Why Should I Blog?

By Marty Ditkof, Graduate Student

           

You should blog in order to begin getting name recognition and developing a reputation as an expert in your chosen field of history.  Think of it as practice before you begin writing scholarly articles and monographs, presenting papers at conventions, and otherwise developing more traditional avenues to be recognized and admired.  Just as importantly, blogging allows you to practice your craft and creates additional avenues to publicize your research to those who might be interested.  The earlier the better; let me explain.

Until you become a professor well known in your chosen field with a large network of supporters, one of your biggest challenges as a student of history is developing name recognition with a worthy reputation.  As professors will tell you, the more you publish quality research, the easier it is to gain respect in your field.  In support of your working to develop that respect, a high quality and periodic (say, weekly or monthly) blog can be a great beginning.

Blogging began in the mid-1990s and has become one of the most popular methods of internet communication for research and disseminating thoughts and ideas.  Blogging is very easy to set up and to begin your communicating with the general public.

Just as an example, let’s take a look at my weekly blogs.  I get a lot of funny looks when people ask me my specialty for my Masters in History schooling, and I tell them “the history of asbestos.”  So, rather than try to explain, I point them towards my blog page at www.TheAsbestosBlog.com where I publish weekly on asbestos using the tagline “Where History Means Knowledge. Be Informed.”  I developed these webpages with the help of a friend during a couple of days in December 2020, just before entering the UCCS Master’s in History program.  Since then, I have 103 weekly blogs on asbestos history with over 12,000 views from people with an interest.  My primary way to publish the blogs are by referring to them in Facebook and LinkedIn posts, but everyone who blogs has their individual channels that work for them.

The most important aspect to keep in mind is that you need to develop high quality and consistent content and really stick with it, even when you are busy researching and writing your papers.  If you are intending to be a candidate for an advanced degree, you should already have that discipline.  For me, I happen to have a large library of asbestos related publications which provides almost unlimited material from which I can be creative.  I also do a lot of blogging on my research topics so that my friends and followers know my projects and can cheer, well sometimes, my successes.  If you would like to discuss setting up a blog, I am always available for cup of coffee in the morning.  Marty

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Continuing to Serve: An Internship Reflection

By John Bole, Graduate Student

This Fall semester I was fortunate to be granted an internship working with the Military Legacy Foundation (MLF). The MLF is a local non-profit that is dedicated to the preservation and education of any military heritage available for presentation in a respectful and professional manner. The meat and potatoes of this internship was the 2022 Pike’s Peak Regional Air Show. What made this noteworthy is, due to Covid, the annual air show has been on hold for the last three years. I looked forward to helping this event take off again, pun intended.

In order to qualify time and participation during this internship for the semester, I was a direct and active member of the MLF, which sounds positive, but even more-so, there is only three of us in the non-profit. With such a small team, I knew my involvement would be a welcome addition. I saw an opportunity to make a difference with the activities of this organization and dedicated myself to becoming a constructive member. I wanted to learn as much as possible about this non-profit and what their mission was in the community.

Starting activities in the MLF included learning how a non-profit, 501c organization works in the legal sense. I have been exposed to non-profits for as long as I remember, but did not understand their internal workings. Each organization is different and, by definition, has different goals. Each organization is bound by laws and regulations that guide participation and status. For the MLF, it was important to understand that everyone involved was a volunteer and any profits from sales and donations were to be designated for their intended goals. Per IRS regulations, a percentage of the profits must be utilized on a regular basis for the tax-free status to continue. Also, a dedicated position of treasurer is required to maintain financial accountability.

Initial expenses included purchasing books and related media for resale and producing laser engraved slate coasters and wood keychains. We also included flags for every service branch. All this goes back to the financial considerations and accountability. Any direct profit would go to supporting future events. Throughout the internship we conducted weekly in person meetings to discuss plans and the financial responsibilities required. Also, a continuous digital journal was created to keep notes of minutes and topics discussed, both for our needs and if an audit was conducted by an outside authority.

Continuing the internship focus on the two-day Pike’s Peak Regional Air Show, but I also conducted most of my hours on the weeks of prep time, resource gathering and planning meetings before the event. Initially I attended a meeting with the Fort Carson Public Affairs Office (PAO) to discusses theme ideas and an official message to be relayed between the Army and civilians. We also agreed the inclusion of Vietnam veterans fit in with the 4ID museum and the associated 4ID history. For this, I conducted research on the Vietnam conflict and how best to represent the veterans who served in this era.

