Spring 2019 – Archives
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As other new graduates start their first post-college jobs, History major Jake DiMartinis and History minor Connor Jacobs Leech will begin their months-long Basic Officer Leader Course. DiMartinis and Leech are cadets in the ROTC, and both will commission as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army after graduating in May.
For cadets, or officers-in-training, participating in the Army ROTC during college requires discipline. DiMartinis, Leech, and the other cadets take Army classes every semester and must earn a minor in Military Science. Three mornings per week, the cadets do an organized workout session at Smith Field House. On some days, they go running, and on others, they walk around campus wearing heavy backpacks. On Wednesdays, the cadets practice infantry tactics, often at Battle Park. They also perform in the color guard at UNC sporting events.
“ROTC does, on the surface, sound like it’s a lot, and that it might interfere with your school, but it never really has,” Jake DiMartinis said. “I feel like it’s enhanced my college experience, and I think both the academic side of things and ROTC side of things have made me a better leader.”
Developing leadership skills has been especially important for DiMartinis and Leech during their final year in ROTC. All seniors hold staff positions, but Leech and DiMartinis were selected as battalion commanders in Fall 2018 and Spring 2019, respectively. The battalion commander oversees the entire battalion, managing staff, creating training schedules, and generating policies. To prepare for these staff positions, DiMartinis, Leech, and the other cadets attended a month-long Advanced Camp, or officer leadership training course, the summer before their final year of college.
Jake DiMartinis believes his history education helped prepare him for Army leadership training. “A lot of times when we’re learning about leadership in our classes, we look at historical examples, and not just American history. History definitely plays a role because that’s how we learn, we look at those case studies,” he said. Connor Leech expects his training in history to make him a better leader in the Army: “History is so extremely important not just for understanding the lessons we’ve already learned as an army and what other armies have learned, but also because as an Army officer you’re always trying to look toward the future, and it’s always important to have that context.”
Leech sees lessons for Army officers in topics far removed from U.S. military history, including his senior thesis. Leech wrote a paper that compared seventeenth-century Irish peasant unrest to eighteenth-century English peasant unrest as part of Dr. Wayne Lee’s Burch Field Research Seminar in Exploration, Colonialism, and Violence in London. “The English aristocracy didn’t see the Irish for anything more than the financial aspect, rather than as members of their community,” Leech explained. He pointed to situations where Army officers might work with populations facing internal conflict. “If you are unable to see groups that you’re attempting to guide to a better place economically and politically as members of your community, then you’re never really going to successfully be able to do things like counter-terrorism or stability operations, which are so important these days,” he said.
While DiMartinis and Leech believe that learning history can help Army officers develop leadership skills, Leech also encourages History majors to take Army classes, even if they have no intention of joining the military. “A lot of times the people who do come and take our Army classes are able to get a little more perspective on how the Army looks at problems and how the Army interacts with history, and it really adds another level of why history matters.” Leech explained. “I think that the Army is an organization where there is a very concrete argument for why history matters.”
Although both DiMartinis and Leech participated similar training during their time in ROTC, their paths will diverge after they graduate and go on to their Basic Officer Leader Courses. ROTC cadets are assigned to one of sixteen different Army branches. DiMartinis will join the Military Police, where he will oversee a platoon of approximately 32 soldiers doing work in law enforcement operations, convoy security, and refugee resettlement. Leech will become an Armor Officer, commanding tanks in reconnaissance operations.
Both are committed to the Army for at least four years after graduation, but they are considering further academic training. Leech might return to graduate school to study history, and DiMartinis would like to become an attorney. Both are thinking of doing so through the Army– after all, they have wanted to join the military for most of their lives. In fact, Dimartinis sees his long-time passion for history as one of the reasons the decided to pursue a career in the military in the first place: “Growing up, I was a big history buff, and I loved studying history. I think that inculcated a desire for public service in me.”
– Aubrey Lauersdorf
In recent years, the University of North Carolina has encouraged faculty across disciplines to provide new opportunities for undergraduate students to develop research-related skills. Many history courses already include student research, especially the History 398 capstone courses, in which students produce extensive papers based on original work with primary sources. In addition, History Department faculty including Brett Whalen, Ben Waterhouse, and Eren Tasar are providing innovative research opportunities to undergraduates through new courses in a new format.
For Whalen, Waterhouse, and Tasar, these new courses—numbered History 395–were supported by the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). Created as part of the 2017 Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accreditation process, the QEP funds experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates, including research-related skills courses. The QEP challenges faculty to connect these 1-credit classes to an existing course offering, rather than developing stand-alone courses. This model encourages undergraduate students to go above and beyond the usual course expectations.
