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UTA History honors our outstanding students

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Graduate student awardees Erhard Van Deventer and John Harris

Every Spring, the UTA Department of History hosts a celebratory banquet to mark major milestones over the course of the past year and to recognize the achievements of our outstanding students.  This annual event underscores the centrality of teaching, research, and mentoring to the Department’s mission.  In 2019, we acknowledged the following students for their exceptional performance in the classroom and community.

The committee selected Basmah Arshad as the inaugural recipient of the Faye and Maurice Barksdale and Sheila and Don Babers Scholarship ($1,000 for two years), which supports a promising History major with a record of outstanding academic achievement. Basmah is a junior honors student double majoring in History and Political Science. She is currently writing one of two planned honors theses under the direction of Dr. Joyce Goldberg investigating the history of the partition of India in the 1940s and 1950s. Illustrating the range of her interests and skills in History, she also previously completed an extensive primary source-based research paper on Native American boarding schools for Dr. Paul Conrad. His letter of nomination noted the substantial body of sources upon which her clear and thoughtful analysis was based. 

The committee selected Caitlin Laster as the inaugural recipient of the Lepenski Scholarship ($1,000),which supports an excellent undergraduate who demonstrates financial need. Caitlin received multiple nominations attesting to her bold and sophisticated thinking, clear writing, and skill in debate and oral presentations. Her recommenders noted the creative ways in which she has infused her historical research and writing with concepts drawn from her Geography coursework. Caitlin also stood out to the committee based on her personal statement, which highlighted the ways in which she plans to draw upon the skills she has learned in her History degree as an officer in the U.S. Air Force following graduation. 

The committee selected Jessica Buisman for this year’s Joseph and Barbara Penshorn Award($1,000), which recognizes an exceptional undergraduate history major. Jessica graduated in Fall 2018 and is now enrolled in the department’s M.A. program. She received multiple nominations from faculty members who noted her outstanding research skills, clear writing abilities, sharp analytical thinking, and enthusiasm for the study of history more generally. Dr. Stephen Maizlish stated that in his forty years of teaching at UTA, “I have never had a more talented and more committed student than Ms. Buisman.” Dr. Conrad in turn spoke of the excellent research she had conducted in his HIST 3300 course, including a sophisticated primary-source based research paper on the Battle of Little Bighorn, a famous nineteenth-century engagement between Native Americans and the U.S. Army.

This year’s Barksdale Essay Award ($150) went to Sarah Hambric for her essay, “The Situation in South Texas: Captain Henry Lee Ransom, the Plan of San Diego, the Border Wars, and La Matanza.” Like Ms. Hambric’s nominator, Dr. Cristina Salinas, the committee was impressed by how “Sarah was able to construct a strong, tightly focused paper that covered a lot of ground.” The essay explores a period of violence in South Texas during 1915 and 1916 that resulted from a sustained campaign by the Texas Rangers against Mexican residents, drawing upon a thorough engagement with both primary and secondary sources. 

Jessica Nguyen was selected as the recipient of the Wolfskill M.A. Award ($500). Ms. Nguyen was nominated by Dr. Maizlish as well four other faculty members, all of whom attested to her outstanding skills in research, writing, and discussion. The written work submitted with her nomination included impressive historical and historiographical analyses of the intersections of gender and race within the history of feminism and civil rights movements in the United States. 

Among our graduate students, we are pleased to recognize the following honorees:

This year’s recipient of the Wolfskill Ph.D. Award ($750) was Cory Wells for his dissertation, “‘Tie the Flags Together’: Migration, Nativism, and the Orange Order in the United States, 1840-1930.” The committee was impressed by Cory’s vivid writing, expansive research, and the clarity of his argument. As his advisor Dr. Kenyon Zimmer noted, “The dissertation—which I have no doubt will easily find a publisher—is going to transform the literature on both Irish immigration and American nativism.”  

Erhard Van Deventer is the recipient of this year’s Shinko and Tom McDonald Scholarship, which is given to the best research paper on nineteenth-century Texas by an undergraduate or graduate student.  Van Deventer received the award for his research paper, “Security and Settlement: Comanche Depredations in West Texas, 1845-1865.” Written for Dr. Maizlish, this paper examined the failure of the state and federal government to protect West Texas residents from Comanche raids in the mid-nineteenth century. Erhard’s research revealed that these settlers joined with the state’s cotton farmers during the secession crisis of 1861. West Texas ranchers did not, of course, embrace a southern nationalist ideology. However, as Van Deventer persuasively argues, their support for the Confederacy stemmed from the hope that a new government would provide the military protection they needed.

John Harris has won the 2018 the Jenkins Garrett Award.  This annual award of $500 recognizes the best undergraduate or graduate student paper based primarily on research undertaken in the Special Collections Division of UTA Libraries.  Harris will develop new geo-spatial components for the Continent Divided website, drawing upon the cartography holdings on the U.S. Mexico War in Special Collections. He will also develop, using ArcGIS Online Storymaps, an interactive section for the website based on the journal of U.S. Army surgeon Grayson Prevost, who provided, in vivid detail, a record of army life and Mexican society during the years 1846-1848.