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Spotlight - Department of History, Illinois State University Spotlight

2015 Alumni Award Recipient

Sandra HarmonSandra d. Harmon, M.A. ’70, D.A. ’90Dr. Sandra Harmon will receive the 2015 E. Burton Mercier Alumni Service Award at Founder’s Day event February 19, 2015

This award is presented to Dr. Harmon in recognition of her outstanding volunteer service and contributions to Illinois State and her significant volunteer efforts in service to the community.  the award honors the memory of Burt Mercier ’50, a community leader who gave back to the University in many ways throughout his life.  Congratulations Dr. Harmon!

News - Department of History, Illinois State University News


fall 2014 graduation

Now they are History Department Alums.

Photo snapped by Dr. Noraian right after graduation ceremony,

Saturday, December 13.

Alums are driving force in preserving Route 66


Route 66 was the first road to connect the Midwest to the West. Its 2,448 miles linked an archipelago of towns that previously depended on unreliable muddy tracks and wooden plank roads. Although only small sections of the original road remain, 95 percent of the final alignment can still be driven and still attracts international visitors.

Learn more…

History faculty member, Dr. Alan Lessoff speaks at International Seminar Series


Dr. Lessoff presented a talk on the evolution of national capitals in the age of global cities.

In his talk, Dr. Lessoff briefly reviewed the analytical issues raised by capitals in the current era of globalization and offered suggestions as to why they have retained and even expanded their influence.  When social scientists began sketching theories of the Global City in the 1980s-90s, they suggested that as the headquarters of the nation-state, capital cities might decline in influence and dynamism by comparison to the world’s financial centers.  In retrospect, the opposite has happened:  political cities ranging from Washington and Berlin to Ankara, Turkey, have thrived in the age of global capital.

This is part of the continuing International Studies Seminar Series sponsored by the Office of International Studies and Programs.

Dr. Kennedy presents at the Milner Library series of presentations held in support of “Answering the Call: ISNU’s Librarian & the ‘Great War'” exhibition

r kennedy

Dr. Kennedy at Milner on Veteran’s Day

Dr. Kennedy explored the political, diplomatic and military interactions of the July Crisis of 1914 that led Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary into the beginning of the Great War.  From the June 28, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the major European powers moved closer to armed conflict until by early August war had been declared.

Dr. Ross Kennedy, Professor of History specializes in 20th century American foreign relations and political ideology.  He has a Ph.D. in  history from the University of California at Berkeley, and is the  author of the books “A Companion to Woodrow Wilson” (2013) and “The Will to Believe: Woodrow Wilson, World War I, and America’s Strategy for Peace and Security” (2009).

History Department represented on Missouri Valley Conference Championship Soccer Team

ali Farkos

Ali Farkos, junior History-Social Science Education major is in her third year as part of this team.


With a great big smile and bubbling with energy, Ali Farkos said of yesterday’s game, “It was awesome! It made it even better playing at home, in front of our fans.”  This is her third year on the team and her third Missouri Valley Conference Championship.  For the Redbirds, it’s the program’s fourth-straight MVC Tournament title and they became just the second program to ever do so.  This year the ISU soccer fields got lights, and with that, the opportunity to host the tournament for the first time.

Ali is a History-Social Science Education major from Homewood-Flossmoor who aspires to teach and coach soccer at the high-school level, hoping someday to attend a World Cup Soccer match.  When asked about her favorite area of history, she said U.S. history in general and more specifically, pre-Great Depression women’s history.  It is obvious Ali’s charm, passion and energy are traits that will make her a great teacher and coach.

Way to go, Ali.  We are proud of you and the Team!


Student Teaching Abroad in England: Brighton University-Eastbourne

Blogs from student teachers in the field.

Hey everyone!…

As our time here in Eastbourne, England is coming to an end, I thought I would share about an experience that combines both the education and traveling parts of our adventure abroad. Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to go on a school trip to Canterbury, England! Let me tell you about the experience a little bit.

My day began Wednesday morning just like any other morning at the bus stop. My destination for the day, however, was different: I was headed to the train to meet three other teachers and twenty-five students. After boarding the train at 8:09am (I realize that is very specific, but it is extremely important to be on time for public transport as they wait for NO ONE) I was not fully prepared for the day to come.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of my trip to Canterbury is the fact that I was able to take what I had learned in high school and experience it in real life. Literature and history, as I have often found to be the case, are so carefully intertwined. Founded in 597, Canterbury Cathedral is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Serving as the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who just happens to be the leader of the Church of England, is just one of the important functions. While the cathedral that is seen today looks very little like it would have in 597, the fact that it has survived in some form over the past 1500 years is very impressive. Parts of it were destroyed in the bombing of WWII and had to be rebuilt. In fact, the upkeep of the building alone costs millions of donated £ a year.


