A Brief Report on the Year Gone By


gshaya_corsicaDear Students, Colleagues, and Friends!

July 1 is a minor landmark in the summer, but it does mark a turnover in leadership of the History Department. Jeff Roche assumes the Chair of the Department, on a three-year term, as of this day. I passed along to him the Departmental gavel and regalia and secret codes in a private ceremony at midnight. But before I turn over the keys to the Department blog, I thought I’d share a quick update on some of the important news of the year just completed.

First, a big word of congratulations to our 2013 graduates! We will miss you. Stay in touch (not only when you are requesting recommendation letters). Let us know how you are doing and how your Wooster experience is holding up.

We were lucky to see some exceptional student projects this year. I’ll post a follow-up entry with a bit of information on the students who won prizes in History.

As for the faculty, some of our favorite professors were on leave for part or all of the year. We look forward to hearing more about what they were up to. Madonna Hettinger was on leave for the full-year, with travels to France, Italy, India, and Mongolia (among other places!); together with George Vermander she once again took students to Siena for the Summer-in-Tuscany Program. Shannon King, newly tenured as an Associate Professor of History, was on leave in the spring semester, jetting between Wooster and New York (and South Africa), completing final revisions on his book manuscript on community politics in early twentieth-century Harlem. Ibra Sene was also on leave in the spring, working on research projects on French colonial prison policy and education in post-colonial Senegal. He’s also found some time for travel to Senegal during this time away.

We also missed David Gedalecia, our stalwart historian of China – and resident expert in American popular music, with a specialty in the banjo. Kauke Hall was less interesting for his absence. Professor Schilling – with the support of the History Department – has started a book fund for the purchase of Chinese and East Asian books for the College’s library in his honor. If you would like to help with the creation of this fund, please send your donation to the Gift Recorder, 1012 Beall Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, with a note that this is for the David Gedalecia Library Fund.

The rest of us did our best to keep the place running, with great courses, interesting projects, and stimulating hallway conversations. Kabria Baumgartner offered an exciting new course on Sex and Power in Colonial America; Katie Holt taught a new introductory course on Latin American Revolutions and a new quarter-credit course on Digital History. Peter Pozefsky was appointed the Michael O. Fisher Chair of History, in an honor that was held before him by David Gedalecia and James Hodges. And Joan Friedman was granted tenured as an Associate Professor of History and Religious Studies. Congratulations, Professor Friedman!

We were lucky to welcome an interesting crew of visitors to the Department, who brought new perspectives and new subjects. Sucheta Mahajan, distinguished visitor from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and an expert on Indian partition, was here for the fall as part of our faculty exchange with JNU, teaching courses on modern India and nationalism and giving talks. She was accompanied by her husband, Bodh Prakash, who taught courses in English. Robert Maclean, a Wooster grad, taught courses in the Departments of History and English. He will be back in the fall as a one-year visitor in English. Elizabeth Swedo filled in for Madonna Hettinger for the year. She moves on to a tenure-track position at Western Oregon University. And Garrett Washington taught courses in East Asian history. He will be teaching in Environmental Studies at Oberlin in the year to come. We thank them all for their contributions and wish them well in the future!

Students will see some new faces among their professors in the fall. We welcome Margaret Ng and James Bonk to the Department. Professor Ng, an expert on childbirth in imperial China, joins us from McGill University as our tenure-track East Asian historian. She is joined by her husband, James Bonk, a historian of Chinese military history from Princeton, who will be teaching First Year Seminar in the fall and a course in history in the spring. We also welcome Jeffrey Parker, from UT Austin, an expert on the social history of Panama in the early twentieth century. He will be teaching courses in Latin American history, including a new course on Latin American History in Film. Sarah Mirza, who many of you know as a former visitor in History and now a tenure-track member of the Religious Studies Department, will be teaching a course on Iranian cinema in the spring semester next year. As you may know, Joan Friedman and Katie Holt will be on research leave for the year, a fact that we are not going to discuss further until they post their own blog updates from places near or far.

The year was marked by a number of remarkable visits and events. The History picnics were an enormous success, though there was a bit of déja vu when it came to the results of the semi-annual croquet matches. And it may be fate that no student has ever won – or ever will win – the History croquet championship. If Professor Roche has his way, croquet will never again be played at the History picnic.

Phi Alpha Theta had an active year, sending students to conferences, celebrating Halloween with style (and intelligence), and hosting history film nights. It was also a good year for Cafe Bob, with a wide group of students sharing details on summer internships, off-campus studies, and Senior I.S. research.

Finally, we enjoyed a visit from Lynn Hunt, distinguished historian from UCLA and former President of the American Historical Association. She gave us a lot to think about in a faculty workshop on interdisciplinary approaches to the self and society and a public lecture on the history of globalization. The History Department also helped sponsor a visit from the Sufi musicians who were part of the Wooster Forum series in the fall, the religious historian, Sean Macloud, and a couple of documentary filmmakers brought to campus by the Film Studies Program.

We heard from many History Alums in the last year doing interesting things, some more history-related than others. Oh, I know I’m missing a lot here, but a few notes and visits that came to mind include the following. Jacqueline Musacchia ‘85 has a forthcoming book entitled The Italians of Stark County. Barton Myers ’03 was appointed to a tenure-track position in the Department of History at Washington & Lee University. We had a chance to join him and Molly Moreland Myers ’03 for a beer at the Wooster Brewery over Alumni Weekend. Jeff Roche and I ran into Tara Thompson Strauch ’07(?), now completing her PhD in American history at University of South Carolina, while walking the hallways of the AHA. Amy Wadsworth is teaching ancient history in a middle school in Louisville, Kentucky, after a year spent teaching secondary school in a rural village in Kenya. John Garrison ’09 graduated from Michigan’s School of Information and Library Science and is now a librarian with faculty status at Westminster College. Elaine Coladarci Buehler ’10, working as a paralegal in a Wooster law firm, came to talk to students about seeking work as a history major. Ellie Newman ‘10 is starting a Master’s program in Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. Audrey Hudak ‘11 is working at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We heard from Cathy Trainor ’12, who came back from her Fulbright in Russia and found a job in Washington (but I’m blanking on the firm). Drop us a line if I’ve missed something here and I’ll be sure to add it to the next update – or pass it along to Professor Roche for his own update.

Thanks to everyone for a great year – and a great three years of chairing the Department. We’ve done a lot of good things and had fun doing them. Until the fall, or until we see you again, I wish you all the best! gks