Hello again! I'm as surprised to see myself back in this space as you are. Eric Weitz was invited to Princeton for a year as a Stanley Kelley Jr. Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching, and so I am filling in as Interim Chair until his return to the post. During the coming year, the cityscape I will see out of the chair's office window will change. After more than four decades in the Social Science Tower, the Department will be moving to the top four floors of nearby Heller Hall, where we will get some much needed additional space. Our views will be oriented north and westward toward downtown Minneapolis rather than toward the Mississippi. We will miss the river but relish the additional and newly redesigned spaces for offices, for the many journals we edit, and for seminars and conferences.
This year marks the sesquicentennial of the state of Minnesota, hence the theme of this issue of the newsletter "A Sense of Place: Minnesota Past & Present." You can read contributions from a number of colleagues who examine Minnesota history from various perspectives. Also fitting for the sesquicentennial year has been the introduction by David Chang and Kevin Murphy of a new course on the history of the Twin Cities. Now students new to campus can explore local history as they learn their way around town. This course is one of several exciting innovations in undergraduate teaching that resulted from our recent overhaul of the curriculum.
Our graduate program continues to thrive as the numerous awards and accomplishments of our current students and alums attest. Faculty and graduate students continue to collaborate on innovative cross-area and cross-disciplinary work even as they excel in traditionally defined areas of research. One important new initiative on this front is the Program in Law and History that got its start last year under the directorship of Barbara Welke.
It was wonderful to see dozens of faculty, grad students, and grad alums on campus in June as participants in the program of the Fourteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. "The Berks" is the preeminent conference for historians of women from all over the globe. The organization's decision to hold the triennial meeting on our campus - the first Midwestern meeting in the organization's history - and our notable presence on the program attest to our strength and visibility in women's and gender history. Ruth Karras played a lead role as the Conference's president. And the meeting provided the perfect setting for a reception in honor of Sara Evans, pioneering historian of U. S. women, who retired from the department in June after 30 years of outstanding scholarship, teaching, and service to the University and the state.
In Fall semester 2008 we welcomed two fine new colleagues who joined the department as a result of last year's searches. Daniel Schroeter (Ph. D., University of Manchester, 1984) is moving from the University of California, Irvine, to be the first holder of our endowed chair in Jewish History. Professor Schroeter's research focuses on the history of the Jews of the Muslim and Mediterranean worlds. Helena Pohlandt-McCormick (Ph.D. Minnesota, 1999) is moving back to Minnesota from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver to take a faculty position in African History. Professor Pohlandt-McCormick's first project focused on the Soweto uprisings; her new work is an oral history of political exile in South Africa.
I hope that you will enjoy learning more about the past and present of the
department and the state as you peruse the newsletter. Many thanks to newsletter editor, Kirsten Fischer, who, within days of completing work on this issue, departed for Germany for a yearlong stint as Deutsche Bank Junior Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for American Studies at the University of Heidelberg.