New England Historical Association Conference at Eastern

On Saturday, October, 2017, Eastern Connecticut State University hosted the 99th meeting of the New England Historical Association (NEHA) at the Student Center.

The NEHA conference at Eastern brought together undergraduates, graduate students, independent scholars, and faculty of all levels, from assistant professor to emeritus, in a collegial and welcoming environment.  The topics ranged temporally from colonial New England to the Falklands War and geographically from the history of Southeast Asia to the Balkans.  Several roundtables addressed best practices in historical research and teaching the history survey.

Eastern History faculty, alumni, and students were well-represented on the program (link:  In the early morning panels (8:30-10:00am), Miles Wilkerson ’15 presented “The Moral Treatment: On the Institutionalization of People with Disabilities in the Anglophone Atlantic, 1660-1860,” while Dr. Barbara Tucker moderated a lively discussion for the panel “Liberty for Whom? Perspectives on Slavery and the American Civil War” and Dr. Jamel Ostwald commented on the session “Remembering Wars and Warriors.”

Dr. Tucker welcomes the audience to Session 3: “Liberty for Whom? Perspectives on Slavery and the American Civil War.”

Dr. Tucker welcomes the audience to Session 3: “Liberty for Whom? Perspectives on Slavery and the American Civil War.”

At the same time, Adam Murphy ’18 presented “A Professor’s Experience in Indonesia: Examining the Partnership Between University of Kentucky and Bogor Agricultural College, 1957-1966,” for which Dr. Joan Meznar chaired and commented on the overall panel, “The Influence of the West on the World, for Good and Ill.”

Adam Murphy presents at the NEHA conference on research conducted as part of History coursework at Eastern.

Adam Murphy presents at the NEHA conference on research conducted as part of History coursework at Eastern.

At the book exhibit, Eastern faculty were equally present in force, as the publications of Drs. Tucker, Ostwald, Kirchmann, Davis, and Carenen featured prominently.  In the second morning session, Eastern alumnus Jim Loughead ’04 of Mansfield Public Schools was a discussant at a Teaching Social Studies roundtable moderated by NEHA President Troy Paddock.

Eastern Faculty and Alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. From right to left: Miles Wilkerson ’15, Dr. Anna Kirchmann, Dr. Jamel Ostwald, Dr. Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, Dr. Scott Moore, Dr. Caitlin Carenen, and Dr. Thomas Balcerski.

Eastern Faculty and Alumni presenters gather at the NEHA book exhibit. From right to left: Miles Wilkerson ’15, Dr. Anna Kirchmann, Dr. Jamel Ostwald, Dr. Joan Meznar, Dean Carmen Cid, Dr. Scott Moore, Dr. Caitlin Carenen, and Dr. Thomas Balcerski.

Over lunch, Dean Cid welcomed the participants.  She was very pleased to see Eastern join the list of host organizations that includes the region’s leading colleges and universities (link:

At the lunch, NEHA President Troy Paddock presented the organization’s annual award for best book to the prize-winning historian Nathaniel Philbrick (

In the afternoon panel (1:45-3:15pm), Eastern faculty were particularly active.  Dr. Scott Moore presented “The Reluctant Warrior: War and Memory in Habsburg Austria,” along with Dr. Carenen’s “’Grants for Guerillas’: Americans and International Terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s,” in a fascinating panel on “Perceptions of War and Terror from Habsburg Austria to the United States in the Twentieth Century.”

Dr. Balcerski moderated a panel, “Far from Home: Adventure, Labor and Tragedy on the Seas and Across the Ice,” that featured the research of Dr. Tucker, “Ship’s Boys: Child Labor on the High Seas, 1800-1860.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Anna Kirchmann presented ““Don’t Tear Me Down: Urban Renewal in a New England Mill Town” on a panel dealing with “Development and Redevelopment in New England.”  Finally, Dr. Bradley Davis participated in a discussion on “The State of the Historical Survey.”

