Thursday, May 08, 2014

John O'Brien recognized for Study on Divorce in the Antebellum South

So much of the study of history revolves around forming a strong argument, backing it up with evidence, and presenting the information well. John O'Brien, who just graduated with his bachelor's degree, shines at this. He recently wrote an outstanding paper on divorce in antebellum Alabama that provides a new interpretation of the issue. Not only did he win the award for best paper at the Alabama Regional Phi Alpha Theta conference, but also the Dr. John Rison Jones Award in Southern History sponsored by the Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society for his work on this paper. 

More information on John's paper can be found here: UAH history student sheds new light on divorce in antebellum South. As a former colleague of the Department would put it, John's clearly an "old pro" at this paper-writing business. Congratulations John! Here's hoping you get paid to tell people about Alabama.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Alumni Watch: Katie Graham

Dr. Johnson recently got in touch with one of the Department's alumna, Katie Graham, class of 2011. She told her some about her job with the Global Deployment Program Office of the Missile Defense Agency as a Document Specialist, Certified Correspondence Reviewer, and Records Liaison Officer. Among other things, she gets to "develop policies, plans, processes, procedures, and guidance for site activation, system deployment, and logistical and operational practices." She will also get to travel to sites where missiles and radars are set up.

For her time at the Department, Katie has much to say. "My history degree has helped me in numerous ways in my career so far. Writing and researching all of those term papers was excellent practice for my work as a Document Specialist and a Certified Correspondence Reviewer for MDA. In this way, I am able to write and review documents detailing the work of the Global Deployment Program Office. Some of these documents eventually make it all the way up to Congress! My favorite role, though, is as the Records Liaison Officer for my office. Starting in September of last year, I began archiving all of the GDPO's records, and I actually JUST finished this archival process last week......this totals over 7,000 records that I archived for our team. The classes that I took for my history degree helped to prepare me for this type of work, and in this way, I helped secure the history of my office for the Missile Defense Agency."

Great job on your success Katie. We wish you the best.

Congratulations to the Spring 2014 History Graduates!

Yesterday, Sunday, May 4th, the Department said farewell to some of its students as they walked across the stage and graduated from their studies at UAH. Congratulations to everyone!

Undergraduates included Kirsten Currier, Andrew Donovan, Heather Gargis, Seth Kelly, David Kemmerer, John O'Brien, David Smith, and Chase Tate. Graduate students were Elysha Francis, Charity Ethridge, Chris LeQuieu, and Nathan Raby.

We in the Department are very happy for all of your hard work and accomplishments. This was no easy task, yet you all prevailed. Whatever lies ahead, we hope the best for all of you.

Kristen Currier on her way to the ceremony

Nathan Raby with Dr. Stephen Waring

John O'Brien with Dr. Stephen Waring and Dr. Nicole Pacino

Friday, May 02, 2014

Congratulations to the 2014 Phi Alpha Theta Inductees!

The Department can be rigorous at times, but the hard work pays off. Not only do our students win awards, they also get into honor societies. On April 12, our annual induction ceremony was held for Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honor society. The standards are high. Students must have twelve hours of history classes under their belts, with a 3.5 GPA in these courses, and a 3.0 overall.

Dr. John and Ann Kvach hosted the event again at their lovely home, and it was a success. Friends and colleagues gathered to talk, snack, and even climb in trees. Most importantly, we were there to congratulate and recognize our inductees. This year's inductees included Megan Renee Anders, Charlotte Ashley Cain, Ashley L. Coates, Todd Fulda, Cole B. Kelley, Young Nicole Westrope, and Adrienne Woodland.

It was a lovely day, and we were glad to be there. Thanks to the Kvachs, and congratulations to the inductees!  

Friday, April 04, 2014

Congratulations to Honors Day Recipients!

Thursday, April 1st marked Honors Day, which included the College of Liberal Arts Academic Honors Convocation. Students and faculty from the Department received several awards.