Vietnam vets are quickly becoming the greatest generation of living veterans and we wanted to interact with as many as possible. A huge supporting hand came from the organizers of the Vietnam War Commemoration team. These folks supported the MLF with several large Vietnam history board posters and other media. We mounted these posters on foamboard and displayed them at the air show. We were also able to secure 200 limited Vietnam veteran service pins as authorized by Congress. During the two days at the event, we interacted with over 200 veterans and family members, so the pins came in as a great tribute to them.

I also conducted several hours of after event actions, including closing meetings, follow-ups with the other museums involved and future project planning. These wrap-up meetings included financial accountability activities with the treasured, Aaron and a tally of expenses vs. profit for future projects. The future planning was a little more focused as we now had a better understanding of public interactions and how to properly present information. We looked at the calendar to give ourselves timelines for possible upcoming events and when to plan them out.

Halloween presented an opportunity when I reached out to the City of Fountain to participate in the Trunk-or-Treat event. We thought it would be another fun public event to participate in and interact with more people. Going through purchase procedures and collecting receipts, I bought over four hundred dollars of candy for the event! I am glad I did though, as there were about three thousand participants that came to the Halloween event. I passed out candy from the back of my Jeep and added a military theme with the MLF banner from the Air Show and a few helmets for display. This was also an opportunity to pass our information cards on the organization to interested people.

The final big event for the internship was an official ceremony at the World War 2 Aviation Museum to thank the participants of the air show and present checks for the non-profits. The MLF was generously given a check for twenty thousand dollars! That money was deposited in the organizations regulated bank account and 4ID museum was informed of the amount. They could begin planning on future ideas for proper uses of the funds to improve the 4ID museums functions and presentations.

As a final reflection, I can say I have enjoyed this opportunity. I thought I was familiar with the functions of this non-profit, but I came away learning quite a bit more than expected. This opportunity has developed into a future of volunteering with the MLF and the future planning of events. I look forward to continuing my time with a foundation that is dedicated to interacting with the public in a manner to educate them on the military and the various contributions that have defined so much about this country. Thank you again for this opportunity.

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3 Things I Learned at My First Professional Academic Conference

By Jen Mills, Graduate Student

Walking into my first academic conference, I was overwhelmed by the number of panels and topics in religious history I could choose from. Flipping through the program, I looked for terms in my interest areas hoping to narrow down my search. I decided to attend a variety of subjects with titles such as Freedom and Religion in the United States, Engaged Hindu Publics and Politics of Religious Difference on Campus, New Cartographies in Kingian Studies, and Real Lives, Real Presence: A Roundtable on Robert Orsi’s Contributions to the Study of Religion. Although the topics listed were diverse, I observed three different threads throughout all of the panels.

Colorado Convention Center, Denver, Colorado photo credit: public domain

The first thing I learned was the importance of an interdisciplinary approach. A robust analysis of history requires an approach looking at events from different angles. Each discipline whether it is religious studies, anthropology, history, etc. use different methodologies with many overlapping. Historians may use data like a sociologist, anthropologist could use written sources, and each may use a gendered or political lens to approach their research. However, when we as scholars have multiple tools at our disposal it helps our subjects speak in ways we might miss if we just stick to the safe path.

Secondly, too often we concentrate so much on what we are trying to argue that we miss the impact our work has or will have on the wider public. Ensuring that we think through how our work may be used by others, historians, politicians, and pundits on the internet can help us understand how our work as historians fits into the bigger societal picture. That is not to say that we should be paralyzed by fear, but like the use of interdisciplinary methods it is a tool in our toolbox.

Photo Credit: Jen Mills

Lastly, experimentation is not just for scientists. Historians and those in the humanities should experiment with their research. Write what you want, then take that first draft and think about it through a different lens. How does that change the research? What new question can or should be asked using the same sources? Would using a different historical lens highlight an area that should be the focus? Not only will this help highlight gaps in the argument, but it may also give voice to groups or questions that are ignored using traditional methods.

The AAR conference taught me to remember that the subjects of historical inquiry are not just words on a page but humans with their own experiences. Their religious lives and understanding of that religion is just as important as the events surrounding them. To quote one scholar from this weekend critics can “keep yelling and we can keep listening” to our subjects and to the voices telling us to push the boundaries of academic inquiry.

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Gathering in the Face of Struggle: A Reflection on Presence at the American Academy of Religion Conference

by Trinity Parker, Graduate Student

Last semester in “Religion and Culture in America,” Dr. Harvey assigned our class The Madonna of 115th Street by Robert Orsi. His theory of abundant history captured my attention because it seemed real. Assuming that the presence of God is really real allowed me to start asking more interesting questions about the nature of my research.

