Introducing Dr. Louis Porter!

Photo of Dr. Louis Porter

We are excited to welcome Dr. Louis Porter to Texas State this semester! He studies studies Russian and Eastern European history.

After getting my PhD in Russian History at the University of North Carolina, I am stoked to be joining the Texas State University Department of History to teach Russian and East European History.

I am often asked why I study Russia and never have a pithy answer. However, my background provides a couple of reasons. In…. West Philadelphia (“born and raised”), I grew up living in a bunch of different worlds, kind of like the Fresh Prince. My parents split so I went to school in the suburbs where my mother lived while visiting my Dad in Philly on the weekends. With a Black father from the Cleveland projects and a white mother from a working-class family in West Virginia, I had to negotiate a range of racial and class settings from as far back as I can remember. This made me eager to learn how hierarchies of class and race structure history and how various people have struggled to overcome these hierarchies.

But, as a bit of a cynic, I decided to study the greatest failed experiment in overcoming these hierarchies––the Soviet Union. I am fascinated by Marxism (in theory and practice) and its historical contexts. I am also passionate about recruiting students of all backgrounds to join me in studying Russian and European history. When not in the classroom, I am writing a book that examines how Soviet citizens reacted to the idea of international organizations.

My courses at Texas State will cover a range of topics in Russian and East European history. If you want to learn about medieval Ukraine, the Russian Revolution, or why Putin…is the way he is, I got you covered! For now, I am teaching surveys of Russian history (HIST 4333 in the Spring and 4334 in the Fall) as well as Western Civ. But I hope in the future to teach classes on the Russian Revolution, Marx and Marxism, and the Cold War.

In my free time, I chase a skedaddling nine-month old, LJ, around my house with my wife. Apart from that, I love swimming, running, hiking with my dog, canoeing, watching basketball (Sixers or whatever team Lebron is on), and listening to music (everything from DaBaby to My Bloody Valentine to Bruce Springsteen). My favorite movie is Disney’s Robin Hood.

A Note from the Chair on the Fall 2020 Semester

Photo of Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson

Every semester begins with a sense of possibility, bringing both anxiety and excitement for what will come. This year, our anticipation mixes dramatically with an experience of rupture, a loss of the kind of certainty about habits and continuity that generally provide us with a foundation on which we bring some order to our semesters. This year, then, we are all working harder. We—as students, as teachers, as workers who keep our classrooms and offices running—face exponentially more difficult challenges as we get back to workNonetheless, I return this fall confirmed in my belief that the people in this department face disruption head-on and forge new paths out of difficult days.  

Teaching and learning in the contemporary university are always challenging. Limited resourcesalong with inequities, injustices, anti-intellectualism, and divisions in the society at large—impinge on the classroom. We always have to work to build and maintain the space where we can come together to study. Yet we do create that space.  

We all have known those moments when the university fulfills its promise. We see it in the light of realization in a student’s eyes, we hear it in the laughter of people working together to solve a problem, we can sense it in the air when professors and students are locked in mutual concentration on a difficult question. These satisfactions, and our memories of them, are what make the return to school such a time of promise.  

This year, the obstacles in our path can seem nearly insurmountable. Much of the extra labor we are doing can feel incomplete, frustrating, and even at times distractingly prosaic. A global pandemic, an economic calamitythe exhausting work of anti-racism in a time of surging bigotry and violence—these crises have revealed with painful clarity the structural inequities and divisions that threaten our communities. These challenges also threaten the energy and opportunity to engage in the study of history—even as that work has never seemed more important. 

To help our students enter into the study of history, the department is building on its recent growth. Four new faculty members add to the great energy in our public history and European history offerings. Students can choose from several new courses, including African American and Mexican American history surveys, which count toward core curriculum requirementsa course on creating podcasts that lift up unsung voices in historythe history of 20th-century social movements in the U.S.; and the history of childhood in EuropeStudents can also visit the new library guide for researching #BlackLivesMatter, developed by Dr. Casey Nichols and subject librarian Margaret Vaverek. The department will be collaborating on public programs and courses with people across campus, including the history faculty leading the Center for Texas Music History, the Center for Texas Public History, the Center for the Study of the Southwest, and the Center for International StudiesThe TXST chapter of Phi Alpha Theta and the student-led History Club (open to all Bobcats) are organizing regular events—from film screenings to an academic conference—that will provide opportunities to connect and outlets for graduate and undergraduate student research. There is so much going on…follow it all on the department’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram feeds. 

