Outgoing Chair’s Column: Looking Back on 2017-2018

Greetings from O’Boyle Hall!

Over the past academic year, vigorous debate and discussion took place across campus over the university provost’s proposal for “Academic Renewal,” a set of initiatives for planning the academic future of our institution.  One useful by-product of this process was that the Department of History undertook a self-study that revealed what we already knew through our ranking in The U.S. News and World Report (among other places)—that we are one of the strongest departments on campus!  Here are but a few faculty highlights from that report.   As of late 2017, over their collective careers, members of our small department have

  • Published 36 monographs; 29 edited or co-edited volumes; 153 articles in peer-reviewed journals; 146 articles or chapters in peer-reviewed edited volumes; and 54 op-eds or occasional pieces for national news outlets and high-circulation magazines.
  • Presented 124 invited public lectures, made 375 conference presentations, organized 19 panels and 34 conferences around the world.
  • Won 72 prestigious fellowships to support research and have been awarded 24 honors and distinctions for their work.

I am proud of and inspired by the scholarly achievements of my colleagues. These statistics show that our department is truly a global Catholic research department.  

When I look back over the events of the year, a number of items and events stand out, only some of which I have room to highlight in this column.  In the Fall, we unveiled our sleek new website, which you can find here: https://history.catholic.edu/.  Though many contributed to it, Dr. L.R. Poos was the driving force behind it and we are very grateful to him for all his hard work in pulling all the pieces together.   If you haven’t already clicked through its pages, I encourage you to do so, especially https://history.catholic.edu/news-events/index.html which will catch you up on the events and achievements of our students, faculty, and alumni this year.

In January, for the first time ever, the Department joined together with other local area departments to host undergraduate and graduate receptions at the American Historical Association annual meeting held in D.C.  I am happy to report that the Department was also well represented at the conference: graduate students, alumni, and faculty were all over the program giving lectures and chairing sessions.  And speaking of the AHA, they are in the midst of conducting a study a nationwide study of those who completed their B.A. in History.  I encourage you to participate in the study as it will help the AHA in their public advocacy of the discipline.  To so, you can follow this link.

Our undergraduates continue to impress us with their accomplishments.  This year four students gave scholarly talks at the annual Regional Mid-Atlantic Phi Alpha Theta Conference, held at McDaniel College, March 24, 2018, where senior Ethan Rudman walked away with third prize in American History for his paper entitled, “A Social Darwinist Business: The Corporatization of Charity in Carnegie’s Philanthropy.”  At home, Clare Whitton’s paper “The Evolution of Devotion to the Holy House of Loreto: How the Papacy Influenced the Cult of the Holy House,” won the Department’s John K. Zeender Prize for the best senior thesis of the year.   At the 2018 Catholic University Research Day, Allyson Zeitler won the prize for best undergraduate presentation for her project, “The Sanctuary Movement in Arizona: Civil Initiative and the Salvadoran Refugee Crisis, 1981-1989,” while Luis Rivera won the James Marshall Campbell award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society (Beta chapter of D.C.).  The award is granted each year to a graduating senior, chosen by members of Phi Beta Kappa, whose outstanding scholastic achievement best exemplifies the ideals of the society.

Our graduate students also had very good news to report.  While quite a number of our Ph.D. students presented their work at international venues in the U.K. and Italy, as well as on the home front, some also won important grants and fellowships, among them Carol Anderson who won a travel grant from the Catholic Historical Association, Dallas Grubbs and Jon Paul Heyne who won research grants from the Cosmos Foundation, and Atlas Xu who was one of ten winners (out of 95 applicants) of the Gilder-Lehrman fellowship in American History.   Finally, Austin Powell won the competitive Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome for 2018-19 to support his dissertation research.  Congratulations are on order to all of our graduate students who do us proud! 

Finally, the faculty also had a banner year.  We published seven—count ‘em—seven books this year, beginning with the publication of L.R. Poos’s co-edited text with Lloyd Bonfield, Reports of Sir Peter King, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, 1714-22, 130 Selden Society (2017).   In February Jerry Muller’s The Tyranny of Metrics came out with Princeton University Press, as did my book, Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy.  Árpád von Klimó published two books in the spring: Hungary Since 1945 (Routledge), a translation and update of his previous German publication, and Remembering Cold Days: the 1942 Novi Sad Massacre and the Transformation of Hungarian Society (1942-1989) (University of Pittsburgh Press). Lev Weitz published Between Christ and Caliph Law, Marriage, and Christian Community in Early Islam (University of Pennsylvania) in April, while in June, rounding out the publishing year, Caroline Sherman’s The Uses of the Dead: The Early Modern Development of Cy-Près Doctrine was published by the Catholic University of America Press. 

The academic year concluded on a particularly happy note when Dr. Weitz was awarded the Kluge Prize, a fellowship at the John K. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress for 2018-19.

Writing this particular column has been a bittersweet experience for me as it is my last as chair of the Department.   Dr. Michael Kimmage will be succeeding me in this role.   It has been my honor and privilege to serve such a distinguished, dedicated, and collegial department.  I have learned a lot and have enjoyed collaborating with everyone, including faculty, students, staff, and alumni alike.  Though I will miss guiding the mission of the department by serving as chair, I must admit I am at the same time looking forward to returning to the ranks of teacher-researcher, where I hope to devote some time to designing new courses, advancing our new public history M.A. proposal, and undertaking research for my new book, The Relics of Rome.  I know you all join me in wishing Dr. Kimmage well as he takes over the reins as chair of the Department.

As always, we want to hear from you!  Please take a moment to write to us and let us know about your news and accomplishments – we love to know more about where your history degrees have taken you.  You can email us at history-dept@cua.edu .

Katherine L. Jansen