History Ph.D. Candidates Win Prestigious Fellowships

Travel grants and awards that will enhance dissertation research total more than $200,000

Six Ph.D. candidates in the Department of History have won prestigious fellowships and grants: (top row) Daisy Vargas, John Haberstroh, Mayola Caro; (bottom row) Todd Luce, Sam Fullerton, and Megan Suster. ucr

Six Ph.D. candidates in the Department of History have won prestigious fellowships and grants totaling more than $200,000 this year.

Daisy Vargas

Daisy Vargas has been awarded $25,000 as one of 21 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellows for 2017 at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The Newcombe Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values.

The grant will support completion of her dissertation, “Mexican Religion on Trial: Race, Religion and the Law in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.” The dissertation traces the history of Mexican religion, race and the law from the 19th century into contemporary times, positioning current legal debates about Mexican religion within a larger history of anti-Mexican and anti-Catholic attitudes in the United States.

Her research has taken her from immigrant religious festivals in California and Utah to archives in Mexico, New Mexico, and Texas. She also is conducting ongoing research on botanicas in Southern California and curanderismo (traditional Mexican healing and practices) in the 20th century. The latter has taken her to archives in Chicago and oral histories in South Texas.

Vargas recently was chosen to participate in the Young Scholars’ Symposium at the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame, where she was chosen from a nationally competitive pool of late-stage doctoral students and junior faculty to present a chapter of her dissertation.

“Ms. Vargas is one of the top young scholars in the academic study of Latino religions in the United States, an important emerging field within the discipline of religious studies,” said Jennifer Scheper Hughes, associate professor of history and Vargas’ dissertation advisor. “Her dissertation examines the ways in which the law has engaged, framed, contested, and constrained Latino religions since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo through the present. Her work is profoundly interdisciplinary, both archival and ethnographic.”

Todd Luce

Todd Luce has been awarded funding through a grant of approximately $110,000 from the National Park Service for a Historic Resources Study at Joshua Tree National Park. David Biggs, associate professor of history, is the principal investigator, and Cathy Gudis, associate professor of history, is the co-P.I.

When Joshua Tree was established as a National Monument in 1936, there were numerous private properties (inholdings) affiliated with mining and homesteading that the park has slowly acquired, or may acquire, over time. Luce said his role is to conduct historic research on these properties and develop, where possible, a detailed historical narrative for the people who lived there.

“The goal is create an interpretive framework for these properties that will enable protection and preservation where applicable,” Luce said. The project requires frequent visits to examine archives at Joshua Tree and the Thousand Palms Historical Society, as well as the Riverside County Tax Assessors office and the National Archives at Riverside. The final product will be an extensive report that provides detailed site investigations for where, when, and who built a property, and whether the property should be nominated to the National Historic Register, he said.

Luce’s dissertation, “Playa Politics: Technology, Nature, and Conflict at Southern California’s Salton Sea,” is an environmental history of the Salton Sea that considers how politics and the landscape in the arid American West are mutually constituted in ways that create both unforeseen consequences and possibilities that we are reckoning with in the 21st century.

“Todd is one of a growing number of the UCR History Department’s graduate students who are merging academic research with public history and applied historical work, especially in the relatively new area of environmental consulting,” said Biggs, one of his dissertation advisors. “This project is a partnership between UCR and the National Park Service, and it is one example of a rapidly growing number of studies bringing historical research to bear on important NPS conservation policies and interpretive issues.”

Sam Fullerton

Sam Fullerton has collected approximately $37,000 in research and travel grants in 2016 and 2017. Among his awards are: a W. M. Keck Foundation Short-Term Fellowship, The Huntington Library; a Kanner Fellowship in British Studies, William A. Clark Memorial Library, UCLA; a Visiting Graduate Student Fellowship, Beinecke Library, Yale University; a Travel Grant from The Huntington Library; and a Charles Montgomery Gray Short-Term Fellowship, Newberry Library.

The awards will support his dissertation research, which explores the impact of new printed discourses of sex and the body on the public life and political culture of the English Revolution. Publication of materials not covered before exploded in 17th century England. “People started talking publicly about how sex figures into public morality, how sexual misadventures of public figures might play into their ability to run the country, and the effect of things like civil war on sexual cultures,” Fullerton said.

Fullerton’s research has taken him to the Huntington Library, the British Library in London, the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, and smaller county records offices. Archival sources in the latter illustrate how sexual crime was changing in this period based on indictments for adultery, fornication, and illicit pregnancy.

“Sam Fullerton is a remarkable quick study with a keen eye for a compelling research project.  There is no finer example of his skill than his dissertation on sexual libel during the English Civil War, which brings together recent work in social history on gender and sexuality and in print culture,” said Thomas Cogswell, professor of history and Fullerton’s dissertation advisor. “Evidence of his success can be seen in the extraordinary numbers of short-term fellowships he has landed. In the past 15 years, my students have sometimes landed fellowships at the Clark Library and the Huntington, but never before both of those fellowships AND fellowships from the Beinecke Library at Yale, the Newberry Library in Chicago, and a travel grant from The Huntington.”

