History Department
History Department

New issue of Life and Letters newsmagazine features top-ranked History Department

Tue, May 19, 2009

Austin, Texas -May 19, 2009- The Department of History is prominently featured in the current issue of the College of Liberal Arts' Life and Letters newsmagazine.

"For every national and global challenge, there is a liberal arts researcher working toward a solution," writes Jessica Sinn. "Meet the college's thought-leaders in the new issue that focuses on 'The American Citizen and Modern Democracy."'

Prof. H.W. Brands is featured on his latest book Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which just recently was selected as a Pulitzer-prize finalist. Brands is the Dickson, Allen, Anderson Centennial Professor in the History Dept. and the author of more than 20 books on leaders that include Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and now Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"Roosevelt knew that unless American democracy could demonstrate that it was taking action on behalf of ordinary American people, then democracy itself would be at risk," Brands says. And after researching and writing about so many of our past leaders, he outlines Six Lessons for a New President.

"We the People: Meet the Historians who Present and Preserve America's Stories" is an article that features several professors whose expertise is specifically the United States. The scholars at the department have launched the Institute for Historical Studies last year to coincide with the grand reopening ceremonies of Garrison Hall after its first major renovation since it was built in 1926.

The institute has brought together scholars from around the world to study the theme Global Borders and presented numerous conferences and lectures throughout the year, most of which were free and open to the public. It's showcase conference was titled "The Nation-State and the Transnational Environment" with the renowned keynote speaker John NcNeill of Georgetown University. "McNeill reminded the conference participants and other attendees of the interconnectedness of environmental problems and international history," wrote Chris Dietrich, History Dept. graduate student and conference presenter.

For movie buffs, there's a Historians' Primer on the film, "The Wizard of Oz" by Associate Professor and Plan II Honors Program Director Michael Stoff. He parody's the film in his survey course, "U.S. History since 1865" using the characters to teach the origins of the 19th-century Populist Party.

For example, "Dorothy: An every-person character, she represents the literary convention of a seeker who goes on a journey and learns something of value to us all. Uncle Henry and Auntie Em: Ordinary farmers struggling to survive on the Great Plains. Tin Man: Industrial laborers, who like the Tin Man himself, have been transformed from humans into machines, cogs in a vast and growing industrial empire. They have no hearts left..." Find out how the rest of the cast; the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witchs of the East and West, the Yellow Brick Road, and others represent the different players of the political landscape of that time in the context from one of America's most enduring all-time favorite childhood movies.

An interview with Lynn Schusterman, who heads the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation that was started with her now deceased husband, depicts a determined woman seeking to further the education of young people today through Jewish studies. As part of that endeavor, the foundation gave $6 million in a challenge grant to start the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies of which History Professor Robert Abzug is the director.

"One of the roles of a university is to educate our young people about the history and values that are at the core of Western civilization," says Schusterman. Impressed with the university's esteemed faculty with Jewish studies expertise and the already vast Jewish research resources at centers and libraries, she was convinced that the university would make the ideal place to further her philanthropy of the Jewish tradition that so values education.

Abzug, the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor in History, appears again in this issue for his latest research and teaching on psychotherapy. Abzug is finishing a book on the eminent psychologist Rollo May (1909-1994) who is largely responsible for translating the concepts of psychotherapy to the masses. The Art of Counseling (1939), one of May's first books was also one of the first guides written for counselors that included case studies of patients.

The story "Bellevue: Serving the Underserved" article features the research of Pulitzer-prize winning author David Oshinsky, the Jack S. Blanton Chair in History. "Bellevue is truly the people's hospital," Oshinsky says. "It is designated as a care facility for the President of the United States, but it also remains the last resort for people who are poor, underprivileged and overlooked." Oshinsky will be leading a five-year study on New York's medical history. He received the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Polio: An American Story.

For those interested in the Latin Americas, there are the Latin American Ambassadors from the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies that includes History Professor Jonathan Brown. The History Dept.'s Latin American program is consistently ranked No. 1 according to the magazine U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings.

And there is the ongoing stereotype about the American Indian which scholars are continuing to question in their books. Assistant professor Erika Bsumek's Indian-Made: Navajo Culture in the Marketplace, 1868-1940 (2008) delves into the significance of what "Indian-made" means, the complex ties that come into play in Indian identity, and effects of the significant growth of tourism in the Southwest.

Find out what's happening in Latin America through the university's Latin American Network Information Center on the Web. The portal lists almost 12,000 other websites and receives more than four million visits on a monthly basis.

And then, there's alumnus John Schwartz, who is the new national legal correspondent for the The New York Times as of January 2009. He was previously the science writer for the Times. While a student at the university, he was also a writer for The Daily Texan.

Schwartz gave an inspiring and entertaining commencement address last year at the History Dept.'s graduation ceremony.

Look for printed copies of this edition in the History Dept. Main Office, GAR 1.104, and at various locations in the College of Liberal Arts.

To download a PDF version, go to Public Affairs Life & Letters web page.

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