History Department
History Department

Undergraduate Research Featured at History Department’s 130th Anniversary Celebration

Sun, November 18, 2018
Undergraduate Research Featured at History Department’s 130th Anniversary Celebration
Photo credit: Alina Scott. CCL from top left: Caitlin Hennessy; Jake Yeager; Elizabeth A. Jones, Katherine Rickert, and Mickey Lanning; and Nikki Lopez.

Research by current History students and alumni majors featured prominently at the History Department’s 130th Anniversary Celebration this past Saturday, November 10 in Garrison Hall. Events showcasing undergraduate research included a panel discussion of undergraduate research projects by History Honors alumni, a lecture on the Austin Women’s Activists Oral History Project, and an exhibit of research posters and digital projects.

Throughout the day, attendees visited the History Research Projects exhibit where the Department’s Digital History and Public History Interns shared their ongoing projects. Junior and Digital History Intern Caitlin Hennessy explained the research behind her interactive online timeline of the Department’s history––including the development of longstanding programs like the Normandy Scholar Program and significant events like the department’s first courses on women’s history and black history. Hennessy is working with Professor Julie Hardwick and digital history specialist Andrew Akhlaghi and her timeline uses Cliovis, a digital tool under development by Professor Erika Bsumek. Public History Interns Carson Wright, Nikki Lopez, and Jake Yeager also displayed research posters and fielded questions from attendees (see posters by Wright, Lopez, and Yeager here). Their research used interviews and archival materials from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History to illuminate the lives and fascinating historical context of individual UT History students and faculty of the 1950s through 1980s. Wright and Lopez have also published on their research on Not Even Past (See “Standish Meacham and Multiculturalism in the Public University,” by Wright and “La Mujer Unidad," Cynthia Orozco (UT History Honors Graduate ‘80)” by Lopez. Their projects form a vital link between the department’s past and present students.

Honors Program Director Denise Spellberg introduced the panel on Undergraduate Research Projects, which featured research talks by three exemplary 2017 graduates. Mickey Lanning presented “‘I Was Feminine But Fighting’: Agent Peggy Carter and the Shift of Societal Attitudes toward Women Combatants.” Lanning worked on her thesis with her adviser, Professor Jeremi Suri, a specialist in contemporary American history and foreign policy. Lanning is currently in her first year of the Master’s Program here at UT’s School of Information. Building on her undergraduate experience working with archival records, her focus there is on Archives, Preservation, and Special Collections. Elizabeth A. Jones spoke on “Rights of Property: A Comparative Analysis of the Evolution of Slave Law in Texas and Louisiana.” Jones worked on her Honors thesis with Professor Daina Ramey Berry, our departmental expert on African American History and US slavery. Jones is currently in her second year at UT Law School. Informed by her research on how the law has historical affected marginal populations, she intends to pursue a career focusing on holistic indigent defense and criminal justice reform. She is currently involved in the Actual Innocence Clinic and the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs and next semester she will participate in the Criminal Defense Clinic. Finally, Katherine Rickert presented “Controlling Death: Suicide and the Eighteenth-Century English State.” Her thesis supervisor was Professor Julie Hardwick, a specialist in early modern European history. Rickert, who is currently a second-year law student at UT, also continues to be informed by her historical research experience as she continues to pursue a career in law. She is studying the intersection of mental health in our criminal justice system, particularly the ways it could and should be reformed. Last summer, she was the Mental Health Division Intern for the Harris County’s District Attorney’s Office and this summer, she will intern with the Travis County Mental Health Public Defenders.

Undergraduate research also made a significant appearance during the faculty lecture panel, as Professor Laurie B. Green spoke on “Austin Women Activists Oral History Project: How UT Women Shaped History in the ‘60s and ‘70s and Undergraduates of Today Recorded It.” Students in Professor Green’s “Women In Postwar America” conducted oral history interviews with women’s liberation activists who attended UT or lived in Austin in the 1960s and 1970s. These interviews, archived at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, were also featured in the short documentary film “Fight Like A Girl: How Women's Activism Shapes History.” For more on this project, see Life & Letters and Ms. Magazine.

The History Department congratulates all the undergraduates and alumni who shared their impressive array of research projects and thanks all of those who attended this celebration.

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