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Update from Professor Sarah Shields, Director of Graduate Studies

Professor Sarah Shields, Director of Graduate Studies
Spring 2021 was challenging for many of our graduate students. They took time out to care for family, to learn to be effective remote teachers, to balance the demands of the varied activities that make up lives under lockdown. Many had received grants and fellowships to complete dissertation research, only to find that they could not travel—and even if they could, libraries and archives were closed indefinitely. Thanks to our generous donors, the History Department was able to provide some funding for travel, copying, and books essential for their work. Thank you.

Despite these difficult conditions, the graduate students continued to pursue and disseminate their research. Donny Santacaterina and Laura Cox organized the spring Department Research Colloquium, at which Mark Reeves and Francesca Langer presented their research, and Professor Cynthia Radding offered comment. Graduate students also participated in the many committees behind the smooth running of the department, including the Committee on Teaching, the Graduate Studies Committee, the recent search committee, and the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion working group.

Despite the challenges of this academic year, eleven graduate students earned their Ph.Ds. We celebrated their achievements, and those of our new M.A.s, with a virtual recognition ceremony. Our featured speaker, Jacquelyn Hall, talked about becoming a historian and about the remarkable changes in this department since she first arrived in the 1970s. If you’d like to hear it, go to the new department YouTube site administered by our own Digital History Lab.

We wish our graduates all the best: Turgay Akbaba, Alyssa Bowen, Robin Buller, Brian Fennessy, Lucas Kelley, Aubrey Lauersdorf, Max Lazar, Daniel Morgan, Virginia Olmsted McGraw, Mark Reeves, and Daniela Weiner. To see the remarkable accomplishments of our current graduate students and alumni this year, make sure to look at the upcoming Annual Report, which will be posted online in the coming months.

The Graduate Program is in the midst of some significant changes as we grapple with both the decrease in funding from the University and the new landscape of demands for Ph.D. historians. While taking a year out from admitting new students so we could make sure we could adequately fund our own, we have been assessing our needs and revising our program. We envision a renewed program combining curricular innovation with our long-standing emphases on rigorous scholarship and broad historical education.




Gifts to the History Department

The History Department is a lively center for historical education and research. Although we are deeply committed to our mission as a public institution, our “margin of excellence” depends on generous private donations. At the present time, the department is particularly eager to improve the funding and fellowships for graduate students.

Your donations are used to send graduate students to professional conferences, support innovative student research, bring visiting speakers to campus, and expand other activities that enhance the department’s intellectual community.

Make a Gift


To make a secure gift online, please click “Give Now” above.

The Department also receives tax-deductible donations through the Arts and Sciences Foundation at UNC-Chapel Hill. Please note in the “memo” section of your check that your gift is intended for the History Department. Donations should be sent to the following address:

UNC-Arts & Sciences Foundation
Buchan House
523 E. Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Attention: Ronda Manuel

For more information about creating scholarships, fellowships, and professorships in the Department through a gift, pledge, or planned gift please contact Ronda Manuel, Associate Director of Development at the Arts and Sciences Foundation: ronda.manuel@unc.edu or (919) 962-7266.