Brett Whalen, who serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies, immediately encouraged History faculty to develop research-related skills courses through the QEP, and he also taught one himself. Whalen invited students who took his first-year seminar the previous semester, titled “Time and the Medieval Cosmos,” to take a follow-up class that focused on a detailed analysis of one primary source, Saint Bede the Venerable’s The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity because I could draw upon the pool of students that already had some exposure to the subject material about medieval history of science, medieval astronomy, and medieval history, and then¬–this is something you don’t get to do all that often–actually carry on that discussion across two semesters,” Whalen said. “I hadn’t spent that much time ever working on Bede–usually it’s just a week or two. They developed a real sense of Bede that went far beyond the cursory understanding they got in the fall.”
With few limitations placed on them by the QEP, History faculty participating in the program had the freedom to develop their research-related skills courses as they saw fit. While Whalen focused on analyzing historical sources and creating research questions, Ben Waterhouse taught students how to share their research with a broader public. Students in Waterhouse’s class learned how to write an abstract, prepare their paper for submission to a journal, and give a formal research presentation.
Waterhouse invited any student who wrote a 20-30-page research paper in a previous Hist 398 capstone course to apply for his History 395. As a result, student papers focused on topics as diverse as British history, slavery in the United States, the Angolan Civil War, and the transatlantic slave trade. “I said from the very beginning, I can’t come into this as a subject matter expert,” Waterhouse explained. “They’re doing a great job of learning from each other but also talking about how to make their claims and arguments interesting to a broader group of people.”
Waterhouse believes these research-related skills courses offer new opportunities for not only undergraduate students, but also faculty. “In some ways, I think what it’s allowing is to broaden what we mean by historical research,” Waterhouse said. “In my History 398 course, I’d have a fairly traditional model: go to Wilson Library and crack open some boxes, or maybe there are online sources, or maybe there are oral histories. What we’re doing in the various incarnations of History 395 is expanding what research skills mean for historians.”
In fact, many of the students in Waterhouse’s class presented their work at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research on April 25. Four of his students created posters to highlight the main approaches and findings of their research projects. “Their posters used images and text bubbles,” he recounted, “and in some cases charts and pulled-out quotations from sources, to summarize the arguments, historiographical contribution, and overall significance of their research.” This well-attended, college-wide attend allowed the students to showcase their findings to an interdisciplinary audience.
The QEP can fund only a limited number of History 395 courses, but the Department is committed to supporting opportunities for undergraduate students to gain research-related skills. For example, graduate student Till Knobloch taught a section of History 395 called “The Rise of the Third Reich,” which was funded by the Department. Knobloch asked students to read and analyze sources about the rise of fascism in Germany. In Fall 2019, Professor William Sturkey will teach a research-related skills class called “Race & Memory at UNC,” which asks students to use primary documents to explore the history of their own university.
“[Dr. Sturkey’s class] is really about memory and commemoration, and using history as a way to have fruitful, present-moment debates, so it plays directly off of the last couple of years of events on campus. It’s another research skill,” Waterhouse explained.
– Aubrey Lauersdorf
The History Department welcomed a number of leading international scholars to Chapel Hill for its “Global Brexit and the Lost Futures of European Empires” conference from April 4-6, 2019. Over the course of the conference, these scholars discussed the global responses of the United Kingdom’s anticipated withdrawal from the European Union, and it placed these event in historical context.
The conference was the fourth iteration of the “Lost Futures of European Empires” series initiated nearly a decade ago in partnership with King’s College London. Previous conferences in 2012, 2014, and 2016 have been held in both London and Chapel Hill. This year’s conference was co-convened by Profs. Susan Pennybacker and Cemil Aydin.
“The goal is to promote dialogue about political thought and global political culture: internationalism, nationalism, and various Pan-movements, including Pan-Asianism, Pan-Africanism, and Pan-Islamism, and to have dialogue across time periods and across empires,” Dr. Pennybacker said. “The conceit of this conference was to address Brexit as a signal that could prompt us to explore the lost futures and histories of empire.”
The Center for European Studies at UNC-CH, a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence, with assistance from the European Union Erasmus+ Programme, and US Department of Education Title VI funds, brought to Chapel Hill Jon Parry, Professor of Modern British History at the University of Cambridge; Lawrence Black, Professor of Modern History at University of York, UK; Dr. Pradip K. Datta, Professor at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory at the Jawaharal Nehru University, Delhi; and Dr. Sana Tannoury-Karam, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Middle East History at Rice University.
A number of other scholars from both the United States and the United Kingdom presented at the conference at the invitation of the conference’s conveners. They funded their own travel, a testament that the conference drew strong interest. Funding also came from co-sponsors, including the African Studies Center, the Carolina Asia Center, the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, Carolina Seminars, the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, the Center for Global Initiatives, the College of Arts and Sciences (UNC-CH), the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense, the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies, the Curriculum in Global Studies, and the Office of the Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, North Carolina Central University.
