Undergraduate Student Spotlight

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Spotlight: Michael Fox

Image of Queen Elizabeth in Parliament

UConn ’21 graduate Michael Fox worked with UConn History Professor Meredith Rusoff on their senior thesis that explores  freedom of speech in early modern England. A job well done! 

Michael Fox, ““A Strange Thing for the Foot to Guide the Head”: Freedom of Speech in Elizabethan Parliaments

Thesis Advisor: Meredith Rusoff

Freedom of speech is a right that many in the United States, and the Western world, take for granted as something that is critical for any modern democratic society to function. However, this has not been the case for the vast majority of Western, and human, history. It is during the early-modern period, specifically the Enlightenment, that concepts such as freedom of speech were developed, and eventually became fully encoded in law. Britain, more specifically England, led the way in the development of freedom of speech within its Parliament, and the practice of common law. Similar to how the government itself evolved in England, so too did its concept of what rights and liberties could be exercised.

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Spotlight: Elisabeth Bienvenue

Headshot of History Undergrad Alum Elisabeth BienvenueUConn ’21 graduate Elisabeth Bienvenue worked with UConn History Professor Nancy Shoemaker on their senior thesis that explored music and culture among New Englanders of Franco American descent. A job well done!

Elisabeth Bienvenue, “La Vie en Chant: The Role of Songbooks in Twentieth Century Franco-American Survivance”

Thesis Advisor: Nancy Shoemaker

The Chants Populaires des Franco-Américains were a collection of songbooks published by the Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste d’Amérique in Woonsocket, Rhode Island from 1929-1962. These songbooks should be considered as part of “la survivance” (“the survival”), a mindset in which the Franco-Americans of New England sought to preserve the French language, Catholic faith, and cultural ties to Quebec and Acadia in future generations. This paper argues that survivance was both a political and cultural phenomenon and that while the politicized survivance movement fell out of favor after the divisive reform effort known as the Sentinelle Affair ended in 1928, the cultural aspects of survivance endured for several more decades. While the songbooks serve as a powerful example of the importance of music and culture among Franco-Americans of the twentieth century, the songbooks themselves did not survive in mass distribution, but they successfully contributed to the movement to create a cultural legacy among New Englanders of Franco-American descent.

UConn-Stamford Maria Oliveira ’21 Receives Phi Beta Kappa Honor

We would like to congratulate UConn-Stamford rising senior, Maria Oliveira ’21, for being just one of twenty students in the country selected as a Key into Public Service Scholar by The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. This award recognizes students who have revealed a passion for working in the public sector and who demonstrate a strong academic record in the arts, humanities, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences. Scholars receive a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship and will participate in a virtual conference in late June that provides training, mentoring, and reflection on pathways into active citizenship (in the tradition of Phi Beta Kappa’s founders). 

As an honors history major with a minor in mathematics, Oliveira is an exceptional student. She is President of the Student Government Association at UConn-Stamford, and was named a Babbidge Scholar in 2019 and 2020, earned the 2019 Cohen and Henes Scholarship for Judaic Studies, and received the 2019 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mathematics and the 2018 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry. Oliveira is a member of both the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi Societies, and is on the dean’s list with a 4.0 GPA following her third year. Additionally, we are must excited to read Oliveira’s upcoming honors thesis on the 16th and 17th century Portuguese empire in India, which according to Professor Edward Guimont is “truly excellent work” especially given the recent Covid-19 restrictions on materials.

To read more about Maria Oliveira’s hard work and wonderful success, please click here.

UConn Today Highlights Caesar Valentín ’20 (CLAS)

Caesar Valentin UConn TodayOur Department is pleased to see Caesar Valentín featured in a recent article of UConn Today. Caesar has been a wonderful addition to the Wood Hall family – serving as an impressive undergraduate student worker and graphic designer. Caesar will be graduating UConn with two majors in political science and philosophy, as well as a minor in human rights. We are happy to learn that Caesar intends to return to UConn by pursuing a joint Master’s degree in Latino Studies and Public Administration.

To read the UConn Today spotlight, please click here.

Christopher Choi ’20 Receives NSF-GRFP

The Department is pleased to share that history major, Christopher Choi ’20, has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships (NSF-GRFP). Choi will be graduating this spring with dual bachelor’s degrees in history, and materials science and engineering. After UConn, he will be headed to sunny California to begin his doctoral studies in biomaterials research at Stanford. Congratulations on these outstanding academic accomplishments, Christopher!


UConn Today’s feature on Christopher is listed below. For the full article, click here.

Christopher Choi ’20 (ENG), of Storrs, is graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees in history and materials science and engineering. He has been involved in a range of research activities and labs at UConn, focusing on topics from thermoelectrics to archaeological materials. In addition to receiving the NSF-GRFP, Choi is a member of the honors program, a recipient of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund award, and was one of the student speakers at the 2018 School of Engineering Scholarship Award Ceremony. Choi has been a member of UConn Model UN for four years, serving as a committee director from fall 2017 to fall 2019, and was involved in the Engineering Ambassadors for four years, serving as the group’s president from spring 2018 to spring 2019. In the fall of 2020, he will begin his doctoral studies at Stanford, where he hopes to contribute to biomaterials research.