Robert Orsi, author of Madonna of 115th Street and History and Presence photo credit: Dr. Paul Harvey

As I began to wrestle with questions about how the really real presence of God might relate to the yoga notion of ‘being present,’ Dr. Harvey mentioned that there would be a panel on Orsi’s career at the conference. I felt called to attend, so I might learn something about Religion this year.

Bright-eyed and bushy tailed when I showed up, Jen was the only other person in the room. The American Academy of Religion conference was a massive event. Grateful to see a familiar face, we chatted a bit about how difficult it was to choose panels; everything seemed so interesting.

My husband called me with oddly formal greetings and broke the news.

“Five people were killed at club q last night,” he said.

“Our Club Q?,” I asked.

“I knew you would want to know,” he replied

This was a safe assumption, as I typically want to know most things. It is becoming clear how accepting the knowledge of good, and evil is the original sin. Once we know, we become responsible. A refusal to act or acknowledge is always a choice; no one can escape the field of action.

I packed up my stuff and paced around in the hallway as texts from friends began to come in. What is the right thing to do? Will I keep it together in a room full of familiar strangers? Remembering the importance of gathering in the face of struggle, I meandered back into the room, now overflowing with people— and accepted the invitation to sit “Criss cross apple sauce” in the front.

Jenn Mills and Shannon Fortune, Graduate Students photo credit: Dr. Paul Harvey

Yesterday at a panel on Kierkegaard, a lady talked about intimacy. She had intimate relationships with the parents in her daughter’s kindergarten class, which faded when she left the city. When the war broke out in Ukraine, she was suddenly intimately connected with the family she hadn’t spoken with since kindergarten. Acknowledging the fluid indeterminacy of language allowed her to wrestle with the binaries Kierkegaard poses between preferential and non-preferential love. Intimacy arrives in degrees. Tragedy imposes uncertainty and can be generative, at its best, if it reminds us of who we are and where we come from.

I am half a decade removed from nights at Club Q, but still consumed with the names of trans people I have known and loved. The names of the victims had not been released yet. I marveled at the idle chatter around me. Their ears must not be ringing like mine; maybe they don’t yet know. They could be as numb as I am towards the mass shootings that often overwhelm the news.

Trinity Parker, Graduate Student photo credit: Dr. Paul Harvey

The captivating talks allowed me to ignore my phone vibrating. Finally, Dr. James Howard Mill Jr. began his speech by acknowledging the mass shooting at the nightclub in Colorado Springs, asking that their memory be a blessing and that their family find love in the community that surrounds them. Hearing another acknowledge the profound tragedy was a huge relief. But I was deeply humbled as he spoke about the haunting domain of popular culture. While I cannot pretend to know the sheer terror the victims and survivors must have experienced the night before or the pain their intimate friends and family feel now, I know this is also my tragedy.

In the end, the moderator stopped to acknowledge how full the room was, both with bodies and the really real presence of God at this abundant event.

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From Hesiod to UCCS: An Interview With Dr. Jenna Rice

By Gavin H. Rogers, Graduate Student

Dr. Jenna Rice standing in front of one of her favorite pieces, a late-era Dionysus bust, at the Richmond Museum of Fine Art

During the spring of 2022, the UCCS History Department conducted a series of interviews to hire a post-doc fellow in ancient history. After narrowing the field to a trio of finalists, the last hurdle in the hiring process consisted of a teaching demonstration and a follow-on question-and-answer period. While each of the finalists were strong, Dr. Jenna Rice was the top choice.

Although it goes without saying that the slog to the peak of academia is a long and arduous route for anyone, for some it starts far earlier than a freshman survey course or a charismatic teacher in high school that sparks a moment of inspiration. For some it starts with seeing an ancient artifact in a museum, an unusual fish in an aquarium, or being awed by a natural wonder on a family road trip. In Dr. Rice’s case, it was a book, but not just any book, it was a copy of Hesiod’s Theogony that fired her childhood imagination.

While many in her family are college-educated such as her father who holds a doctorate in agronomy, and her mother who worked in pharmaceuticals, she is the only one working in the humanities. She credits her parents with being “… very supportive of my decision even if they didn’t always want to hear about the ancient Greeks while I was growing up.” Another motivating factor was the aforementioned charismatic teacher and the slew of popular literature that accompanied the release of Oliver Stone’s Alexander while she was in high school.

After high school, she enrolled in the BA in history program at the University of Evansville in her home state of Indiana. It was there that another moment of inspiration occurred. “When I started my degree, I was not sure what particular component of history I wanted to specialize in,” she explained. “I knew I wanted to go to grad school, so I would have to choose eventually. All I knew was that I did not want to study war or military history. I found it very dull until I took this course on the Great War, which interwove social history, gender history, economic history with the history of combat. That to me was a more realistic approach than military histories of the 1940s and ‘50s that were all strategies and tactics, and that pushed me in the direction of the study of combat.”

