Historical Studies News
The tale begins in 1962 when Ozsváth and her late husband, Dr. Istvan Ozsváth, stepped out for supper with some friends in Hamburg, Germany.
When they arrived at the establishment, the group noticed that many of the tables and chairs were stacked to the side. The room, uncrowded when they arrived, swelled with more and more people as the evening went on.
“Suddenly four guys came up on stage,” Ozsváth recalled. “They didn’t look very clever.”
To Ozsváth, a classically trained pianist, the band’s rock ’n’ roll style was like oil is to water. The dinner party soon left in search of a quieter place.
“We were having such a wonderful discussion,” she said, “but we couldn’t talk, and we couldn’t hear one another because of the unbearable music that was playing.”
Fast forward a few years.
“We had just bought a television. I was in the other room and suddenly Pista [her husband] calls me in to see a band playing on a program,” Ozsváth said. “It was the band we saw at the restaurant.”
A guest soon arrived for coffee and conversation, and Ozsváth asked about the band playing. The friend paused and said, “Well, they’re the Beatles.”
The School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas has three new tenure-track faculty members who will teach and conduct research in their respective fields — Middle Eastern history, literature and philosophy.
“The essence of the humanities is to always encourage people to put their ideas into a larger context. We have found three scholars who not only are going to be strong participants and contributors to specific fields, but also have the ability to put their thinking and their teaching in this grander context of the humanities and values,” said Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor. “We’re making an investment in people who will make a significant mark in their field, in the school and at the University.”
The school offers degree programs in visual and performing arts, art history, historical studies, history, history of ideas, humanities, Latin American studies, literature and philosophy, and is home to several centers of research and scholarly study. In addition, the school houses the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History — a center for innovative research and graduate education in art history with an extensive partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art.
New Tenure-Track Faculty
Dr. Rosemary Admiral, assistant professor of history
Previously: PhD candidate and graduate student instructor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Research Interests: Middle Eastern and North African history, pre-modern Moroccan history, Islamic legal studies, gender and feminism
Quote: “Women today have complex relationships with Islamic law. I wanted to see how these relationships mapped onto the past, particularly in the case of North Africa. My research found women engaging with the law in creative and strategic ways, not only through the courts but also by way of a number of less-formal community spaces that they carved out for themselves. UTD’s commitment to research in the humanities within the larger framework of science and technology provides a unique space in which to continue this research and explore the implications for modern legal contexts. I am excited and honored to be a part of this innovative and diverse community.”
Dr. Katherine Davies, assistant professor of philosophy
Previously: visiting assistant professor of philosophy, Miami University
Research Interests: continental philosophy, ethics and feminist theory
Quote: “I am drawn to philosophy because of its slow, careful and critical thinking habits. I take philosophy to be a practice of figuring out how to best align our thinking with what we think about, i.e., the world and everything that makes it up. In my teaching, I work toward practicing this with my students through reading enduring texts from across the history of philosophy that invite this kind of deliberation. These historical texts often nevertheless bear upon some of the most pressing issues in our contemporary world, which we discuss in the classroom. I’ve been so impressed with the eagerness and interest I’ve seen from my students here at UTD already. I look forward to continuing to learn to be a better thinker and philosopher with them and with my impressive colleagues on the faculty.”
Dr. Erin Greer, assistant professor of literature
Previously: PhD candidate and graduate student instructor, the University of California, Berkeley
Research Interests: 20th- and 21st-century British and Anglophone fiction, ordinary language philosophy and critical theory
Quote: “Novels, and the critical acts of reading and writing about novels, provide arenas for imagining possible ways to be: ways for people to be and ways for societies to be. My current project focuses particularly on how novels (along with aesthetic, political and language philosophy) can help us reimagine political discourse — a task that seems increasingly urgent in global politics. Because my work is a dialogue between literature and philosophy, I’m thrilled to join the inherently interdisciplinary arts and humanities school at UT Dallas.”
The Office of Graduate Studies at UT Dallas honored six doctoral students for writing the best dissertations in their respective schools. The 2018 Best Dissertation Awards were presented as part of an April reception celebrating excellence in graduate education.
To be considered for the best dissertation award, the paper must have been completed in the past 12 months. Faculty committees in six of the University’s schools chose the best dissertation. The winning students have all completed their doctoral degrees.
“The doctoral dissertation is an original, substantial piece of creative research that represents a lot of hard work,” said Dr. Marion Underwood, dean of graduate studies and Ashbel Smith Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “The students that we honored represented the best of the best.”
This year’s recipients included Sumathi Ramanath, BA’05, MA’08, PhD’18, School of Arts and Humanities (Humanities – History of Ideas), Title: “Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science: Mahendralal Sircar and His Science, Morality, and Nationalism”, Research Mentor: Dr. Pamela Gossin.
For 80-year-old Suzanne Stricker, a hobby of taking college classes soon will turn into a UT Dallas bachelor’s degree. And, even then, she will not be stopping her path of lifelong learning.
Stricker plans to participate in commencement ceremonies for the School of Arts and Humanities on Friday, May 11, as she earns her degree in visual and performing arts.
