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.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter Image

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.

Signed: 
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!

Congratulations image

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

Alumni Profile: Jennifer Ruch on the Past, Future, Cowpunk, and Grad School

A new academic year is starting and we were excited to hear from Jennifer Ruch. Not only did Jennifer give us a little bit of background on where she’s been and where she’s going, but she also tells us about her doctoral research, and leaves us with a few tips for first year graduate students!

Can you tell us a bit about your path so far?

Jennifer Ruch: I received my B.A in history from Texas State in 2014 and I continued on with the Public History Program and earned my M.A. in 2016. I wrote my thesis on Austin music in the 1960s and 1970s with particular interest in the narrative’s intersection with cultural heritage construction. I was lucky enough to publish my M.A. thesis in the Journal of Texas Music History through the Center for Texas Music History. I worked closely with Dr. Jason Mellard, Dr. Lynn Denton, and Dr. Gary Hartman. I began my PhD at Middle Tennessee State University last fall and specialize in American popular music, museums, popular culture, and material culture. I am continuing my research to analyze the intersection between popular music, the museum, and the music industry. My dissertation will explore the genre dubbed “cowpunk” in the Nashville during the late 20th century. I am a year away from qualifying exams, but currently have a dissertation committee that includes the State Historian of Tennessee, Dr. Carroll Van West. I work as a doctoral research assistant for the Oral History Association and I also work part time at the Grand Ole Opry House. My hope is that my PhD and the research I am conducting will broaden the field’s understanding of music and popular culture in the academic & museum spaces.

So, what is cowpunk?:

Jennifer Ruch: I am exploring a regional intersection of punk and country music that originated in the UK in the 1980s and gained popularity in L.A.  as well as Nashville. It was a brief moment in time, but its importance has more to do with the presence of an underground scene in Nashville adjacent to mainstream country music. Think bands like Jason & the Scorchers, Rank & File (actually out of Austin), Social Distortion. Dwight Yoakum even dabbled in cowpunk early on.

What are few tips you have for first year graduate students?

Jennifer Ruch: 

  • Get to know your faculty and your centers! They can be your biggest help while you acclimate to graduate school life. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
  • Know when to take a breather. Breaks are healthy. Running yourself into the ground and losing sleep doesn’t produce quality work. Get your sleep, eat smart, and never apologize for a mental health day!