohnholz will return from his sabbatical to take up the mantle of director of the Roots of Contemporary Issues (RCI) program, with Katy Whalen continuing in her position as assistant director.

Faculty Accomplishments

Our faculty continue to be productive in teaching, scholarship and service. Ben Nobbs-Thiessen’s book Landscape of Migration has just been published with the University of North Carolina Press. You can tune into the New Books Network and Historians podcasts to listen to interviews with him regarding this work.

Cover of Power Politics: Carbon Energy in Historical Perspective

Several current and former RCI faculty are also beginning to see several years of work come to fruition in the form of the Roots of Contemporary Issues series, published with Oxford University Press. The series follows the thematic structure of the RCI class, and is edited by Jesse Spohnholz and Clif Stratton. Volumes that will be published in fall include Stratton’s Power Politics: Carbon Energy in Historical Perspectives, which discusses the ways that our current carbon-based economy developed over time. It focuses on the power that governments, corporations, and everyday citizens exercised in this process, and the ways that fossil fuels became linked to other world processes such as capitalism, colonization, diplomacy, industrialization, and conflict.

Sean Wempe (former post-doc in the RCI program, now assistant professor at California State University, Bakersfield), covers the inequalities of public health crises in his book Chronic Disparities: Public Health in Historical Perspective.Cover of Chronic Disparities: Public Health in Historical Perspective Addressing different public health crises, ranging from the plague to the HIV/AIDS crises, Chronic Disparities explores the ways that public health initiatives impacted racial, class, and gender divisions within different societies. The book covers the rise of public health and sanitation in Europe, coercive Cover of Ruptured Lives: Refugee Crises in Historical Perspectivesglobalization of health systems, colonial medicine, eugenics, and substance abuse.

Jesse Spohnholz’s Ruptured Lives: Refugee Crises in Historical Perspectives looks at the long history of forced migration and refugees, including debates about the scope and limits of humanitarianism, global economic inequalities, racist rhetoric and policies aimed at refugees, and the relevance of national borders. Covering a wide range of geographic areas, the book provides a framework for understanding the ways that refugees and refugee crises have impacted individuals and societies.

Forthcoming later in 2020 will be two additional books: Karen Phoenix’s Gender Rules: Identity and Empire in Historical Perspective, which examines the role of gender in imperialism, and Ken Faunce’s Heavy Traffic: The Global Drug Trade in Historical Perspective, which looks at the role of different drug trades as a case study for globalization.


Clif Stratton

Several of our faculty have also earned prestigious awards. Clif Stratton was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Mid-Career Achievement Award for Career Track Faculty, as well as a fellowship through the Center for Arts and Humanities for his new research project on race and the Atlanta Braves and the team’s recent move from Summerhill to Cobb County. Stratton was also a co-investigator for the project “Palouse Matters,” a National Endowment for the Humanities Planning Grant.