Kirsten Currier and Kelly Fisk won, respectively, the Outstanding Undergraduate and Graduate Achievement Awards for the Department of History. Ross Compher won the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Alabama History Essay Award for a paper he wrote for Dr. Christine Sears. Kirsten won another award, the Colonel Walter Aston Chapter of the Colonial Dames of the XVII Century History Award. John O'Brien received the Dr. John Rison Jones Award in Southern History, sponsored by the Huntsville-Madison County Historical Society, for his paper "If You Burn It, They Will Come: The Housing Authority and Huntsville, 1941-1960," which was published in the Huntsville Historical Review. Tish Cates received the National Society Daughters of the American Colonists Medal Award.

There were also awards for disciplines related to the Department that history students received. Brad Irwin won the Outstanding Classics Achievement Award, and Kayla Lowery and Kayleigh Last won a joint award, the Kathryn L. Harris Women's Studies Paper Competition Award, Graduate Academic Division for two papers they wrote for Dr. John Kvach on southern women and the "Lost Cause." Both papers were so good, they could not decide between either Kayla's or Kayleigh's.

Speaking of professors, Dr. Kvach was awarded as one of the Outstanding Junior Faculty Members, and Dr. Andrew Dunar was recognized, along with other professors, on their upcoming retirement and service to the university.

We are so grateful and happy for our award winners and for the recognition of the Department of History at Honors Day. Who says a liberal arts degree can't get you anywhere?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jennifer Staton, UAH History Alumna, Headed to University of Leeds

Those UAH history degrees keep sending people places, this time with Jennifer Staton, who graduated in 2009. This fall, she will be on her way to the University of Leeds to study for an MA in Linguistics and English Language Teaching. She had a tough decision to make between Leeds and the University of Arizona, but she thinks she has made the right choice. She currently works as a Communications Coordinator at a contracting company with the Department of Defense. Her duties involve working on marketing projects, as well as aiding with "proposal coordination and research" and serving as an administrator for the company's Internet server. 

Jennifer sees her time at the Department of History at UAH as beneficial to her current job. She writes, "I couldn't have made it this far without the critical thinking skills that I learned from being encouraged by you guys (ack, passive voice!) to dig deeper at whatever I was studying.  Those skills apply even to my current occupation as a Communications Coordinator, and I've been very successful to date specifically because I was surrounded by great professors who helped push me out of my comfort zone."

Being at UAH also helped her decide to study at Leeds: "The reason why I've chosen to go to Leeds for a linguistics degree is because of the time spent at UAH as a Writing Center consultant helping the Intensive English Program students, along with the work I did as a Fulbright ETA in Celle, Germany.  I want to go back into doing that type of work, either as an ESL teacher or as a leader in the education industry."

We hope everything goes well for you in Leeds, Jennifer. All the best!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dr. John Kvach promoted to Associate Professor

It just keeps coming in for the good professor. Last week, the Department's own Dr. John Kvach received tenure and was promoted to the position of Associate Professor. Furthermore, he was named Outstanding Junior Faculty Member for the College of Liberal Arts. As noted on this blog, his book De Bow's Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South was published last November by The University Press of Kentucky, and he recently won two awards from the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

Dr. Kvach's hard work both in and out of the classroom has certainly earned him these designations. This is all wonderful news, and we are happy for our colleague. Cheers, Dr. Kvach!  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dr. Frances Roberts in Alabama Women's Hall of Fame

Dr. Frances Roberts was something of an institution at UAH. She was one of the first faculty members of the university, and she played a role in making the Department of History, as well as serving as the Department's first chairperson. Last March, she was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame at Judson College in Marion, Alabama.

Charles Westbrook (BA, Political Science and History, 2010, UAH) and Dr. Johanna Shields, Professor Emerita from the Department of History, were very helpful and persistent in getting Dr. Roberts in the Hall. Westbrook has done extensive research on Dr. Roberts, and Dr. Shields was hired by, and worked with, Dr. Roberts. Both Westbrook's and Dr. Shield's efforts paid off, and to a wonderful success.