Dr. Rice then applied and was accepted into the master’s and graduate programs at the University of Missouri where they had a strong focus on the ancient history that she was most interested in. It was at Missouri that she met and worked with Dr. Ian Worthington, one of the premier Alexander the Great / Phillip the 2nd scholars in the United States. She credits him as being very influential in her journey as a scholar despite many differences in their approaches and ideas. “I felt that I learned a great deal from him especially about the process of historical analysis and accepting arguments that I might not agree with but understand are solid,” Dr. Rice explained. “Seeing him respond that way to some of my arguments knowing that he didn’t agree with them but, nonetheless, saw them as valid taught me a lot about how scholarship is supposed to work, how peer reviews are supposed to work.”

As a fairly recent graduate student herself, she considers “forethought and very carefully planning steps several years in advance” as a key ingredient to being a successful grad student but doing so with a clear view with the job market and what an academic position actually consists of. As such, she considers herself an advocate for being open and honest with students about those realities.

“I think the same advice applies whether you are going for the MA or the PhD,” Dr. Rice advised, “know your market, know where you want to go, what your goals are. Come up with, I would say, a couple of plan Bs just in case because it so important to do what you are passionate about and to pursue those goals. It is also important that students see some sort of return for all of their efforts. They are going to get the return of having an education and gaining all of these analytical skill sets, engaging with their peers, [and] discussing their particular interests. But there also has to be some sort of viable career coming out of that, some sort of end game, and, I would say, focusing on that and having plan for after the degree is completed is important too.”

That being said, she acknowledges that “after a while [academia] becomes part of your identity,” and that she appreciates the people that she has met because of academia. “In some ways, it is really humanizing to see a very prominent scholar speaking very casually about the way they entered the field,” she continued, “and how academia continues playing a significant role in their social lives.”

Dr. Rice was drawn to UCCS due to its diverse student body specifically with its active duty and veteran community. “Since I study ancient warfare,” she explained, “I thought there might be more interest in some of the more specialized studies that I have done here. I am also very hopeful that students would include in class discussion potentially some parallels between antiquity and modernity because I think that is an excellent way for historians to gain perspective and learn. The military affiliation of the school, the fact that there is a strong ancient history component to the history department, and the fact that the department prioritizes both teaching and research for its faculty was a point of interest as well.”

“I feel very fortunate to be here,” she added, “I love it here, it was even better than the post write-up on H-net.”

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A Research Trip Reflection – Angel Island, CA

By Kristy Wilson, Graduate Student

Angel Island Immigration Station Exterior. photo credit: Kristy Wilson

As an elementary and secondary student in Southern California I learned various aspects of California history, but the Angel Island Immigration Station (AIIS) was never part of the school curriculum. I did not know of its existence until I started initial research for my first master’s thesis project. Having the opportunity to travel for research purposes truly helps in the understanding of the history and the value of place. Traveling to the location and seeing this installation firsthand has given me a different perspective of the struggles and obstacles that many of Asian descent faced while trying to immigrate to the United States and the treatment that they faced at the hands of United States Immigration Officers and the United States Government. Seeing this instillation firsthand allowed for the historian in me to have a new perspective of the struggle’s immigrants had at AIIS. While my research focused on the Chinese immigrants, numerous other cultures and immigrants came through the station in the time it was open.

In late August of 2021, I traveled to San Francisco to do more research on immigration and AIIS. Due to COVID protocols, at the time of the trip, museums and the National Archives were closed to researchers. After a thirty-minute boat ride from Pier 41 in San Francisco, I landed at the Ayala Cove boat dock, located a little over a mile away from the Immigration Station.

Ayala Cove. photo credit: Kristy Wilson

While immigrants landed directly at AIIS, since the fire that destroyed the Administration Building, the main dock of the station was removed. The original fog bell, that stood at the end of the dock, was placed where the dock used to be. What was interesting was that all the informational plaques, storyboards, and other memorialization’s throughout the island were written in both English and Chinese.

photo credit: Kristy Wilson
photo credit: Kristy Wilson
Bell on Angel Island photo credit: Kristy Wilson

A lot has been done in recent decades to highlight the stories and personal messages of the detainees and the families affected by the decisions made to exclude the Chinese immigrants from coming to America. More money has been requested to preserve what is left on the island and build more memorials and do more research on those detained at AIIS. The entire island and the Immigration Station were open to visitors; though, unfortunately, parts of the station were closed, like the hospital, which has been turned into a museum to show the history and stories of AIIS. While most of the original structures are gone, the detention barracks has been transformed into a learning experience for people of all ages. The cafeteria has been repurposed as a site to watch a video about the detention center. The barracks still stand, but the beds in most rooms have been replaced with story boards and artifacts. The restrooms and bathing area had been blocked off to visitors, but still able to be viewed from a distance. Memorialization of different immigrant nationalities have been placed throughout the barracks, but the main barracks building housed mainly Chinese men and women separately.