The conference opened on April 4. Senior Associate Dean Rudi Colloredo-Mansfield and UNC History Department chair Lisa Lindsay greeted the keynote Global Brexit Panel that evening, which brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars whose research interests and university affiliations span the globe: Jon Parry (modern Britain), Lawrence Black (modern Britain), and Pradip K. Datta (modern South Asia) were joined on the panel by Michael Tsin, Associate Professor of History and Earl N. Phillips Jr. Distinguished Professor in International Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill (modern China); Anne-Maria B. Makhulu, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University (modern Africa); and Tobias Hof, PD Dr. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munchen (modern Europe, Italy and Ethiopia).
Over the course of the next two days, conference presenters spoke on an array of related topics, including colonial settlers, imperial histories of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, transnational religious thought, and the impact of media.
In addition, Dr. Daniel Walkowitz, Professor of History and of Social & Cultural Analysis Emeritus at New York University, spoke about his recently-published book The Remembered and Forgotten Jewish World: Jewish Heritage in Europe and the United States (Rutgers University Press, 2018). The book examines Jewish heritage sites in Europe and the United States, and it focuses on the erasure of late nineteenth and early twentieth century socialist movements from Jewish collective memory, despite their achievements in promoting workers’ rights.
The conference proved a great success. It was the largest of the four “Lost Futures of European Empires” conferences, drawing between 200 and 250 people, and presenters offered significant historical insights pertinent to present international issues. Undergraduates, graduate students, scholars, and the general public comprised the audiences. UNC-CH departments were well-represented, with more than thirty graduate students and faculty from History alone speaking and attending.
Historians might aspire to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur “Genius Grant,” or even a Pulitzer Prize, but few would expect to win a Grammy. Professor Emeritus William R. Ferris, a leader in the field of Southern studies, is an exception. In February 2019, Ferris and his collaborators were awarded two Grammy awards for Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes for Voices Of Mississippi, a compilation of recordings of Southern folk artists that Ferris gathered over forty years.
Ferris was approached by April and Lance Ledbetter, founders of the Atlanta-based production company Dust-to-Digital, to collaborate on a boxed set of his recordings. Ferris immediately knew he wanted to work with the Ledbetters. “I’ve used their work in my Southern music class for years– it’s invaluable. They’ve won several Grammys for their work before. I said I’d be honored to do it,” Ferris said. “I think neither they nor I knew how long it would take or how much would be involved!” he added.
Although Ferris’ recordings and photographs provided the source material for the boxed set, he let his collaborators take the lead. “I felt sort of like a writer whose work is being made into a film: you just let the film director do his or her good work and don’t intrude. And in every way–from the selection of recordings, to the selection of photographs, to the design of the whole project–I made suggestions, but they were only suggestions. I didn’t expect them to do anything other than what they thought was best.”
“Where I did engage in the project in a really close way was with the transcriptions in the book,” Ferris explained. “Having taught Southern literature and the oral tradition, I see these voices are oral literature, and it’s especially important that someone reading the book be able to read them. It’s quite powerful.”
Studying oral tradition as literature is at the core of Ferris’ work, and this passion led him to collect recordings in the first place. Ferris was a member of the only white family in an isolated, rural community in Mississippi. The church he attended had no hymnals, and as he grew older, he realized that his church’s musical traditions would disappear as older members of the congregation passed away. So, as a young person, Ferris began to take photographs and recordings of members of his own community.
At first, Ferris did not realize he could turn his passion for recording and preserving Southern folk music and oral tradition into a career. While attending Trinity College in Dublin after completing an M.A. in English Literature, Ferris happened to sit next to Francis Utley, a former president of the American Folklore Society, at a breakfast event. Ferris mentioned his frustration with English departments that would not let him focus his research on oral traditions, and Utley suggested he consider the field of folklore instead.
Ferris applied and was accepted to the doctoral program in Folklore at the University of Pennsylvania. “I brought a box of tapes and photos to my adviser’s office on the first day, and I said: this is what I’ve been doing– can I do it here? He said, that will be your dissertation. So, I kept doing it all my life,” Ferris explained. “This box set begins with some of those earliest recordings.”
After completing his doctorate, Ferris taught at Jackson State University, Yale University, and the University of Mississippi, where he helped found the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Ferris then served as Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities during the Clinton administration, before accepting a position as Professor and Senior Associate Director of the Center for the Study of the American South at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002. During those years, Ferris continued to add to his collection of audio and video recordings, which are now preserved with the rest of his papers in the Southern Historical Collection.