4 History Students Named to 2020 University Scholars

Four of the twenty-three students named to UConn’s 2020 University Scholars are History majors or working closely with History faculty. Congratulations are in order for Jenifer Gaitan, Shankara Narayanan, Alexander Mika, and Shanelle Jones! Wood Hall would like to thank Professors Sara Silverstein, Joel Blatt, Frank Costigliola, and Alexis Dudden (among others) for their dedication to assisting and mentoring these students. See below for details of each student:


Jenifer Gaitan

Major: History
Project Title: Voces: First-Generation Latinx Students Discuss Their Support Networks
Committee: Laura Bunyan, Sociology (Chair); Ingrid Semaan, Sociology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Joel Blatt, History


Shanelle Jones

Major: Political Science and Human Rights
Project Title: Untold Stories of the African Diaspora: The Lived Experiences of Black Caribbean Immigrants in the U.S.
Committee: Charles Venator-Santiago, Political Science (Chair); Virginia Hettinger, Political Science; and Sara Silverstein, History and Human Rights


Alexander Mika

Major: English
Project Title: An Exploration of Nationalism and Jingoism through Drama
Committee: Ellen Litman, English (Chair); Evelyn Tribble, English; and Frank Costigliola, History


Shankara Narayanan

Major: Political Science and History
Project Title:  The Logic of Rising-Power Strategy: China, Imperial Japan, Imperial Germany, and the United States
Committee: Alexis Dudden, History; Alexander Anievas, Political Science; and Frank Costigliola, History

UConn-Stamford Student, Isabella Ferrante ’19, featured in UConn Today

Isabella FerranteOn October 15, UConn Today’s “Meet the Researcher” spotlight featured UConn-Stamford Honors Student, Isabella Ferrante ’19, whose passion for history has led her to researching “shell shock” before and after WWI. A History major with two minors in English and Psychology, Ferrante’s research endeavors garnered her a Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) grant from UConn’s Office of Undergraduate Research to research at the British National Archives this past summer. According to Ferrante, the opportunity was “incredible” for her academic research and personal growth. The grant helped further an already impressive project that combines archival research with contemporary psychology publications and the memoirs of veterans.

To read more about Ferrante and her research, click here.



HNN Article by UConn History Graduate, Rohit Kandala ’19

Rohit Kandala spotlightUConn History alum, Rohit Kandala ’19, published an article on the George Washington University’s History News Network in June 2019. Titled “Make History Accessible: The Case for Youtube,” the article provides a glimpse at Kandala’s senior thesis that presented Youtube as a tool for the history community to increase public interest and knowledge. Kandala was advised by Professor Frank Costigliola.

Since graduating in May, Kandala has moved to Washington, DC to work as an analyst for Flag Media Analytics. Congrats, Rohit!

Undergrad alum Regan Miner named part-time Executive Director at NHS

Miner NHS Guided Tour

Regan Miner, UConn History Major and class of 2013, was named part-time Executive Director at the Norwich Historical Society (NHS). Miner, a Norwich native, previously served as a consultant to the NHS during which she amassed over $120,000 in grant funding over the span of six months to restore the 18th Century Daniel Lathrop Schoolhouse, now home to the Norwich Heritage andRegional Visitors’ Center, to create the “Discover Norwich” exhibit, and to organize the Walk Norwich Self guided trails. 

With a Master’s degree in public history from Central Connecticut State University, Miner also serves as part-time associate director at the New London County Historical Society. In 2016, she received the 40 under 40 Award and the Connecticut Governor’s Conference on Tourism Rising Star Award. In 2018, she added the Mimi Findlay Award for Young Preservationists to her list of accomplishments.

Take History BACK from White Supremacists

by undergraduate student, Rohit Kandala ’19

On March 15, 2019, the world stood in silence as 50 people were massacred and 50 more were injured in the Christchurch mosque shootings. I remember waking up that morning and staying silent for a couple hours as the news reports started to pour in. Throughout the entire ordeal, what saddened me most was that Christchurch wasn’t a surprise—and no one can pretend that it was a coincidence.

Luckily, most media outlets no longer phrase the systematic and global problem of white supremacy as a “rising threat”—it’s already clear that it’s here and it’s not a fringe movement. But, this article isn’t about white supremacy as much as it is about how history has been kidnapped and corrupted by this movement to serve its perverse needs. Misinformation is the problem.

Before I go further, I have two conditions: I will not list the perpetrator’s name as that is exactly what he and his movement want and I will list two assumptions I have:

1. Currently, History is expressed through more mediums than ever. While, K-12 education is still formative, online mediums like Facebook & YouTube are increasingly used more often either for education or entertainment. Unfortunately, most of weaponized history also occurs on these new and less regulated platforms.

2. Fortunately or unfortunately, History is fluid & is constantly re-shaping itself. This results in different interpretations over time, and people can exploit that to create the representation they’d like.

Both these statements, which I hold to be true, have wide-ranging effects on History and how it’s understood.

