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Past to Present 2013

Spring 2013 Edition

On the Faculty Front

Here departmental faculty tell their own stories --some in the first person and others in the third--about their teaching and professional lives outside the college.  They also share occasional observations about life, and life as a historian.

Susan Ashley

After seven years as Dean of the College, Susan can't wait to be teaching again.  She had a year's sabbatical to recover her wits and spent it completing the research and writing for a book length manuscript on Outliers in late 19th and early 20th century France and Italy and preparing for a Mellon-ACM faculty interdisciplinary seminar called Mediterranean Trivium: Earth, Sea, and Culture taught with Sanjaya Thakur and Christine Siddoway.  It's taking place in Italy this June with a year-long curricular development follow up.  And then, reading history again. 

Peter Blasenheim

Peter has had an exciting and fulfilling year.  Most rewarding has been the FLAC (Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum) course he taught with our wonderful, new colleague in the Spanish Department,  Dani Arroyo-Rodriguez who hails from Seville.  The course, The Spanish Civil War in History and Literature, was cross-listed in the two departments and this meant that Dani did extra sessions in Spanish for those who signed up on the Spanish track.  The FLAC program is intended to encourage the teaching of courses in disciplines other than literature in foreign languages.  The point is that Peter hadn’t taught this subject for decades, he feels passionately about it, and it’s the subject of Dani’s own dissertation and current research.  The course went so well and proved so fulfilling for both him and Dani that they are considering the possibility of doing it in  Spain –some day, somehow.  Wouldn’t that be cool!?

Some of his Brazilian colleagues have been bugging him for years to write an article on how he got interested in Brazilian history and how he ended up focusing on the interior of the State of Minas Gerais for his research.  Well, he finally wrote it…and it was published in a history journal associated with a small liberal arts faculty in Cataguases, a small but well known mineiro city ( the Brazilian film industry was born there) about 160  miles from Rio.  It tells the story of how he went from Yonkers to Lisbon to Stanford to Rio to the interior of Brazil to a guestroom in Loomis for a few days when he was interviewed for a job at CC in 1973.

At his own request he was faculty advisor to the CCGSA—almost as fun as that course with Dani and writing that article about his own career choices!  Note that his very first committee assignment 39 years ago was as advisor to the CCCA, the student government in a former iteration.  It was all very nostalgic!

Anne Hyde

I spent a big chunk of this academic year learning how to do my new job ofrunning the Crown Faculty Center. That job involves helping faculty with all aspects of their work and especially with new faculty figuring out the
ins and outs of CC and Block Plan Teaching. I'm working on faculty summerwriting groups for the summer, which should be interesting too. Fun, fun, work. I still get to teach in the History Department, and did Environmental History, a new course on the history of race, and team-taught HY399, the junior seminar, with Jane Murphy. Those things were pretty fun too. Next year, I'm hoping to teach a course on Native American history at the Newberry Library in Chicago, which will be really fun so I'm recruiting students for that. I published a new book about John C. Fremont and a couple of articles about mixed race parents and children in the nineteenth century American West. I gave a lot of talks about these mixed blood families, including one at the University of British Columbia where I got to hang out with Tim Cheek, Jack Hayes, and Kristy Starr.

Doug Monroy

Teaching a new course is always an adventure.  It’s not simply the challenge of new and unfamiliar material but the surprises that come from unexpected discoveries.  This past block 6 I taught the presumptuously titled  History of Mexico:  From Aztec Lords to Drug Lords.   I knew that the country from which came half my ancestors had had a sad history; I had no idea how sad.  I know that Mexico suffers grievous violence; I did not realize how much murder and mayhem has been a constant part of Mexican history, though its causes are presently different from the past.  My family had been largely critical of the role of the Church in Mexican society and politics; now I’m even more critical.  I have to remember the parts in Mexican history about the aspirations of so many for a betterMexicoin 1911, about the artists and intellectuals of the 1920s and 30s, about how people have so poignantly endured for so long. 

Jane Murphy

This has been an exciting and full year for many reasons but most especially for the culmination of a long-planned series of events in collaboration with IDEA Curator Jessica Hunter Larsen. Incoming first-year students read Robin Wright’s Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, and Jessica and I took advantage of the NSO reading to coordinate a year of events exploring a cacophony of voices of Islam in the modern world. My FYE students got to meet Robin Wright while they toured a marvelous exhibit of contemporary Muslim artists that Jessica Hunter Larsen curated. The show, Cross-Currents: Tradition and Innovation in Contemporary Art of the Islamic World, had over 700 visitors at CC and is touring two other campuses this summer. In the spring semester, CC hosted Omar Offendum, Syrian American rap artist and poet, for a marvelous First Monday event, Egyptian artist Basim Magdy, and had comedians and writers Firoozeh Dumas and Maz Jobrani on campus during Cornerstone Arts Week. It was wonderful to see these artists perform and to have them join my classes—and inspire our children’s laughter and expression too. Having LOVED my first historiography course, I was delighted to co-teach 399 this spring with Anne Hyde and geek out with our history majors. I also was able to teach a new course on Magic, Science and Religion with Sarah Schwarz (Religion), bringing together 5+ years of our conversations about teaching and ways our research intersects. I am looking forward to working on my Arabic and revising a manuscript over next year’s sabbatical, and then returning reinvigorated to the History Department. 