More information on Dr. Roberts and the work of Westbrook and Dr. Shields can be found here:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Todd Fulda on his Master's Work at UAH

The Department likes to keep updated on its alumni, and last December Todd Fulda graduated with his Master's in History from UAH. This was a well-earned achievement that required a great deal of work, but Todd doesn't seem to mind. He writes, "I enjoyed every moment I was a grad student in UAH's history department. I went in with high expectations and each professor I had exceeded those expectations. Call me masochistic, but I enjoyed the late nights spent doing research in the library and writing papers on various topics. All together, I feel I grew significantly as a historian while working on my master's and it made moving back to Alabama worth it." It's good to see his time was well-spent (and from the looks of it, filled with caffeine).

For his Master's, Todd wrote a thesis titled The Badgers of Reform. His abstract give a brief glimpse into his work: "This thesis examines the Progressive and Socialist movements both on the national scene and in the state of Wisconsin to discover their similarities and differences. The analysis relies upon extensive primary sources including newspapers and archival documents as well as secondary sources including books and journal articles to answer this question. Ultimately, the information provided by these sources shows that the Progressive and Socialist Movements in Wisconsin both developed their own, distinctive ideologies and methods that were often quite divergent from their parent movements on the national level. The Badgers of Reform argues that these differences were key factors in helping Wisconsin Progressivism and Socialism survive through the 1920s while the national movements died out in the wake of World War I."

We are happy for Todd's achievement and wish him future success. Congratulations Todd!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recent Awards and Book Publication for Dr. John Kvach

It's nice to receive awards. It's also nice to get a book published. Getting both done around the same time is especially nice, and possibly conducive to getting a big head. While he has not gotten the latter, thankfully, the department's own Dr. John Kvach recently accomplished the former two.

Last November, Dr. Kvach's book De Bow's Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South was published by The University Press of Kentucky. The book, which is based on Dr. Kvach's dissertation, looks at the magazine of J.D.B De Bow, a nineteenth century southerner who was influential in helping form the idea of the "New South" even before the beginning of the Civil War. More information about his book can be found here:

Earlier this month, he was awarded the Historic Preservation Award and the Historic Preservation Medal by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. More information about his thoughts on the awards and his work in earning them can be found here: 

We are very pleased for our colleague's success. Congratulations Dr. Kvach!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jesse Thomas, History Alumnus, studying in Vladivostok, Russia

History degrees can take you places. That is the case with Jesse Thomas. A graduate of UAH with his degree in History, he is currently studying international relations at Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) in Vladivostok, Russia. Congratulations, Jesse!

Since Jesse has been there, he has been pretty busy. He writes, "I recently participated in a United Nations-sponsored round-table discussion about economic development in the Asia-Pacific region that included delegates from the US, Canada, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Mexico. As one of 6 graduate students in International Relations, I was invited to participate, as it was organized by one of my professors." He thought it was a wonderful experience. He is also working with the Model United Nations of the Russian Far East (MUNRFE). Concerning this, he writes, "I am one of the six members selected to represent our organization at the Model UN conference in New York at the end of March, and our delegation also has received an invitation to meet with World Bank representatives in Washington D.C. during our trip. I am excited for this opportunity."

Jesse has also spoken to young students, and even undergraduate students at FEFU. To the first group of students, who ranged from 10-12 years old and who are learning English, he explained how Halloween is celebrated in the United States, and also explained some about Alabama. For the college students, which numbered over 100, he lectured on "social and humanitarian problems in Guatemala, and the causes of these problems."

It appears Jesse is having a wonderful time in Vladivostok. We hope you have a great time over there. Be well!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Interview with Professor Emeritus, Dr. Richard Gerberding

Dr. Richard Gerberding, a professor in the Department of History at UAH, retired last year after twenty-nine years of teaching. The good professor emeritus is still alive and kicking, and even teaching Latin up in Oregon. Some retirement! Dr. Gerberding answered the following questions later last year and provided some wonderful memories and advice. Thanks for everything, Dr. G.!

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate and doctoral degree in history, as opposed to continuing your studies in psychology?