Dr. Anna Kirchmann presents her research on urban renewal in Willimantic, Connecticut.

Dr. Anna Kirchmann presents her research on urban renewal in Willimantic, Connecticut.

The NEHA meeting at Eastern was one for the history books.  According to Martin Menke, Executive Secretary of NEHA, approximately 115 people attended the twenty sessions of the conference, which places the fall 2017 conference on the high-end of historical attendance and scope of panels.

The leadership of NEHA were very appreciative of Eastern’s facilities and arrangements.  Erik Jensen, NEHA vice president, said, “I heard many compliments from our members and attendees on the quality of the ECSU facilities and the helpfulness of the student assistants. It was a pleasure to bring NEHA to Eastern.”

The students and faculty of the Eastern History Department truly stood out for the quality of their participation, whether presenting research or asking questions from the audience.  The NEHA conference was a banner day for History at Eastern.

Congratulations to Quanece Williams

History and Political Science double major Quanece Williams, who graduated from Eastern in May 2016, has received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to go to the Czech Republic. Quanece is the first Eastern alumna to ever be awarded a Fulbright. She will be leaving in August.

While at Eastern, Quanece was also a recipient of a Tucker scholarship from the History Department, and was a Barnard Scholar.

Congratulations, Quanece, and good luck!

Is there anything Mark Twain doesn’t know?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

~Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

Lauren Grenier, a recent Eastern graduate with a dual degree in History and Political Science, reflects on her three-month volunteer experience working with orphans in Romania.

Understanding the history of Romania is vital in understanding to complex social issues that it is trying to combat. During the Cold War, Romania was imprisoned behind the iron curtain of communism and suffered greatly under the oppressive dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Hoping to create a massive force of “work bees” for communism, Ceausescu outlawed all forms of birth control and even forced women to have children. His assassination on Christmas Day, 1989 is the day Romanians refer to the end of communism in their country. However, this day also signifies the start of a long journey of recovery. In the wake of economic disparity and political uncertainty, state orphanages were overwhelmed with abandoned children and lacked the resources to care for them adequately, resulting in many abandoned children growing up on the streets doing whatever necessary to survive, albeit stealing, selling drugs, and prostituting.

Lauren with some Innocents

Lauren Grenier with some Innocents

Nearly thirty years after the collapse of communism, Romania’s “orphan crisis” has become generational. The system in place often fails to provide those in the care of the state with the life skills necessary for life beyond the orphanage. Often, their eighteenth birthday present is day one on the streets. The chances are high that their children will end up under the care of the state, continuing the orphan cycle. SoarRomania and Beauty From Ashes are two nonprofits that work to assist and empower young women transitioning out of the orphanages and into adult life. SoarRomania empowers young moms by providing them with housing, childcare and emotional support while they attend school or search for employment. Their mission is that empowering young moms who grew up in the state system will produce one less orphan each time. Beauty From Ashes also provides housing and support for girls who would otherwise be on the streets. They teach important life skills such as cooking, healthy relationship boundaries, fiscal responsibility and jewelry making. In addition to these two ministries, I found myself having playdates one afternoon a week with school-aged orphans in a home just outside the city (pictured). This experience greatly increased my knowledge of Eastern European history and culture. I greatly encourage other students to consider spending time abroad to expand their knowledge of the world. Reading will never provide the same knowledge that experience will.

Teachers teaching teachers teaching teachers (unto the third generation)

Dr. Kirchmann has heard from another History alumna! Logan Tonucci graduated in May with a degree in History/Social Science. She also served as the Department of History Student Marshall for the 2015 commencement. Logan writes: “I have some exciting news to share with you. I’ve been working as a 6th grade social studies teacher at a middle school in New London, CT. It has been such a challenge, but even more of a blessing. My students are truly amazing. I am so thankful I chose teaching (Thanks to Doug Craig).”