Men’s Barracks photo credit: Kristy Wilson
Women’s Barracks photo credit: Kristy Wilson

AIIS, the National Park System, and the California Park System have done a lot of work to make parts of the island accessible to visitors and researchers alike. Seeing the island in person changed my perspective on the treatment and detainment of immigrants on the Pacific Coast. Seeing the site of Chinese detainment brings the history to reality. The confined spaces. The isolation of the station on the island. The stories of those detained. All aspects to the reasoning for wanting to bring their story to more people and understand how the Chinese immigrants felt during their time inside AIIS. Each immigrant came to the United States to be granted citizenship and rights as an immigrant community. Many had family already in the United States. With the violence that occurred during the COVID pandemic against the Asian American community and how Chinese immigrants were treated upon arrival in the early twentieth century, can only bring to question when those within the borders of this nation will finally be treated as equal citizens.

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Student Spotlight: Gavin Rogers Interview With Dr. Jackson Crawford

By Shannon Ritchey

History graduate student Gavin Rogers made his YouTube debut in an interview with renowned Old Norse scholar, Jackson Crawford. He discussed his recent research tracing Jewish migration in medieval Spain and his analysis of the terms used to describe Vikings in the Old English poem “The Battle of Maldon.”

Gavin’s UCCS pride shone through in the interview as much as his excellent scholarship. He told a heartwarming story about one of the History faculty, explained the uniqueness of our graduate program, highlighted others’ work in the department, and shined a bright spotlight on the UCCS community in the audience (which the crowd and Dr. Crawford thoroughly enjoyed). Congratulations, Gavin!

Watch the full interview here:

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History Students Travel Abroad Experience, Summer 2022

By: Shannon Ritchey, Graduate Student, History Department

Hello everyone,

I recently traveled to the UK as part of the summer travel abroad course offered by Dr. Helen Davies and Professor Rebecca Posusta in the English Department. I wanted to share some highlights from the trip since I was in good company with these three fellow students of history:

from left: Abigail Kopetzky, Anna Ward, Rosalyn Myrick

Because I took the course for graduate credit, I had additional assignments, including reading the beginning of Chaucer’s General Prologue in Middle English just outside Canterbury Cathedral at one of the town markets. Inside, Anna and I had fun making connections to the content of Professor Bairn’s Crusades class she took last semester. 

Anna pointing to Baldwin I in the stained glass.

On our journey to Bath, I tortured the undergrads with a reading of The Ruin in Old English, a full modern English translation, and some background on the poem. 😁

Anna photo bombing my selfie with the head of Sulis Minerva at the Roman Baths in Bath (the likely inspiration for the Old English poem). 

We took a morning trip to Tintern Abbey in Wales where we each read a section from the poem Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth.





Rosalyn, Anna, Abigail, and Shannon at Tintern Abbey.

We also spent a day in Oxford where we had the opportunity to tour New College, one of the medieval colleges at Oxford University whose name hasn’t aged well. 😆

Rosalyn and Abigail strolling through the gardens with me at New College, Oxford. 

It was a pleasure traveling with these young scholars. Thank you, Helen and Becky, for the opportunity you provided me to mentor and educate on this trip.

I hope you all enjoyed this small glimpse into our study abroad journey. Thank you for indulging me.

Best Regards,

Shannon

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UCCS History Department Awards, 2020-2021:

Congratulations to all these outstanding students — more than ever for what was accomplished during this most crazy of years!

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Asbestos History in Colorado

Martin Ditkof, a graduate student in the History Department, is also a local attorney with extensive experience in researching the history of asbestos in the United States. Below is a blog entry discussing some historical findings about asbestos specifically in Colorado, and explains with historical documentation studies on how the Pike’s Peak region is a source of naturally occurring asbestos emissions. Fascinating material! Thanks to Mr. Ditkof for his work and allowing us to post it here:

Naturally Occurring Asbestos Sources in the United States. The Ultimate Geology History Lesson by the EPA. Hiking in the Mountains in Colorado, Breath Deeply, and feel that Tickle? Yea. – The Asbestos Blog

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