Canterbury Cathedral

The most interesting piece of history surrounding the cathedral is not in its ability to live on physically, but rather in the story of Saint Thomas Becket’s death. Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170, when he was tragically murdered INSIDE OF THE CATHEDRAL. Both the Catholics and the Anglicans venerate him as a saint and a martyr. Perhaps his biggest regret would have been engaging in conflict with King Henry II of England. Not being able to come to a conclusion over the rights and privileges of the Church, Becket was murdered by followers of the king on December 21st, 1170. The tale of his death is a gruesome one. Becket had the back of his head sliced off so violently that the sword that struck him was broken in two. Some of the masonry still present at the cathedral today were perhaps covered with his blood some 900 years ago. Inside the Cathedral there was beautiful stained glass windows, memorials, and statues of past Saints and important English figures.


Stained glass window inside Canterbury Cathedral

 After our educational and enlightening guided tour of the cathedral, the students and teachers parted ways and went exploring around Canterbury. I was able to take in some of the sites of the old town while talking with three great minds and teachers. After some searching I stumbled upon a pulled pork shop and I must say that my taste buds rejoiced. After lunch we went to a teashop across from the cathedral. While I do not drink tea, I was happy to find that there were milkshakes on the menu! One Oreo vanilla milkshake later and I was ready to continue the day! Our next site to visit was St. Martin’s Church. On the journey to St. Martin’s some of the students began to ask me questions about America. Oddly enough, they even found it entertaining to find out how I said certain words.

After a very entertaining twenty-minute walk we stumbled upon St. Martin’s Church. It was breathtaking. Not necessarily for the aesthetics but for the history of the church and the people buried in the graveyard surrounding the church. The tombstones that I came across were of all shapes and sizes– the one that amazed me the most was of a man who passed away before the United States had even been created.


St. Martin's

St. Martin’s Church


 Oldest grave marker at  St. Martin’s Church

 You do not see a church like this very often! Being the first church founded in England, St. Martin’s is the oldest parish church in continuous use today. In fact, it is the oldest church for the entire English-speaking world. St. Martin’s was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the 6th Century before Augustine arrived from Rome. After a good amount of time at St. Martin’s we set off towards our last destination of the day: St. Augustine’s Abbey. Some brief history on how St. Augustine’s Abbey came to be. In 597, Saint Augustine arrived in Anglo-Saxon England, having been sent by the missionary-minded Pope Gregory I to convert the Anglo-Saxons. At the time England did not have many Christians, rather much of the population was Pagan. The King of Kent at the time gave his land and temple to Augustine and it was transformed into a place for Christians to worship. In sum, St. Augustine’s Abbey can and should be seen as the birthplace of Christianity in England.


St. Augustine’s Abbey

 Experiential learning, as many professors have pointed out and what I found to be true, is one of the best ways to help students learn. Besides, it would be pretty difficult to find a teacher who would rather stay in the classroom over going to Canterbury!





Gaudi, but not Gaudy

This weekend was hectic to say the least, but in a good way. On Friday, I immediately left school in order to catch my flight for the weekend.Trevor, Megan, Margaret (two fellow ISU students), and myself agreed that we wanted to spend a weekend in Barcelona.  After arriving in Spain at around 10:30, we de-boarded the plane, found a taxi to our hostel, and arrived at our hostel by 11:30.

barcelona 1Casa Batllo (pronounced Bat-yo) is one of Antoni Gaudi’s most famous works and was just down the street from our hostel.

After some exploring the next day, our group parted ways.  Trevor and I decided to stop at Starbucks to get some warm beverages and Wi-Fi so we could figure out our travel routes while the girls went to shop around the city.  Once we found our bearings, we embarked for Sagrada Familia, is one of the most famous European cathedrals and was Antoni Gaudi’s magnum opus.  wow!!  It was breathtaking to say the last.

barcelona 2

For me, this was a dream come true, since la Sagrada Familia was one of my first interests in foreign culture thanks to my high school Spanish teacher,  I have always been intrigues by Gaudi, so it was so great to witness some of his most famous works firsthand.  From there, Trevor and I began to make our way to Park Guel, which is another famous work by Gaudi that is situated upon a very large hill.  both la Sagrada Familia dn Park Guell are distinctly Gaudi because of the ways that they seem very fluid, have natural elements and exhiit a distintly modernist style.  What I truly love about Gaudi is that he was an artist who threw convention out of the window.  He designed weird and funky pieces because that is what he wanted to do and that was his style.

