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Message From the Chair

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to the History Department at UCLA. On our webpage, you will learn about our students, the research conducted by both students and faculty, and the many activities and accomplishments of those associated with the department. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to note upcoming events. This dynamic department offers much to engage you.  We believe that “History matters,” and we hope that you agree!

When walking across this beautiful campus, I take any opportunity to fall in with the undergraduate-led tours offered to prospective students and their families. I frequently hear student leaders recount the tale of Ray Bradbury typing up his great science fiction work Fahrenheit 451 on a rental typewriter in Powell Library (pausing to feed coins into the machine so he could keep typing).  That tale of banned books and people who fight to save them seems particularly apt on a college campus in the current moment: contemporary reading habits favor short, online content, and fewer people read books now than was true in the past. 

Like the heroes of Bradbury’s tale, we historians remain people of the book. That is not to say we produce books exclusively: our faculty, graduate students, and alums convey historical knowledge in a variety of formats, including the other “traditional” scholarly forms—articles and essays—as well as alternate forms such as op-eds, blogs, and mapping websites. Check out, for example, Kelly Lytle Hernandez’s Million Dollar Hoods project which maps the cost of incarceration by neighborhood. But we do read and write books, and so do our students. Producing another generation of scholars in both our graduate and undergraduate programs who engage large, complex problems; who communicate clearly; and who think analytically, that is the most important—and increasingly it seems most subversive—work we do. 

With that in mind, note the many successes of our graduate students. Earlier this spring I had the great pleasure of seeing a group of dissertation writers present their projects in succinct and compelling talks to a luncheon gathering. The range of projects and the high quality of the research that went into them was truly impressive. As one department supporter remarked to me, these brilliant and engaged scholars give us great hope for the future.  Similarly, our undergraduate students conduct research: In spring 2018, fourteen students showcased their original research at our third Undergraduate History Conference. I highly recommend this event if you want to see the great work of our history majors. Furthermore, our undergraduate students have eagerly participated in a series of events on the question “What can you do with a degree in history?” an ongoing collaborative efforts of the History department staff, key faculty members, and History alumni volunteers. This excellent program helps students translate academic learning to applied practice.  

Our faculty includes individuals with expertise from places across the globe, taking a myriad of approaches to uncovering the past and using a vast variety of source materials. It would be impossible to list faculty books and other publications, honors, and activities here. Some of that work is limned out on our website, including the over two dozen books that our faculty have issued by the middle of 2018 alone. Let me point out, however, just a few of the awards our colleagues have won in the past year: Sarah Stein for Distinguished Teaching; Robin Derby for Research Excellence; and both Nile Green and Stefania Tutino as Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship winners.

Our faculty ranks are expanding this year, with the addition of Katherine Marino, a newly-appointed Assistant Professor who will soon be publishing her first book, Feminism for the Americas: The Making of an International Human Rights Movement. The book is based on her doctoral dissertation which won the Organization of American Historians Lerner-Scott Prize for the best dissertation on U.S. women's history. She will contribute her expertise in gender history to the U.S. and Latin American fields and beyond beginning in fall 2018. 

The department’s outreach to the wider community continues. Our “Why History Matters” series brings together scholars and community leaders to discuss important issues in their historical and contemporary contexts. History’s new UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, pursues a compatible mission offering monthly workshops that highlight current research at the intersection of history and policy. Topics of recent larger panel discussions included gentrification in Los Angeles and genocide prevention. We are grateful as ever for the generosity of Meyer and Renee Luskin whose gift made possible this center.

As you peruse our website, I trust you will find the information you seek. If you need further assistance, please don’t hesitate to call on our excellent staff. They will be able to answer your question or get you to someone who can. We hope to see you at History events during the coming year.

Carla Pestana
Department Chair and Professor and Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair of America in the World