First off, the fact that history is now more accessible because of advances in digital communications is a great thing! In fact, it’s a cost-efficient method to reverse the worrying trend of apathy for history amongst the public. I am an adamant supporter of using YouTube as a social media platform for history enthusiasts and professionals alike—it’s the future that history needs to adapt to. But, the accessibility of these services also allow figures such as Alex Jones (who had 2,431,237 subscribers before YouTube disbanded his channel[1]), Stefan Molyneux (911,000 subscribers[2]), and Sargon of Akkad (927,000 subscribers[3]) to flourish and promote their “free-thinking and rational community”.

That’s BS.

All these channels are not the same, but they are enablers for white supremacists to thrive in today’s information age. No channel wants to outright promote “hate speech” or “racism” that violate community guidelines—but they construct bloated arguments with a thin sprinkle of facts that let the viewer, an impressionable male usually in their early-to-mid 20s, “come” to the conclusion that white supremacy is supported by history. For example, “Replacement Theory”—which motivated the perpetrator to do what he did—is a very popular theory covered by YouTuber Lauren Southern (she has 699,000 subscribers while the video has 647,119 views[4]). But, these channels grow even more impactful on online messaging boards like Reddit and 4chan—which are far less moderated and thus even more crass.

This brings me to my second point: the fluid nature of history. Historians rarely agree even on the most minute of details, but we do agree that history is subjective and dependent on the person who wrote it. At UConn, we learn this in our HIST 2100, “Historian’s Craft” class in order to become better historical thinkers. No serious historian thinks of history as deterministic and if they do—they’re probably from the 19th century. This ability to manipulate information like this allows for white supremacy opinion leaders to cater to their audience while barely carrying the “I’m a legitimate historian” card. Moreover, if they’re actually judged by the same intellectual rigor students and academics are put through—they can claim to be “entertainers”. You cannot claim to be both, and if you do, you are none of those things.

This point brings me to my solution to the misinformation problem—and it is not an easy problem to fix. Yet, one thing is clear, accessibility should not be tampered with. It is the internet’s, and by extension, YouTube’s greatest strength. Rather, the solution lies in education. As stated above, students of history, if studied seriously, are subjected to historical analysis standards. A good analysis would have high quality sources, a strong thesis that is prevalent through the entire paper, and an overwhelming amount of evidence. How does this apply to online spaces like YouTube? For example, the quickest way to debunk an argument in favor of scientific racism is to evaluate the quality of the sources. Oftentimes, they are poor in quality and that is more than enough to de-rail said argument. Historical analysis is a learned skill and educating (or even simply maintaining an online presence) people about it could go a long way.

Again, I am hopeful—probably foolishly so. At least, the mass media is starting to acknowledge the historical misinformation in the digital space. A recent article by the NY Times succinctly and clearly defined the problem behind “Replacement Theory” and how it’s a continuation of the problem. But, pointing the problem simply won’t do. White supremacists don’t read the NY Times or traditional media outlets, they go on YouTube, Facebook, Reddit, 4chan, Twitter and other networks[5].

That’s why I insisted on posting this on The History Department’s website at UConn—my audience is my professors, grad/Ph.D students, and (some) undergraduates. We are trained to think historically at a time when our discipline is being trampled because we haven’t properly adapted to digital spaces (although there’s been some recent breakthroughs in public history).

It’s time to take back history to what it’s about. We are all interested in history for various reasons. Some of us are obsessed with maps, some with battle dates, some with political history, and some with area studies. But, we all appreciate the past for what it is, and it’s our duty to inform others of worrying trends, misinformation, and hopefully how great studying history can be. History isn’t about hate or love—it’s about empathy and “how”.

If not, New Zealand—a country that continually strives to be better for all its peoples—and others like it will take the fall. Please—let this be the last. When someone asks me to write about this period 50 years from now, I’d like to say that New Zealand was the turning point when we historians banded together and proactively swept away the pseudo-intellectualism of white supremacy.

And if the problem still seems like a world away and a tiny threat (even though the internet isn’t dependent on location)—just take a peek in your backyard[6].


[1] “The Alex Jones Channel”, Channel User Statistics, Socialblade, accessed March 26, 2019, https://socialblade.com/youtube/user/thealexjoneschannel

[2] “Stefan Molyneux”, Channel User Statistics, Socialblade, accessed March 26, 2019, https://socialblade.com/youtube/user/stefbot

[3]  “Sargon of Akkad”, Channel User Statistics, Socialblade, accessed March 26, 2019, https://socialblade.com/youtube/user/sargonofakkad100

[4] “Lauren Southern”, Channel User Statistics, Socialblade, accessed March 26, 2019, https://socialblade.com/youtube/channel/UCla6APLHX6W3FeNLc8PYuvg

[5] Emma Grey Ellis, “The Year the Alt-Right Went Underground,” WIRED, January 1, 2019, https://www.wired.com/story/alt-right-went-underground/

[6] Rachel Philipson, “Known white nationalist organization flyers appear on UConn campus”, The Daily Campus, March 14, 2019, http://dailycampus.com/stories/2019/3/14/known-white-nationalist-organization-flyers-appear-on-uconn-campus