 The reason had more to do with Psychology than history. The more I studied psychology, the more I realized that it was, in its modern academic form, an empty science - more or less jargonized common sense. I wanted to learn about human nature, and it was pretty obvious, even to a 23 year-old punk, that history was the far better teacher of that.

One of your greatest legacies is your creation and sponsorship of The Society for Ancient Languages. Why did you decide to begin the Society?

 I didn't. It was the students at the time who did, under the leadership of Ken Swaim. They came to me and asked if I would lead an informal reading group in the evenings so that they could move beyond the rather disjointed readings in Wheelock to real and coherent Latin texts. The Society grew naturally out of that reading group.

What do you think is the ultimate aim of an education in history, and in education itself?

 Those are huge questions, and I cannot pretend to answer them. I have thought about them a lot and continue to do so, but have only come up with guides, thoughts, and partial answers. As you know, I differentiate strongly between education and training. Education is the matter of the undergraduate, training that of the graduate student or someone attending a tech/vocational school. The undergraduate studies history, the graduate history student is in training to become a historian. So education has to do with the student, perhaps even more than the discipline he/she chooses. Otium cum dignitate is high on my list of education's most important purposes. Politics is another - helping the young become critically aware and developing their sense of social responsibility so that they live larger than their own little patch.  All of this has to do with humanitas - refinement -, the attempt to polish and hone the talents and breaks we are given and raise them to a level beyond the selfish.

While you taught history, you also taught Latin. Indeed, language is a passion for you. What is the significance of studying language, especially in tandem with history?

 There are two reasons for studying languages as an academic exercise; I leave the practical ones to the business school. 1) It is fun. 2) Nothing more quickly and more fundamentally teaches you a different way of thinking than to try it in a language not your own. Both these reasons are important to people studying history.

While it is cliché to ask, what are some of your best memories from your time at UAH?

 It is not a cliché: one of the great things about being old is that you have a lot of memories. My professional life was largely that of a teacher, and so my best memories are not of UAH [...] but of its students. One vignette that continues to give me pleasure happened years ago at a Convivium. Our distinguished speaker that year was Julia Gaisser, professor of classics at Bryn Mawr, most years rated as America's best undergraduate institution. After dinner, she said to me privately, “You know, Dick, I am jealous of you.” 
“Huh?” I responded, “How could you, coming from Bryn Mawr and being such a famous scholar possibly be jealous of me?”
“It's your students,” she said. “They are hungry for learning. My students are much less passionate about it. By the time I get them they have seen it all, have been to Europe twice, and never really develop academic passions. Your students do.” Whatta memory. She said it far better than I ever could. 
You are currently teaching Latin in Oregon now that you have retired, if only from UAH. What other plans do you have for your post-teaching life? 
 I have no plans. I am enjoying my current adventure in the Pacific Northwest, but it is not part of a plan. A wise friend of mine, retired now about six years, said, “Make no important decisions about your retired life until you have been retired at least two years.” I think that is good advice.
 Is there any advice you would like to give to university students?

Advice to the young?
 You have heard this sermon many times. The advice I would give to young undergraduates, and did give to them for decades, is the same that my father gave to me as I walked down the front steps of our house setting off for college on a Greyhound bus. “Look around and then follow your academic passions.” And I, like most all-knowing youth with sensible and wise parents, didn't. At least not at first. Practical considerations, such as future employment prospects or even a sense of social responsibility, should take a decided backseat to what cranks your tractor when deciding what to study. This includes the obvious caveat that the subjects you choose should be ones of intellectual and academic value. Basketball-arena concession-stand management should not enter the field no matter what your passion for basketball. Take good professors for your General Education Requirements and treat these courses as exploratory - find out what which ones make the heart beat faster. Then go. Worry about jobs and the world later; if you get yourself educated first, you will be in a far better position to tackle the practical things later.  Ipse dixi.

Photo Courtesies:
1: Gerberding in Office: The Society for Ancient Languages
2: Gerberding, Students, and Hotel Staff in Rome: Cameron Umphrey
3: Gerberding clearing out Office: UAH Department of History

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