March 22, 2021 at 3:27 pm

History Chair’s Message: Ohio University Historians Thriving Despite the Adversity

Dr. Brian Schoen, portrait

Dr. Brian Schoen

Spring 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

It has been a year since COVID disrupted our lives. A great deal has changed. One thing that has not is our department’s commitment to you: our students, alumni, and friends. Historical perspectives have never mattered more as the world continues to confront the first global pandemic in over a century, the ongoing legacy of racial injustice, and one of the more contentious election cycles in recent history. Our faculty continue to offer historically minded insights on these and other questions both in the classroom and in the wider community. Through this newsletter, my first as department chair, I am happy to share many of the positive and impactful things that have happened over the past year.

Continued commitment to teaching: COVID’s course forced us to adjust how we taught students. It did not dictate quality or outcomes. It was inspiring to watch our faculty and graduate teaching assistants adjust on the fly last spring, retool their courses for fall remote learning, and continue delivering high quality learning experiences for our students. I heard many compliments from students and staff about how we created engaging remote courses. It is not surprising that history faculty have now won a Dean Outstanding Teaching award seven years in a row.

Student Success: Our students, too, answered the call, working through difficult logistical issues to advance their knowledge and make progress on their degrees. Alexis Karolin thrived while studying abroad in Wales despite the COVID pandemic. After returning, she and other leaders kept Ohio University History Association active in the virtual world. Our graduate students persevered, too. Before things shut down, doctoral student Heather Salazaar visited military archives and presidential libraries for her dissertation. Students found great success winning multiple student enhancement awards to make progress on their theses. We celebrated graduate successes like Abi Flory , Dylan Moore, Alex Lovelace, and many more.

Community Engagement: Our department continues to provide perspectives on the past and contemporary issues for the broader community. Ohio University hosted an interdisciplinary conference examining the early settlement of Ohio. Katherine Jellison remains a highly sought after commentator on first ladies, giving dozens of interviews with national and international media outlets and building her case for yet another faculty newsmaker award. Jackie Maxwell organized a panel on QAnon. This April two faculty will be leading a Ping Institute workshop on the history of racism for K-12 teachers.

Faculty Excelling in Research: The pandemic has presented many problems for scholars. Conferences were postponed or became virtual. Archives closed, and restricted library access has made research a challenge. Still, our faculty have found a way to maintain scholarly engagement, sharing their research to local, national, and international audiences. Our faculty published books on Mass Mobilization in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam,  punk rock during the Reagan years, freedom of speech, the entangled histories of the Balkans and immigration in the early republic. Articles or book chapters appeared on global cities, penance in early-medieval Europe, Civil War diplomacy in Europe, American political theory, and Cold War National Security to name a few. Kevin Mattson and Robert Ingram were named Ohio University Presidential Research Scholars, an appropriate cap to their high research productivity.

Alumni: Our Alumni continue to excel. History pre-law major Jacob Kennedy began the M.A. program in Law, Justice and Society while he prepares for law school.  OU-Eastern alumni Austin Warehime graduated with his Juris Doctor degree from Belmont College of Law. Janice Frisch (07) used her historical knowledge to open her own business making memory quilts and lecturing about them. Foreign Affairs magazine named alumni Sebastian Hurtado Torres’s book The Gathering Storm: Eduardo Frei’s Revolution in Liberty and Chile’s Cold War as one of its Best Books of 2020. Luke Griffith became a Post-doctoral fellow at the Ronald Reagan Institute.  Jack Marchbanks, Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, helped keep Ohio’s roadways safe for Truckers and travelers as the state responded to COVID. These are some of our many exciting things. These are just some of the many successful stories and we would love to hear yours.

Giving Thanks: During a time of budget contraction, our department has been so appreciative of the generous donors who have helped us serve our mission, including offering technology grants to students who needed equipment or services to keep them learning remotely. We were so pleased that Brigadier General Hal Mooney helped us start the History Department Research and Publishing Fund, a type of contribution that will be ever more necessary at a time of shrinking college budgets. If you would like to support our students’ historic awareness and student engagement, consider a gift to the History Department fund.


Brian Schoen
Associate Professor and Chair of History at Ohio University

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