While at Park Guell, Trevor and I made our way to the top of the hill, where we found a street performer playing songs on his acoustic guitar.  As the man played House of the Rising Sun, I looked out into the Barvelons skyline and reflected on just how fortunate I was to be there.  Since I have been abroad, I have witnessed so many wonderful, inspiring scenes that took my breath away and made me realize how lucky I truly am.  For a small town boy (livin’ in a lonely world…), I never would have thought I  would be able to see and do any of these things.  As the man finished his song, Trevor and I made our way down the hill and out of the park to regroup with Megan and Margaret.

We spent the rest of our time in Barcelona viewing various touristy things such as the Columbus Monument and the Mediterranean Sea.  We called it an early night because our travels exhausted us and we had to catch a flight home the next morning.  In short, I really loved Barcelona because it is a large, bustling city but it still feels so cozy thanks to its rich culture as well as the multitude of things to see and do.  I would definitely return to this wonderful city and I hope that you will have a chance to experience Barcelona for yourself someday.


Matt D.

Famed City of Love

It has been more than two whole weeks since our return from Paris, but I have yet to get over our experience in the famed City of Love.  Please be warned, this post will be heavy on the photos thought I will still try to keep it classy.

The first phase of our adventure was crossing the English Channel.  When we initially asked our study abroad liaison as to how we were going to do this, she told us that we would either ride a ride across or take a train on the Chunnel.  Of course, we took the more exciting option: traveling underwater in a 31 mile long tunnel on the seabed.  Despite the initial concern of being crushed under water, we managed to enjoy the thirty-minute trip across the channel to France.


paris 11. Inside of the Chunnel Train (Courtesy of ISU student Jasmine Yu)

Later that night, we officially began our fun in Paris by taking a cruise on the river Seine.  Luckily, the storms we had encountered in England while traveling were nonexistent in Paris, so we had the opportunity to see the beauty of the city from the top level. Thus, despite the chilly winds that were blowing along the river, the splendid sight of Paris’ gorgeous architecture definitely made it worthwhile.


paris 22. View from the River Seine

The next morning we woke up bright and early to avoid the lines at the Eiffel Tower.  We had taken pictures last night of the famous landmark, however, we were excited to be able to go up and see the city on a clear day, and to further avoid lines, our crew decided to walk up the tower in lieu of the elevator.  That definitely was a challenge, but I think I can speak for all of us that we had fun regardless.  Take a look at the view we had.


paris 33.  Morning view from the Eiffel Tower


paris 44. A view of the Eiffel Tower at night

After the Eiffel Tower, we visited the Sacre-Coeur cathedral and shopped in the little shops that it towers over.  We then moved to traveling around the city, visiting the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, Notre Dame, and finally the Louvre before ditching the coach bus.  At this point, the crew split with Jenny, Matt, and other ISU students going to Champs-Elysee to shop.  Trevor, ISU student Christine, and I decided to go to the Hard Rock Café on the Grand Boulevard of Montmartre.


paris 55.  Group photo at Sacre-Coeur cathedral


paris 66.  The Two Iconic Pyramids (Courtesy of Jasmine Yu)


paris 77.  Notre Dame in all its glory


Sunday morning, we prepared ourselves to leave Paris, ate breakfast, and travelled to the village of Versailles.    I was incredibly excited to see the palace that I had learned so much of during my studies in high school – I was not disappointed.  The sight of the palace from the outside was impressive let alone the gorgeous and elaborately designed interior and gardens.  Instead of going into detail, I’d rather let the photos we took tell the story.


paris 88.  Palace of Versailles front


paris 99.  Me enjoying the famous Hall of Mirrors


That is all for now!  I hope you enjoyed the read; I definitely look forward to keeping you all updated on our adventures.


R.S. Cadena

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Department of History
Normal, Il 61790-4420
Phone: (309) 438-5641
Fax: (309) 438-5607

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