Mr. Doug Craig graduated from Eastern in 2003 with a History/Social Science degree, went on to get his Master’s in History, and was Logan’s high school history teacher! Now we are counting on Logan to eventually send our way some great students of hers to continue the tradition. Congratulations, Logan!

History Alumna Christine Geer reports from grad school in Boston

We are pleased to hear from History/Social Science major and recent graduate Christine Geer, who was a recipient of the Outstanding History/Social Science Student award for 2015, as well as a member of Phi Alpha Theta. Christine is now pursuing a graduate degree in public health, her minor at Eastern, at Boston University. She writes that she enjoys both BU and living in the big city. Christine credits her academic success in graduate school to the academic rigor of the Eastern history program; she writes:

“I have to say how much I think my degree in history & social sciences is helping me. I’m taking a policy course and a behavioral theory course, and I think I am much better prepared than some other students who did not come from this background.  All of the practice with researching and writing has paid off, too! Admittedly, though, I am thankful to take a break from Chicago Style citations (ha-ha). I believe I might be the only teacher in the program, so that gives me a unique perspective and skill-set, also.”

Thanks, Christine, for keeping in touch!

Politics inspired by History

Recent Eastern graduate Kyle Donovan (double major in Political Science and Sociology, with a History minor) was recently elected to the town of Manchester’s Board of Directors. The Hartford Courant profiled him before the election here. Drawing on the skills learned in his History courses, he’ll undoubtedly conduct library research to uncover long-forgotten ideas for municipal tax reform. Congrats to Kyle.

Congrats to History grad John Allen

We just heard from our recent alum, John Allen, who has started in his new job as a Social Studies teacher at Putnam High School. John is teaching Civics to four classes of Freshmen and AP American Government to a class of Sophomores. He says he enjoys teaching very much and feels well prepared to meet the challenges of his new role. He credits Eastern professors from the Department of History for that, and particularly Professors Tucker, Meznar, Higginbotham and Kirchmann, who offered him their support throughout his college career. “I am proud that I am an Eastern grad,” says John. And we are very proud of you, John Allen!

History Alumna Saundra Catalina working for Habitat for Humanity

Saundra Catalina has recently updated us on her career following her graduation from Eastern with a History/Social Science degree. In an email addressed to Dr. Kirchmann, Saundra wrote: “Right after graduating I did a couple of years of AmeriCorps with Habitat for Humanity. Some of my assignments were behind the scenes event planning, fundraising, and creating new volunteer programs. After that I did construction for a couple of years with Habitat in Washington, D.C leading volunteers on site and in my spare time working with the office staff to increase our connection to the communities we were building in. I moved to Denver, Colorado about a year and a half ago as an Assistant Manager of one of Denver’s Habitat for Humanity ReStores (if you haven’t been to one it’s like a Home Depot thrift store that raises funds for Habitat).  Just two weeks ago I was promoted to Manager of one of our ReStores here in Denver. My goal is mostly to gain experience managing others.  I’m looking forward to learning a lot from this new position.” Congratulations, Saundra, and please keep in touch!

Eastern History alums report back: “There is life with a History degree”

Cody Guarnieri (’09) is vice president of the Hartford Rotary Club for the 2014-15 year and will be president in 2015-16. He practices criminal defense and civil litigation in the Hartford-based law firm Brown, Paindiris & Scott, LLP. Cody’s first son, Daniel, was born in July 2014.


Anthony Mendes (’09) received his master’s degree from Providence College in 2012. He now works at the college as an academic coordinator for student athletics, working with men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, men’s and women’s track and cross country, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and women’s volleyball. He is also working on a second master’s degree.


Alexander Cross (’12) accepted a position as an area coordinator at American International College in Springfield, MA, where he will be developing and implementing a comprehensive residence educational program for the main campus.


Aaron Meyers (’12) is the executive assistant to the chief information officer for Corporate Executive Board in Arlington, VA. “From studying abroad, to inspiring my move to Washington, D.C., the History Department at Eastern has equipped me with the know-how to succeed and the confidence to accept new challenges.”