 To move through tribulation in a way that seeks not just the familiar but the possible requires persistent support for each other and our studentsWriting in the shadows of Nazism on the risethe historian Walter Benjamin declared that the struggle for a just world “is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist.” This phrase has been ringing in my ears as I have been working with the faculty, staff, and students in the history department to make Zoom work, to welcome our new faculty and students, to learn how to foster group discussions that are simultaneously inperson and virtualand to figure out how to clear the algae from the fountain in our courtyard and order the coffee that will keep the department running. It can make for days that sometimes seem distressingly fragmented. Yet it is in working with the people in this department that I am reminded of the other half of Benjamin’s point: that the “spiritual things” we win out of the struggle come not as “spoils,” but “as courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude.”  

Dr. Jeff Helgeson

Chair and Associate Professor
Department of History
Texas State University

Congrats to the 2020-21 Awardees of the Margerison Graduate Fellowship in History!

Photos of Margerison Fellowship awardees

The Texas State University Department of History is proud to announce this year’s awardees of the Kenneth and Patricia Margerison Graduate Research Fellowship in History. The Fellowship provides support to full-time graduate students enrolled in the master’s degree program in history. Recipients are awarded funds to fully cover graduate tuition and fees for the spring and fall semesters as well as research support—qualifying for in-state tuition. The Graduate Studies Committee considers all first-year students as well as continuing students who demonstrate great promise as historians. In addition to the fellowship, students may also be offered a graduate Instructional Assistantship (IA), which includes a monthly salary.

Please visit the History Department Scholarships website for specific details and requirements.

Learn more about Railey Tassin (top photo) and Madison Otte (bottom photo), this year’s recipients of this prestigious fellowship:

Railey Tassin is a first-year Texas State graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Public History. Railey graduated summa cum laude from Texas Christian University in May 2020 with a B.A. in History, minor in French, and emphasis in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies. She has experience interning at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and studying abroad in Toulouse, France. After completing her degree, Railey would love to work in a museum dedicated to documenting diversity and engaging the general public with the history of underrepresented groups. 

How do you see this Margerison Fellowship helping you in your studies?

Railey: The financial aid provided by the Margerison Fellowship guarantees that I will be able to begin my graduate education completely focused on excelling in my personal studies and my duties as an Instructional Assistant. As a first-generation student, I strongly recognize the significance of generous financial support in helping students reach their highest potential. Receiving this fellowship has ensured that I feel supported and valued as a student at Texas State even before having officially entered.

As an undergraduate at Texas Christian University, you studied History, and French with an emphasis in Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies, can you tell us more about your research interests, and what got you interested in it in the first place?

Railey: Since a young age, I have been fascinated by studying the actions and words of those who came before us as a way to better understand the present. I began studying French in high school to feel a closer connection to my ancestry, and I loved the idea of having a wider range of writings/sources available to me in college by knowing a second language. Taking CRES classes gave me additional knowledge in analyzing race and ethnicity and inspired me to focus my historical research on traditionally marginalized/underrepresented groups. My senior History thesis focused on the works of three Black women, Paulette Nardal, Jessie Fauset, and Gwendolyn Bennett, whose France-inspired writings contributed to a rise in race consciousness across the African diaspora throughout the twentieth century. This project allowed me to combine theories learned from CRES, French primary sources, and my historical research interests.

What are you looking forward to the most about your graduate studies at Texas State?

Railey: I am most looking forward to making meaningful connections with professors and fellow students – all of us dedicated to continuous learning and working together to adapt during this abnormal semester. I can already sense that the Texas State community will be fully encouraging and helpful in all of my endeavors and will strive to make each student feel supported. I believe the study of history is meant to be shared with others, and I am eager to have the opportunity to engage in collaborative efforts to do so during my time at Texas State.

Madison Otte is a first-year graduate student, but is not new to the Texas State campus. Madison received her bachelor’s degree in History from Texas State University with a minor in Spanish and single-field teaching certification in History for grades 7-12. Madison is working towards her master’s degree in History, and plans to write a thesis about Early Modern Spanish and Colonial History. Madison is also an Instructional Assistant, and looks forward to merging her love of History and teaching to help students this semester. After finishing her degree, Madison hopes to continue her education and one day become a professor at the university level.