Carol Neel

In 2013 Carol taught six blocks!  We don't generally do that anymore because we take one block for senior essay/thesis supervision, but this year was special because we continued to have a lot of personnel transition.  I really enjoyed my First-Year Experience course, a variant of Civilization in the West emphasizing the intersection of understandings of nature and the history of the book.  It was the first time I have ever taken a CC class to the zoo!  And then I had my first run at our relatively new two-block senior exit sequence, in which students explore methods and frame a prospectus in HY 410 and then go on in HY 420 to write an article-length essay.  Each has a specialist advisor, but one faculty member reads and supports all (or actually half the senior essays, because we do this sequence twice a year) so lots of learning on the part of the course supervisor on topics which were news to her/her--great, rich topics all over the map.

On the home front, Carol's big kids are teaching at the Quaker school in Brooklyn (Margaret) and finishing at Yale Divinity School before going on for a degree in archives management (Clare).  The little guys (Nell and Coleman) are not so little; they're now 11, hard to believe, and enjoying life as appropriate at that age, especially their instruments and critters.

Carol herself is working on a new project about the mentally ill and medieval monasteries.  No kidding.  This got its start in a request frojm a consortium of psychiatrists and divinity school folks.  We will see where that goes.

Tip Ragan

For Tip, the academic year 2012-13 proved both productive and exciting.  In terms of teaching, he taught two new courses: LGBTQ Liberation; and The Age of Romance: Music and History in the 19th Century, with Michael Grace.  In addition, he returned to his roots with The Renaissance and Reformation, and he particularly enjoyed introducing Petrarch to his students.  In the spring, he offered Civilization in the West, another course he loves.

On the scholarship front, Tip and colleague Jane Murphy gave a presentation on teaching national histories on site at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in Denver, and he delivered a paper on eighteenth-century homosexuality at the Society for French Historical Studies’s conference in Cambridge, Mass.  In addition, he became president-elect of the SFHS at the conclusion of that meeting.

Finally, Tip chaired the Engaged Teaching and Learning Committee for the Strategic Planning process at Colorado College.  In that capacity, he was afforded the unique opportunity to learn about pretty much every aspect of college life, and he thoroughly enjoyed working many of the wonderful colleagues, students, and alums who make up our wonderful institution.

This next year will start off with a bang.  Tip will join Gale Murray of the Art Department to teach about nineteenth-century art history and cultural history in…..Paris!  If any alums happen to be in France in September, be sure to let him know!

Bryan Rommel-Ruiz

This past year Bryan has continued to develop his curriculum in the US South by teaching a new course that focuses on the South from Reconstruction to the present. During this summer he will continue to work on his book project about Charleston, South Carolina, currently entitled From Atlantic to Southern: Charleston, South Carolina from 1650-1861.

Dennis Showalter

Hello everybody! As usual I’ve spent the past months chasing myself, but for pleasure and profit. Armor and Blood: The Battle of Kursk will be published by Random House in late August—and I could spin a full aet of yarns on the problems of assembling the maps and illustrations. Thanks to Owen Lopez, the dept. student assistant—his electronic skills and good will made a BIG difference. I’m also considering adding a couple of new courses—one on War and Film another on Contemporary War—from the end of the Cold War to last week’s headlines. Any feedback on either idea will be welcome. And this summer I’ll be spending two weeks in Israel on a fellowship addressing Terrrorism and Democracies.

As that suggests, I plan to be around for awhile . My health is good. The mind doesn’t seem to be slipping—and I’m having FAR too much fun with my classes to want to leave just yet! I colnd never have had better students, in terms of ability, character, and good will, than you, your predecessors, and your successors. Thanks for all of it—see you when you drop by!

John Williams

This year John presented his work at the  UCLA conference Moralism, Fundamentalism, and the Rhetoric of Decline in Eurasia, 1600-1900, held at the beautiful William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in November. His presentation examined the moralist discourse framing discussion on civil service examination corruption at the end of the Ming dynasty in seventeenth century China. More importantly for CC students, he developed two new courses on Asian history in the spring semester. The first, History of Korea, treated that society's history from earliest times to the twenty-first century and was enlivened by the perspective of international students from China, Japan and South Korea. It was the first course on Korean history taught at Colorado College. The second course dealt with the history of modern Southeast Asia through the prism of literature, and was taught to CC students at the National University of Singapore under the auspices of the Asian Studies Program's inaugural Semester in Asia. Next year, he will teach a version of 20th Century China in Shanghai for the second iteration of the Semester in Asia program. John also completed his first year as the Director of CC's Asian Studies Program.

Chair's Corner

2012-13 was a year of much change in the History Department.  The big and happy news was that we were able to hire a tenure-track colleague in South Asian Studies, Purvi Mehta, who holds a dual PhD from the University of Michigan in History and Anthropology.  Her specialty is recent activism among dalit ("untouchable") women.  We look forward to the department's curricular expansion into the region and the methodology Purvi represents--and to working for many years with this engaging and talented young colleague.

