Letter from the Chair, August 2020

Let me begin with what matters most: I hope that you and your family are healthy and safe in the midst of the global pandemic.

Put simply, this is the most difficult letter I’ve written to our alumni, because it involves both the emotional challenge of revisiting one of the most difficult semesters I’ve seen in 22 years at Washington University and the intellectual challenge of describing a set of complex and interlocking events.

With that said, I would like to share with you our experiences at WashU over the past few months. That will involve a discussion of two events beyond the university: the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement for racial justice. 

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New Members of the Department

Associate Professor

Flora Cassen, PhD

Most recently, Cassen served on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her 2017 book, Marking the Jews in Renaissance Italy: Politics, Religion, and the Power of Symbols, published by Cambridge University Press, offers an analysis of the discriminatory marks that the Jews were compelled to wear in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. Her second book project studies how Italian Jews became subjects of the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth century, and how they understood the empire’s colonial endeavors in the Americas.

Visiting Lecturer

Kristoffer Smemo, PhD

Smemo is a historian of the United States specializing in social movements, political parties, public policy, and urban spaces in the long twentieth century. He teaches introductory survey courses and specialized classes on the social and political histories of the United States and the world.

Assistant Professor

Uluğ Kuzuoğlu

Kuzuoğlu’s research interests lie in modern China, Central Asia, and Ottoman Empire. His current book project, Codes of Modernity: Chinese Scripts in the Global Information Age, explores the history of script reforms in China and the world during the 19th and 20th centuries. While earning his doctorate from Columbia University, Kuzuoğlu conducted research in the PRC, Taiwan, Russia, and Turkey. This semester, he is teaching “Science and Technology in East Asia” and “Topics in History and Technology: A History of Information.”

Elizabeth Reynolds

Postdoctoral Fellow

Reynolds studies Tibetan and Chinese History. Her dissertation, tentatively entitled “Economies of the High Plateau: Monasteries, Merchants, and Ulak Transportation in Tibet, 1904-1959”, delves into the world of Kham, a Tibetan region at the epicenter of Chinese and Tibetan political struggles of the 20th century. She is a doctoral candidate in the History-East Asia Program focusing on Tibetan and Chinese History. Her research interests include economic and social history of Tibet from the 19th to 20th centuries with a particular focus on monastic economies, currency, taxation, labor systems, and trade networks in Tibet and East Asia.

Kevin Butterfield (PhD, '10)

"It's really an honor to be here every day and to know that I’m just steps away from the mansion itself, from Mount Vernon, which was the first White House of the United States."

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Yael Fuchs (AB, '98)

Big picture, my time at WashU helped teach me how to think. It may be a cliché but it's a true one. My time as a history major taught me to think about the forces that shape our society, and to think critically and skeptically about any fixed self-perception we may have as a society.

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Dennis Openlander (AB, '06)

Ultimately my college education and life experiences taught me to genuinely question everything. I think it helped me to go deeper for the real source of information and ideas, and then challenge those sources of information.

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Georgina Glogovac (AB, '14)

By participating in discussions with people that had differing opinions, I learned how to listen to others, see multiple sides to an argument, and articulate my own position on a subject. These skills have come in handy both when trying to understand medical decisions from a patient's perspective and when making decisions with medical colleagues.

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In the Media

faculty interviews and editorials

See more faculty media appearances

Juneteenth: America remembers the abolition of slavery

Sowande' Mustakeem St. Louis Public Radio

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These Washington University faculty had rejected online classes — until coronavirus. Here’s how they made the switch.

Peter Kastor The Washington Post

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The need for Black history on the syllabus

Douglas Flowe OXY Media

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