How do you see this Margerison Fellowship helping you in your studies?

Madison: The recognition of my hard work through the Margerison Fellowship makes me feel even more strongly motivated to succeed in my endeavors in graduate school. I am very thankful to be able to focus on my thesis wholeheartedly, without the stress of an extra job to juggle with my courses and research.

You are interested in Early Modern Spanish and Colonial History, can you tell us more about your research interests, and what got you interested in it in the first place?

Madison: I am interested in researching the changes that occurred in the Spanish colonies in Latin America after the start of the Counter-Reformation. I am especially interested in the way this changed interactions between Spanish missionaries and the Native people they wished to convert to Catholicism. I have always been interested in Colonial History because the effects the has Old World on the New World that can still be seen today are fascinating to me. I became particularly interested in the religious effects on colonialism in the Americas during my undergraduate studies here at Texas State.

What are you looking forward to the most about your graduate studies at Texas State?

Madison: I am most looking forward to growing more as a writer as I construct my thesis. I also look forward to working with the professors in the History Department both on my research and as an Instructional Assistant. I really enjoy working with other students and using the skills I gained in my undergraduate degree as a candidate for teaching certification.

History Faculty Recognized by College of Liberal Arts

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Congratulations to our History faculty members who have been recognized by the College of Liberal Arts!

Scholarly/Creative Activity

Dr. José Carlos de la Puente (Achievement Award)
Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García (Golden Apple)


Dr. Nancy Berlage (Achievement Award)
Dr. Shannon Duffy (Golden Apple)


Dr. Sara Damiano (Golden Apple)
Dr. Jeff Helgeson (Achievement Award)

Black Lives Matter

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The Department of History at Texas State University affirms that #BlackLivesMatter. We study, teach, and strive to understand the historical continuum of racisms in this country. We recognize the many ways that racism is intertwined with deep and constantly evolving structures and cultures of inequity, domination, exclusion, and exploitation in the United States and across the globe, throughout the long expanse of modern history. We have learned from this history that, in order to advance the cause of anti-racism, we must identify the many forms of violence that sustain racial injustice and affirm both the dignity of Black lives and the interdependence of all human beings.

We stand in solidarity with our Black students, colleagues, and their families, and we are grieving and committed to act against racial injustice with you.

Dr. Thomas Alter
Dr. Gregory Andrews
Dr. Nancy Berlage
Dr. Elizabeth Bishop
Dr. Ronald Brown
Dr. Victoria Bynum
Adam Clark
Dr. Sarah Coleman
Dr. Sara Damiano
Dr. Peter Dedek
Dr. José Carlos de la Puente
Dr. Shannon Duffy
Trace Etienne
Dr. Bryan Glass
Dr. Dwonna Goldstone
Dr. Jeff Helgeson
Dr. Debra Law
Dr. Deirdre E. Lannon
Dr. Bryan N. Mann
Dr. Kenneth Margerison
Dr. John Mckiernan-González
Dr. James McWilliams
Dr. Jason Mellard
Dr. Margaret Menninger
Dr. Rebecca Montgomery
Dr. Angela Murphy
Dr. Joshua Paddison
Madelyn Patlan
Dr. Jessica Pliley
Dr. Leah Renold
Dr. Caroline Ritter
Dr. Joaquín Rivaya-Martínez
Dr. Allison Robinson
Dr. Anadelia Romo
Roberta Ruiz
Katie Salzmann
Dr. Ellen Tillman
Dan K. Utley
Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García
Dr. Joseph Yick

Congratulations to the class of 2020!

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The Texas State University Department of History would like to congratulate all of our graduating students this semester. While it wasn’t the type of semester anyone expected, we are all very proud of all of you for graduating in this historic time! We encourage you all to stay in touch!