Meanwhile, in sadder news, Kris Pangburn--for the past four years a mainstay of the European program--is moving back to California.  Kris is featured elsewhere in this newsletter, but it bears repetition that colleagues and students alike will miss him deeply.  More happily, Susan Ashley is returning to the department after a long stint as our dean and then a much-deserved sabbatical, largely in Florence.  So the European program will regain energy, as Susan's many students over many years will fully realize, with the benefit of her extraordinary teacherly gifts.

And then America has experienced both losses and gains.  Anne Hyde accepted a half-time administrative appointment as director of the Colket Center, the support facility for faculty research and teaching housed in Tutt Library.  Our Bancroft Prize winner and Pulitzer finalist will continue to teach three blocks a year in the History Department.  Doug Monroy will be on sabbatical next year and, in his and Anne's absences, Lindsey Flewelling, a recent University of Edinburgh PhD who joined us this year for two blocks, will teach a full year in US history and British imperialism.

If all this sounds like a game of Risk, in which we think globally by moving figures around, we have to admit it sometimes feels like it.  But the constant motion makes our work all the more exciting--and we have just sent off a great group of seniors to interesting employment, cool graduate programs, and various other adventures.  Sandy Papuga, our wonderful office coordinator, and all my colleagues remind our HY alums to check in as you can, come see us when you are in the Springs, and let us know what we need to know about your insights about the value of historical study.

Carol Neel  


Carol's Baccalaureate  Speech in Words and Music:  Text and/or Podcast


Thoughtful Thoughts from Kris Pangburn

My stint as a visiting professor in the History Department is ending this month.  When I started teaching at Colorado College in 2009, my appointment was for just one year, but that contract was renewed three times.  Before I knew it, one year had turned into four. 

As my time here draws to a close, I pause to reflect on what these four years have meant to me.  I am aided in these reflections by a recent encounter that I had with one of my first students, now in her senior year.  She pointed out to me that, after four years, we were both seniors at Colorado College.  She was joking, but in a sense she was right.  I have gone through something like the CC student’s progression from nervous freshman to battle-tested senior.  While it’s true that I have experienced the school from a different vantage point than that of my students (no keg stands for me!), together we have undergone a similar kind of evolution.

Just like the entering student, my freshmen year was exhilarating and anxiety provoking.  The new CC professor gains a deep appreciation for the demands he places upon his students when he finds himself scrambling to complete the nightly reading he has assigned.  And like the college freshman, he too suffers the occasional misstep.  Never again, for example, will he attempt to turn the student disgust generated by Mel Gibson’s portrayal of a sadistically tortured Jesus into a teachable moment. 

Similar to the college sophomore, I entered by second year at CC with more self-assurance, due in large measure to the supportive relationships that I enjoyed with my colleagues.  It was during my third year that I confronted a new challenge, as I found myself settling perhaps a bit too deeply into the groove that I had etched for myself over the previous two years.  Similar to the student who wonders at a certain point whether she has made the mistake of walling herself off from certain social or intellectual opportunities, I began to fear that my teaching was ossifying, as I had come to rely heavily on meticulously prepared lesson plans. 

And like the senior who dares to try something new before his college freedom to experiment is curtailed, I resolved during my final year at CC to make some changes.  I tried to introduce greater flexibility into my teaching by surrendering some of my tightly held control.  For example, I sometimes permitted myself to leave students in a productive state of confusion.  For someone who is in the habit of trying to offer explanations, this is not a natural thing to do.  At other times, I resisted the urge to rush to fill the silences that creep into class discussions.  Neither of these things qualifies as an earth shattering teaching innovation, but such practices allow for those unscripted moments when, I believe, real learning takes place.  Over the course of my time at Colorado College, I have become convinced that while course planning is important, a successful class is not merely the outcome of a well-conceived program.  It is an organic thing that must be given liberty to grow.

 Now I have graduated.  What comes next?  I am moving to Los Angeles, where I will pursue some possible teaching opportunities and work on a book manuscript.  As for many people, this is an uncertain time for me.  Just like the graduating senior, I face the vagaries of a lousy job market.  But like that graduate, I will draw from the deep well of my experiences at CC to find my way.  Thank you, Colorado College, for a wonderful four years.  I am deeply indebted to my generous colleagues in the History Department, and to the magnificent students who shared with me two-and-half hours of their lives every weekday morning.



 The History Department is proud to announce that our own Stuart Hackley, Class of 2011, has won a Fulbright grant that will enable him to teach English in a German secondary school for the 2013-2014 school year. After returning to the United States, Hackley hopes to pursue a PhD with an emphasis on 19th-century German intellectual history. As a history major at CC, Hackley first became interested in intellectual history after a class with Professor Kris Pangburn about 19th-century Europe, and he wrote his senior essay as a comparative analysis of the philosophies of Friedrich Nietzsche and John Stuart Mill. He also worked for the History Department as an office assistant and for the college's Writing Center. After graduating, he spent a year teaching English at a small university in Western China. Hackley joins two other Fulbright fellows from CC this year, Angela Cobian '11 and Blaine Carper '13. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” It operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.