The History Department at the University of Rhode Island recently welcomed two new professors to their faculty.
While both are experts on Early American History, they each have particular specialties that are shown through their education, extensive research and work.
One of the new professors, Marcus Nevius, specializes in this history of slavery and the other, Christian Gonzales, specializes in Native American History. Associate Professor in the History Department, Evelyn Sterne chaired this job search and said she is very excited to see what these new professors can bring to the department.
Sterne explained how these professors are replacing the two other colonialist-specialized professors who retired a few years ago. While some of the faculty has stepped up in the last few years to teach those courses, Sterne explains how “[these professors stepping forward] have different specialties… [these topics are] not their particular research, specialties, or interest.” Not only that, but by taking on these other courses, these professors are not able to teach in their specific field, taking away from their primary courses.
Sterne stresses the importance of having history courses that focus on the American Colonial Period, especially with it being in an American University. But she also explains how “a focus on race is really important in telling this story… history is not just a white or European American story, it’s a really fascinating, complex, multi-racial story.” That is how these new professors will help.
In fact, this is something that Winifred Brownell, Dean of the Arts and Sciences College, stresses as well. “There’s a lot of violence in the world, marginalization, discrimination and we need to have greater understanding of the history of these conflicts and where these issues originate from,” explains Brownell.
Sterne explains that this is what the program wants to show its students. “We want to diversify our curriculum and expand our curriculum,” Sterne said.
The program is working to diversify the curriculum particularly through different specialized concentrations such as Native American and the history of slavery. Diversity is something that Brownell herself is very interested in.
“We recognize that our country is diversifying rapidly,” Brownell explains. “These hires are part of an initiative by the Provost to bring on board new faculty… it’s critical that we hire faculty who have an understanding, an expertise in issues that deal with race and ethnicity.”
With new general education requirements that stress the importance of diversity, these professors will be a great contribution.
The College of Arts and Sciences has also recently hired another professor in the philosophy department, James Benjamin Haile, who specializes in the philosophy of race. Brownell explains how these new professors are integral to their programs. “They recognize the importance of learning about this history, learning about this philosophy, in hopes that students will have a richer experience and a better life,” she says.
Brownell stresses the importance of having diversity in the programs. “We need diversity because it enriches the experience we gain by understanding other people, their life stories, their histories, their culture, their economics, their art, their food…. All of these things are important,” she explains. By learning all this, Brownell believes that it will help the students – the future of the world –move a step forward towards world peace as well as just a general acceptance of the diverse people around us.
The College of Arts and Sciences is still hiring new faculty for the coming year, picking the applicants who show both exemplary research skills as well as exhibit strong teaching abilities. Haile, Nevius and Gonzales will all be teaching courses this coming fall.