“I’m excited about it. And my family is proud of me,” she said.
Born in New Zealand, Stricker speaks with a slight accent, which was much stronger when she moved to Texas in 1967.
“Because I felt that people were having a hard time understanding me, I practiced rolling my R’s,” she said.
Stricker stayed at home as she raised her family. But when the last of her three children began high school, she saw it as an opportunity to begin taking classes: first at a community college and then, after she worked for a local nonprofit organization, at UT Dallas in 2006.
Because she enjoyed music and played the piano, Stricker chose an academic path that focused on the humanities. Her classes included history, geography, communication and, of course, music.
“She came into my classes probably over age 70, yet she was one of the most energetic and enthusiastic members of the class,” said Dr. Kathryn Evans, senior lecturer and director of the UT Dallas Chamber Singers.
As a member of the Chamber Singers, Stricker participated in “The Best of Broadway,” a traditional University show that involves singing, costumes and movement. But none of that proved to be an issue.
“I appreciated that they would let me be in it because I was so much older than everybody else,” she said.
Evans said Stricker kept up well.
“She’d get up there and do the steps, and do her best, and she would say she was a little bit older, but it didn’t even slow her down,” Evans said.
For Stricker, one of the major attractions to enrolling at UT Dallas was the special state of Texas tuition waiver for individuals 65 years old and older. The waiver allows senior citizens to take up to six hours each semester with no tuition costs, as long as a minimum GPA is maintained.
“That means I don’t have to pay for classes,” she said. “It was something I could take advantage of so that I could continue my studies. And since I’m retired and have good health, thank the Lord, I can do things like this that I enjoy.”
Stricker said she has enjoyed her time at UT Dallas, and especially appreciated her “excellent” instructors and the diverse student body.
“You’re getting to know others of different persuasions, and what they can do. It’s such a diverse community at UTD,” she said.
Evans said Stricker is a great role model and inspiration for students, as well as for Evans herself.
“She was a very wonderful student and, in some ways, I think she inspired me to go back to school,” Evans said. “Suzanne is a great example of lifelong learning.”
Stricker said she hopes to continue taking classes at UT Dallas, perhaps working toward a master’s degree.
“I believe it’s good for your mind to be able to keep learning,” she said.
As the costs of college textbooks increase, a UT Dallas professor is offering an alternative for students — a free, online college textbook that he and a collaborator have developed.
Dr. Ben Wright, assistant professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities, is co-editor of The American Yawp, a free online, collaborative, open American history textbook designed for college-level history courses.
The College Board estimates that the average student in the United States spends approximately $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A report from Student Public Interest Research Groups said the costs of a college textbook increased by 73 percent from 2006 to 2016. The report also showed that 65 percent of students at 150 campuses in the U.S. have opted not to buy a book because it was too costly; of those students, 94 percent were concerned their grades would suffer because of it.
The American Yawp, launched in beta form in 2015, provides a survey of U.S. history. Wright and Dr. Joseph Locke, assistant professor at the University of Houston-Victoria, provided the basic framework for the chapters then sought historians to contribute to the book. Some 300 scholars provided content, with nearly 100 others contributing editing or digital content. Wright and Locke remain editors of the project.
The next iteration of The American Yawp occurs in August, when a print edition is being released by Stanford University Press. Wright said the price will be $24.95, a fraction of the $153 students typically spend per class on materials according to a recent study by the United States Public Interest Research Group.
Wright said that The American Yawp is a labor of love. Neither he nor Locke, nor any other contributor, receive any royalty or payment.
New research from UT Dallas indicates that values should play a bigger role in the study of science in schools.
The research, which appears in the journal Science & Education, found that students typically do not explore predetermined values or evaluate whether they are appropriate to the particular issue they are examining.
Dr. Matthew Brown, an associate professor in the School of Arts and Humanities, and director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology, said the research shows the importance of teaching science in a way that helps students engage their knowledge of science with social questions.
“You can get students to regurgitate facts, and you can get them to work problems. But getting them to connect what they know about the scientific method or particular areas of science to social issues or policy decision-making is rare,” he said.
Working with Dr. Eun Ah Lee MS’16, MA’16, the UT Dallas research associate who initiated the project, Brown built on arguments espoused by John Dewey, an American philosopher and psychologist who contended that scientific inquiry should include value judgments and that conducting inquiry can improve the ability to make good value judgments.
“What has been found is that when it comes to social issues, people make decisions based on their values,” he said. “So what we are arguing for — and this is what philosophers of science have been arguing for a while — is that there is actually an interaction between the science and the values.”
The UT Dallas Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies will welcome some of the world’s foremost Holocaust scholars, theologians and survivors for the 48th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches on March 3-5.
The collection of experts will share their findings in hopes that the lessons of the Holocaust will remain relevant. Dr. Nils Roemer, director of the Ackerman Center, said the conference focuses on being interfaith, interdisciplinary and international.