Even after many years, Ferris maintains a personal connection to his early recordings. In many cases, Ferris visited the same artists year after year, and they developed close friendships. “I tell my students, when you do oral histories, it’s not like taking a book off a shelf and putting it back on. You create a lifelong relationship with that person or that family. A lot of the people with whom I worked are sadly no longer alive, but their children and grandchildren are, and I’m still in touch with them,” he said. “If your work connects to the people with whom you’ve worked, that’s the ultimate compliment, more than a scholarly review.”
When Ferris first started recording music and oral histories in the 1960s, it was a laborious task. He carried a truckload of equipment, including a Super 8 motion picture camera, still cameras, microphones, film, analog tape, extension cords, and tripods. Now, smartphones and other digital devices make recording oral histories a much less expensive and time-consuming project. Ferris encourages his students to use these new technologies to record their parents’ and grandparents’ stories.
“It’s with a sense of urgency that we do oral history, knowing we capture in that moment what might be a priceless pearl of wisdom, a voice that future generations will listen to and be deeply moved by,” Ferris explained. “And that is the case with The Voices of Mississippi. It’s a timeless capsule of music and spoken word that is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.”
– Aubrey Lauersdorf
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UNC History Graduate Adrienne Kronovet Starts Own Fashion Company, featuring “Molly” Jacket named after Professor Molly Worthen
As History major Adrienne Kronovet began preparing for job interviews during her final year of college, she realized that all of her suits were itchy or ill-fitting. None made her feel empowered. By the time she graduated in May 2017, Kronovet was planning to start her own fashion company, focused on creating workwear that made women feel both comfortable and confident.
Kronovet first became interested in designing her own jacket, and she started attending fabric shows. Inspired by finding an “amazing” Italian quad stretch fabric, Kronovet decided to move to New York City to start her company, Ameliora. “It’s sort of stretchy. It’s soft. It moves with you. And I thought– could I make a suit out of this? Because I knew if I did it, it would make people feel super confident and empowered,” Kronovet explained. Now, she offers a variety of jackets, pants, skirts, shirts, and dresses, all made from the fabric she found during her last year of college.
To name her pieces, Kronovet looks to influential women in her life for inspiration. She currently offers the “Molly” jacket, named for Dr. Molly Worthen, with whom Kronovet took the “Sin and Evil in Modern America” capstone course. “It was one of the first classes where I really started to think critically, and those critical thinking skills have continued with me ever since,” Kronovet explained.
The skills gained through her history education have helped Kronovet get started in the fashion industry. “When you study history, the first thing you’re really taught is to question everything and really try to understand, and that kind of critical thinking has given me an amazing approach to fashion, because through that I’m able to question the norms,” she said. She pointed to her design process as an example. “Our jackets are lined in silk, but our dresses, pants, and skirts also have silk lining on the seams for that added luxury. No one really does that in the industry, but when I came in through this critical thinking approach, I asked: why not? Why do we have to do things this way? Why don’t we try this? And it’s been really successful.”
Fashion is part of Kronovet’s family history, too. Her great-great-great-grandfather sold fabric from a pushcart in New York City after immigrating to the United States, and her grandfather moved to North Carolina to open garment factories near Greensboro. As clothing companies moved production abroad, many garment factories in the Carolinas, including Kronovet’s grandfather’s, shuttered. This family history informed Kronovet’s business decisions. “I knew from the beginning that I wanted to produce in New York to honor my grandfather’s legacy and support American manufacturing,” she said.
Finding a factory to produce her pieces locally was not a challenge for Kronovet. “The garment district in New York is thriving,” she explained. “There are so many wonderful factories that are doing remarkable work.” Now, Kronovet has a number of collaborators in New York, including not only the factories that produce Ameliora’s pieces, but also the experts who help create and print patterns for Kronovet’s designs.
Kronovet based the name of her company on the Greek word melior, which she described as the “idea you can make the world a better place through human effort.” Besides a commitment to supporting American manufacturing, Ameliora donates a portion of all profits to the Healing Heroes Foundation, which funds treatments for veterans with PTSD; the Seleni Institute, which supports maternal mental health; and the Global Housing Foundation, which helps provide housing for the working poor.
Kronovet points to the Greek value of philotimo as her reason for building support of non-profit organizations into her business model. On Ameliora’s website, Kronovet describes philotimo as “the sense of love for family, community and country. Philotimo means having conviction in your core values and principles. It means doing the right thing.” Kronovet first learned about philotimo from the Greek CEO of a private equity firm she interned for in college, and it has shaped her career goals ever since.
“You don’t have to sacrifice your integrity to be successful, and since I heard that at nineteen, that’s something that really resonated with me, and that’s something that I knew that I one-hundred-percent wanted to make the core of my business. You do the right thing because it’s the right thing. That’s it,” she said.
– Aubrey Lauersdorf
|History in Our World|
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