Students completing a Master of Arts in History:

Karen Johnston-Ashton
Blake Gandy
Rayanna Hoeft
Cheyenne Johnston-Ashton
Lauren Kahre-Campbell
Evan Moore
Amanda Rock
Suzanne Schatz
Travis Smith
Jonathan Wales

Students completing a Bachelor of Arts in History:

Brenda Alba
Kendall Allen
Brooke Anaya
Avery Armstrong
Sarah Arndt
Antonio Barbosa
Natasha Beck-King
Hannah Bertling
Kayla Borak
June Carnahan
Gwendolyn Cunningham
Blu De Vanon
Samuel Dunn
Celestial Edmonson
Katherine Edwards
Dominic Funug
Cody Gonzales
Devin Granado
Ty Hancock
Thomas Harney
Sydney Harrell
Daniel Hogan
Jayson Johnson
William Keenan
Lindy Lantelme
Nathalie Love
Rosemary Lugo
Christopher Luna
Kendall McCumber
Wesley Moore
Philip Mudd
Taylor Neal
Osaetin Omo-Osagie
Madison Otte
Brandon Paez
Ramon Perez
Jordan Pilkenton
Victoria Ramirez
Ashley Reimer
Christopher Reyes
Kristin Reynolds
Paul Saldana
Taylor Schuster
Laura Serrano
Scarlett Smith
Conner Staples
Dillon Tolsma
William Watford
Kaitlyn White

New General Education Offerings in African American History and Mexican American History

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The History Department is excited to announce new options to students for completing state general education requirements in History!

In the past, History 1310 and 1320 – the general surveys of US History – were our only offerings that fulfilled state general education requirements. Going forward, we will be offering surveys of African American History (HIST 2381 and 2382) and Mexican American History (HIST 2327 and 2328) to our general education offerings. Students interested in those topics can take 2381 or 2327 in lieu of 1310 and/or 2382 or 2328 in lieu of 1320.

The Fall 2020 class schedule includes the following options for those interested in these alternatives:

  • HIST 2381: African American History to 1877 with Dr. Dwight Watson, MW at 2pm (would replace 1310 in general education requirement).
  • HIST 2328: Mexican American History since 1865 with Dr. John Mckiernan-González, MW at 11 am (would replace 1320 in general education requirement).

The Department of History is grateful to be able to build on persistent efforts of Texas State students, faculty, and staff to work for these constructive curricular developments, including groups such as: Pan African Action Committee, Black Women United, Student Community of Progressive Empowerment, Black Students Alliance, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

A Congratulations to TXST’s Model Arab League

Photo of Model Arab League Students

A big congratulations to the Texas State’s Model Arab League! From their press release:

The Model Arab League Chapter at Texas State University competed in the Bilateral chamber regional competition February 15-16, winning awards and having two members serving as chair positions for the competition. Representing Syria, Texas State delegates participated in debates, discussions and wrote resolutions on Political, Economic, Social, and Environmental Affairs and Joint Defense Council.

Following two days of dedication and hard work, Texas State students received the following awards:

  • Distinguished Delegation Award for Syria’s representation of the Joint Defense Council awarded to Parker Weaver and Aaron Gaul
  • Distinguished Delegation Award for Syria’s representation of the Environmental Affairs Council awarded to Yehia Hafez and Macy Birdwell
  • Distinguished Delegation Award for Syria’s representation of The Political Affairs Council awarded to Patrick Moloney
  • Social Media Award given to Brittlin Richardson for her online engagement during the competition
  • Most Engaged School on Twitter Awarded to Texas State University for its social media engagement during the competition

Brittlin Richardson served as Chair for the Council of Political Affairs and Devin Barrett served as Chair for the Council on Economic Affairs Ministers

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Meet the Chairs: Dr. Murphy and Dr. Helgeson reflect on the History Department and its future

Photo of Drs. Murphy and Helgeson

Dr. Angela Murphy, who has served as chair of the department since 2017, reflects on her time as chair and shares some of her upcoming research. Incoming chair, Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson, gives us a glimpse into his vision of the future of the department.

Join them both on 9 March 2020 from 5:30-6:30 PM in Taylor-Murphy Hall 101 for a discussion sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society.

Murphy and Helgeson FlyerA Note from Dr. Angela Murphy

It has been rewarding serving as chair of the History Department for the past few years. It has given me a chance to get to know students on a different level, beyond the classroom, and to help further the vision of my fellow faculty. Students should know that they are front and center in that vision. I am proud to say that although the department is made up of world-class researchers, student success has remained one of its highest priorities.  This can be seen not only in the way in which faculty interact with students both in and out of the classroom, but also in the type of people we have hired over the past three years, in the efforts that have been put into modernizing the curriculum, and in the accomplishments of our students both while they are enrolled with us and afterwards.