“It will be an open environment in which scholars and PhD students join in a conversation and create a community of like-minded individuals who pursue similar things,” said Roemer, the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies. “We also are bringing together people of various backgrounds to discuss the Holocaust from historical, philosophical and theological perspectives.”
This year’s conference will feature three tracks: The Holocaust: History and Pedagogy; Faith, Memory, and Responsibility; and Philosophy and Aesthetics. Roemer said the conference will include discussions about responsibility for the Holocaust.
The keynote speaker on Sunday, March 4, will be Dr. Irene Hasenberg Butter, a well-known peace activist and Holocaust survivor. Butter, professor emerita of public health at the University of Michigan, is a frequent inspirational speaker who shares her experience during World War II and stresses the importance of never being a bystander and that one person can make a difference.
Stewart’s work examines the role of material objects and structures, including homes, in debates over slavery and freedom throughout the 19th century.
“Dr. Stewart’s research addresses issues of urgent importance — race, slavery and the ways in which we create the historical narrative that both reflects and influences our national values,” said Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the school and Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities.
“The honors that she has already received, including prestigious fellowships, identify her as a rising young star among American historians. I look forward to her becoming a leader in our efforts to enhance the University’s commitment to public humanities — that is, outreach efforts to bring new levels of knowledge and understanding to the community,” Kratz said.
Stewart has received numerous fellowships from the nation’s leading research institutions, including the Barra Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Early American Art and Material Culture from the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and a Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Research Fellowship.
Stewart said her interest in race and material culture in U.S. history “emerged from personal and practical considerations.”
“Growing up in the Deep South, I wanted to understand why and how this pernicious thing ‘race’ came into existence and shaped American life,” Stewart said. “Though the influence of race has been widely felt throughout American history, it has not always been widely written about. As such, I look to nonwritten sources like objects, structures and images to illuminate the ways that 19th-century Americans constructed and challenged racial structures.”
The school offers degree programs in art and performance, history and literature, and is home to the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, the Asia Center, the Confucius Institute, the Center for Translation Studies, and the Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology. In 2014, the University introduced the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, a center for innovative research and graduate education in art history with an extensive partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art.
Arts and Humanities Professor Ben Wright is featured in the film Stopping Traffic, a documentary about sex-trafficking, which will be shown in twelve cities through AMC Theaters from September 29, 2017 to October 5, 2017.
Check Stopping Traffic’s Theater Locations for updates and/or more information.
Dr. Wright’s research on slavery has created the unique opportunity for him to be involved in the movement to end modern slavery, firmly believing that if we look at our past and understand how these social injustices survived, we can adapt this information to today’s human and sex-trafficking industries to bring forth effective solutions.
Stopping Traffic has won several small independent film awards and Ben Wright is one of the sixteen cast members.
Beginning in the fall semester, the School of Arts and Humanities will offer a bachelor’s degree in philosophy that will include new courses in logic, the history of philosophy, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of art and aesthetics.
The bachelor’s degree, approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in February, will engage students in critical analysis of texts, rigorous argumentation, and questioning of unexamined personal and cultural assumptions, said Dr. Matthew J. Brown, philosophy professor and director of the Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology.
“Philosophy engages the most deep, important and persistent questions,” Brown said. “Questions concerning the nature of the good life, why we believe and how we know, the nature of the self and its connection with the world and with society, and the foundations of justice.”
Brown said the new degree will be closely connected to the interdisciplinary nature of the arts and humanities program, drawing on and contributing to the study of history, literature and the arts. It will also have a unique focus on the philosophy of science, technology and medicine.
The program will draw upon the University’s strengths in engineering, natural sciences, and the behavioral and brain sciences. Brown said the program already has a strong catalog, offering courses in philosophy of science and technology and contemporary continental philosophy, but it will expand to include the philosophy of medicine and medical ethics.
“A university focused on scientific discovery and technological innovation has a balancing responsibility to support and foster philosophic examination. The new degree is a significant addition to UT Dallas.”
The faculty includes experts in continental philosophy, American pragmatism and the history of philosophy. Brown said the program wants to add experts in feminist philosophy and naturalistic philosophy.
“A philosophy student at UT Dallas will display a broad knowledge of contemporary philosophical traditions and historical movements in philosophy,” said Dr. Charles Bambach, professor of philosophy. “More than this, the philosophy degree will also provide excellent preparation for graduate and professional school, by providing marketable skills in high demand, including critical thinking, problem solving and graceful writing.
“Beyond this, philosophy teaches one how to understand not only a text, but the way language shapes our very lives as human beings. What is at stake here is understanding life as something ethical to its core — with profound implications for how we negotiate our place in the world with others.”
Brown said the subject provides some of the best preparation for graduate and professional schools, and philosophy students consistently rank among the highest scorers of any major on the GRE and LSAT, according to data from the Law School Admission Council and the Graduate Management Admission Council.
“A university focused on scientific discovery and technological innovation has a balancing responsibility to support and foster philosophic examination,” said Dr. Dennis M. Kratz, dean of the school and the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities. “The new degree is a significant addition to UT Dallas.”
The regular application deadline for the fall 2017 term is May 1.