Mayela Caro

Mayela Caro will be a fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center under the Latino Museum Studies Program in July and August. It is her second fellowship at the Smithsonian, which is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the National Zoo. In 2016 she received the prestigious and highly competitive Smithsonian Minority Awards Program-Visiting Student Internship at the National Museum of American History. 

This summer Caro will work with two curators at the National Portrait Gallery: Dr. Taína Caragol, curator of painting and sculpture and Latino art and history, and Leslie Ureña, assistant curator of photographs. She will support two projects, said Diana Bossa Bastidas, program manager at the Smithsonian Latino Center. With Caragol and Kate Lemay, historian at the National Portrait Gallery, Caro will conduct historical research on the Spanish-American War and identify artworks and objects of interest for upcoming exhibitions. With Ureña, she will conduct preliminary historical research related to the photographer José María Mora, a 19th century, Cuban-born photographer known for his theatrical portraiture.

The goal of the practicum is to gain a deeper understanding of Latino art and history of the 19th century, and to develop and hone skills related to museum exhibition research and organization, Bossa Bastidas said. The fellowship includes roundtrip travel to Washington, housing, and a modest stipend. The Latino Museum Studies Program receives federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Latino Center.

Caro’s dissertation focuses on the representations of gender and ethnicities in film, media, popular culture, print culture, and material culture.

Smithsonian curators encouraged Caro to apply for the second fellowship, said Cathy Gudis, director of UCR’s Public History Program. “I heard directly from several Smithsonian curators and specialists about how pleased they were to work with UCR public history students, perhaps in part due to the experience the students bring, which spans traditional academic training in history and a wide variety of hands-on practice in the public humanities,” she said.

John Haberstroh

John Haberstroh has been awarded the Fowler Merle-Smith Regular Program fellowship at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA).  ASCSA is a prestigious research institution that serves as an essential point of contact between North American scholars and their counterparts and research materials in Greece, said Denver Graninger, associate professor of history and Haberstroh’s dissertation advisor.

The competitive, extramural award is valued at over $20,000. Haberstroh will be in residence at ASCSA for the 2017-18 academic year with graduate students in Classics, archaeology, art history, and ancient history from top programs in North America. Founded in 1881 by a consortium of nine American universities in collaboration with leading businessmen, the institution was the first American overseas research center and is the largest of 14 foreign institutes located in Athens.

Haberstroh said the rigorous program includes extensive travel throughout Greece to survey and examine the archaeology, monuments, and topography of Ancient Greek sites. “This program will serve as a critical foundation for my dissertation research on the tensions between collective and local Greek identities in the Classical Period (5th and 4th centuries BC),” he said. His research specialties are Panhellenism during the Classical Period, Greek relations with the Persian Empire, and ancient Greek long-distance runners.

While at ASCSA he will visit numerous archaeological sites and museums across Greece, engage with colleagues and the institution’s academic staff, and participate in a monthlong archaeological training program at ASCSA’s excavations at Corinth. “The opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at archaeological practice in the field is invaluable to me as an historian,” Haberstroh added, “and the chance to get my hands dirty in the trenches sounds like a blast.”

“John’s thinking about his dissertation will get much sharper very quickly,” Graninger said. “In longer perspective, a year at the ASCSA will broaden dramatically John’s professional horizons and help him to see more clearly how he fits in the discipline.”

Megan Suster

Megan Suster will return to the island of Hawaii this summer for a 10-week fellowship with the National Park Service Cultural Resources staff in compiling a list of historic buildings in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The $6,000 fellowship includes free housing while she completes fieldwork to document existing conditions of buildings, writing narrative descriptions of each, taking photographs, and collecting and inputting GIS data for mapping and other research purposes. Suster spent the fall 2015 quarter interning with the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Division. In 2016-17 she was granted more than $22,000 to serve as a Public Humanities Fellow at California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside as part of a partnership between UCR and California State Parks.

Her dissertation, “Aloha Spirit: Settler Colonialism, Power, and Public History in Hawaii,” uses four historic case studies to explore the ways in which a diverse set of interpretive approaches might offer an intervention into the settler colonial structure of modern Hawaii.  The case studies are ‘Iolani Palace, Mānoa Heritage Center, Kalaeloa Heritage Park, and Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site.

“This fellowship will give me the opportunity to learn from the staff of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park while also spending time at one of my case studies, Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site,” she said.

“The opportunity to work in Hawaii with the National Park Service is perfect for Megan Suster, as it gives her an opportunity to apply her explorations of historic sites to her incredibly promising dissertation,” said Gudis, her dissertation advisor. “In the dissertation Megan explores the ways in which popular mythologies of Hawaiian culture have been expressed in the ‘long’ 20th century (beginning around 1880) through legal means and public representation at national and state parks, through tourism, and at other widely visited attractions. Her fellowship, through the National Council for Preservation Education, affords her a unique opportunity to do research that documents historic cultural resources of national significance as well as conducting oral histories and playing the role of observer-participant — key for her dissertation.”

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