While I am grateful for the experience of serving as chair, I am very much looking forward to stepping back into to my old faculty role in which I get to teach more (hands down my favorite part of my work) and engage more heavily with my research. Next year I will return to teaching the first half of the U.S. history survey and upper level and graduate courses on the history of the United States during the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction Eras. I also will be able to dedicate more time to writing a monograph that has been long in the making – a biography of 19thcentury African American activist, Jermain Loguen, who was one of the primary Underground Railroad operatives in New York State.

I am excited to pass the torch to Jeff Helgeson, who is a natural leader in the department already and whose dynamism and commitment will surely take the department to new heights!

A Note from Dr. Jeffrey Helgeson

It is an incredible honor to be able to say that in September 2020 I will be beginning my eleventh year here at Texas State in a new role as chair of the department of history. Over the course of the past decade, I have had the great good fortune to learn from, and have the support of, our previous chairs: Dr. Frank de la Teja, Dr. Mary Brennan (now Dean of the College of Liberal Arts), and Dr. Angela Murphy. To a great extent, as leaders of the history department, they have created the foundation for my success here as a scholar and a teacher, and they have helped guide the energy I have put into helping to foster the growth of Texas State as a whole (the kind of work academics label, “service,” that includes not just serving on committees, but, among other things, making decisions about how we will teach our classes, who we will hire, and how the university can live as a community of inclusiveness and student growth in difficult times). I hope to follow in the footsteps of the previous chairs, to support my colleagues in their work.

The history department has a reputation for being a well-run department. This means that the chairs who have come before me have been highly successful at doing the work of managing the department. They lead the way on the work that happens behind the scenes to make sure that students have the classes, advising, and academic support they need. They work to ensure that our faculty has the resources they need to develop their research, as well as coursework and extracurricular programs (study abroad, study in America, student clubs, teacher training programs, etc.) that make the Texas State history department such a vibrant place.

The Department of History is a dynamic living community, the health of which depends upon the dedicated work of dozens of people. Our academic counseling and teacher training leaders are amongst the leaders in Texas and the nation. Our public history program has established itself as a national leader, placing graduates in internships and jobs with institutions like the National Park Service, the Smithsonian, and dozens of museums, archives, and history enterprises nationwide. Our undergraduate major in history prepares students to be leaders in the professional worlds of education, the media, public service, the arts, and much more. Moreover, through our connections with vibrant areas of study across campus—including, but not limited to, the Center for International Studies, the Center for Texas Music History, the Center for the Study of the Southwest, the Center for the Study of Gender and Diversity, and minors in African American and Latino/a Studies—the history department opens doors for students to have a grounding in sophisticated historical thinking while pursuing academic and career paths that could take them literally anywhere in the world. None of this wide-ranging work would be possible if not for the department’s outstanding administrative staff—I know I am going to learn so much from Madelyn Patlan, Roberta Ruiz, Adam Clark, and the student staffers in the office.

As you can see, I am a big believer in the ongoing work of the Department of History. I have seen my colleagues dramatically transform the lives of thousands of students over the years. I want to do nothing that will slow down those achievements. Indeed, one of my goals is to sustain the department’s record of continuous excellence, and to build upon recent gains we have made in funding graduate student research and travel, in creating resources to foster undergraduate research, and to support our faculty in their awe-inspiring research on historical themes that span thousands of years of global history.

In addition to maintaining our ongoing success, I also pledge my energies to the tasks of making the Department of History a place where even more students—undergraduate and graduate, alike—can find a path for themselves, while gaining the kinds of skills and worldview that will give them the power to constantly reinvent themselves in the face of life’s inevitable challenges. This means that I am committed both to the fostering of a community of scholars, even as I show up day in and day out to ensure that the nitty gritty work of making the department run well gets done.

Looking forward, I have to admit that I find my new role to be somewhat daunting. Yet I return to advice I received years ago from none other than my own mom. She said, if you want to take on big challenges in life, be sure to surround yourself with people whom you respect and who are doing interesting things. The Department of History is a complex institution, it is also my academic home—a place where I look forward to learning from, and working alongside, fellow faculty members, deeply competent and friendly staff, as well as curious and profoundly interesting students.