Catch up on all the latest news, events and success stories and read more about the accomplishments, awards and accolades of the students, faculty and staff who make up the Department of History.
Dr. Jennifer Koshatka Seman to Speak About Her Book
Sunday, October 29, 2023
Dr. Koshatka Seman will be speaking at the Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California about her recent book, “Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo.” For more information, click here.
History Student Wins Award
Wednesday, October 25th, 2023
MSU Denver History Student, Justin Guy, won the prestigious President’s Award.
Ancient secrets unearthed in Cyprus
A team of students is headed to Larnaca this summer to continue excavating a 2,300-year-old military fort.
April 25, 2023
For most college students, a 5 a.m. start to the day is, well, pretty miserable. Yet last summer, a dozen students, including several from Metropolitan State University of Denver, willingly set their alarms for the predawn hour to take part in an archaeological dig in Larnaca, Cyprus. Most say they would willingly do it all again, said project leaders Brandon Olson, Ph.D., and Justin Stephens, Ph.D., faculty members in MSU Denver’s Department of History.
“They were always up and ready to go,” said Stephens. “They told me they were getting value from the work.”
That’s certainly the take from current senior Olivia Robinson, an Anthropologymajor, who participated in the study-abroad course in 2022. “I had never even heard of Cyprus before the trip,” she said. “But I wanted to get more field experience before graduating and this looked like a good opportunity.”
It was just that. Known as the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project, the actual site is called Vigla. Amazingly, it sat nearly untouched for 2,300 years, leaving it in pristine shape for a dig. It served as a military fort from circa 325 B.C. to 275 B.C., and after that, there is no evidence of habitation.
The fort likely played an important role in the wars of succession following Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C. By studying the site and unearthing its treasures, the MSU Denver team hopes to make significant contributions to the knowledge base of the Hellenistic Period, which dates from Alexander’s death to 31 B.C., when the last of the Hellenistic kingdoms was controlled by Rome.
This summer’s trip will span four weeks, as it has in the past. However, the 2023 version promises to bring more students into the fold as it gets back to size following the pandemic. Eleven MSU Denver students will participate this year, along with others from Reed College, Boston University, the University of South Carolina and the University of Michigan.
Each of the MSU Denver students attending the dig will take a three-unit class in Archaeology while abroad, and Stephens also teaches them a History class on the weekends as they travel around the island to visit other archaeology sites. This was a highlight for Robinson last summer.
“The weekend trips were really fun,” she said, “and they gave us a good understanding of what was happening at other sites.”
At the Vigla site, Robinson was particularly interested in the vast quantity of pottery the team turned up. “I’ve done field work in Golden before and found one tiny piece of pottery,” she said. “In Cyprus, we found bucketsful. It was a very cool experience for me.”
Pottery is just part of what the team has uncovered in its prior visits. In excavating fortification walls and entire rooms and chambers, the team over the years has discovered coins, weapons, dog bones and complete bowls. “There’s evidence of conflict, which may speak to efforts to take over Alexander (the Great)’s kingdom,” Stephens said.
Some of the team’s findings have already led to publication in high-impact journals and presentations at academic conferences, as well as in more consumer-facing publications. “The work has really allowed us to create history from the data we’re collecting at the site,” Olson said.
Olson has been associated with the project since 2006, when he attended as a grad student. As part of the 2016 team, he helped develop a new method of excavation that provides 3D imaging of finds. It’s a method that other teams have since adopted. “It’s been a formative experience for me personally,” said Olson, “and now I get to see it do the same for our students.”
Some of the MSU Denver students who have taken part had never been abroad prior to the trip, and it really opens up their worlds and provides them with an appreciation for the past, Olson said. For the three MSU Denver students who participated last summer, the experience was life-changing.
“They had such a good trip that word about the opportunity this year spread like wildfire,” Stephens said. “I’m excited to take a full group this year, and I’m hoping that we can get enough funding for next year to allow even more students the opportunity to go.”
With the early-morning start, which allowed the team to beat the summer heat, students usually had afternoons free to explore the island and soak up the local culture, food and more. Robinson loved it all.
“The trip solidified for me that archaeology is what I want to pursue as a career,” she said. “It gave me a really great understanding of field work, and it was incredibly rewarding.”
Stephen J. Leonard, Ph.D., has made Colorado history.
He began teaching at Metropolitan State University of Denver, then known as Metropolitan State College, in 1966 and remembers when the University was just “half a dozen rented buildings.”
Last semester, though, Leonard’s long career finally drew to an end. After 56 years as a professor and a past chair of MSU Denver’s Department of History, the historian is now a professor emeritus. Along the way, he developed a career as illustrious as his lengthy service to the University.
Leonard wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Denver’s immigrants and went on to cover everything from the state’s rough-and-tumble frontier days to its modern economy. His monumental “Colorado: A History of the Centennial State,” a textbook co-authored with Carl Abbott and Thomas J. Noel, is in its fifth edition. Other noteworthy volumes include “Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis” with Noel and “Trials and Triumphs: A Colorado Portrait of the Great Depression.” In addition to his work at the University, Leonard served on the Denver Landmark Commission for 15 years.
More recently, Leonard’s research on the 1918 influenza pandemic’s effects on the state has drawn attention in the age of Covid-19. And his 2002 book “Lynching in Colorado, 1859-1919” remains relevant as the nation grapples with racial injustice. Leonard got interested in the state’s uglier legacies “because I realized that history was often sanitized and sugarcoated by boosters and others who wanted it to serve their interests,” he said.
His decades-long career has drawn to an end. But the work, he says, should continue, as his students and colleagues will carry on the work he began. So what does he want them to know?
“They should question what they think they know,” Leonard said, “and explore what they don’t know.”
MSU Denver History Alum Carlos Nevares just won a competitive Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation Fellowship! Carlos is currently teaching American History and Geography and works as Esports Head Coach at Grandview High School in the Cherry Creek School District.
Carlos will join a select group of Fellows who will travel to Poland this summer and immerse themselves in the study and teaching of Holocaust history. Then he will share his expertise next year with students at Grandview. “This was really a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Carlos noted, “and I couldn’t pass it up.”
Carlos began his MSU Denver coursework after serving for seven years with the U.S. Marine Corps. He was an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operator and Combat Marksmanship trainer. Reflecting back on his military service, Carlos said: “In the Marine Corps I was entrusted with the personal and professional development of young men and women. That mentorship aspect of being a Marine was extremely rewarding to me, so I thought the natural job field I should pursue was being a high school history teacher.”
The MSU Denver Department of History congratulates Carlos on this exciting opportunity. We were delighted that you chose to study History and Education with us.
Current Success Stories
Justin Guy named a Pat Krupa 2022 Award Recipient. Justin Guy found his first volunteer experience with History Colorado as an education intern to be very rewarding. His fresh enthusiasm and love of learning overflowed into his work as a school tour facilitator. So, when his internship hours were fulfilled, he decided to continue on as a regular volunteer! Justin was nominated by Josie Chang-Order, School Programs Manager.
“Written on the Land” is the exhibit Justin most enjoys sharing with his young learners. This exhibit tells the story of Colorado’s longest, continuous residents, in their own words. Justin explained, “I am part Native American myself, and I think maybe that has helped me create a unique way of teaching the exhibit. I try to tell my students the truth, covering the good and the bad. The kids can understand it, and it’s important to me that they learn the whole story.”
One of Justin’s top qualities is his wonderfully honest sense of humor (which must make him a big hit with the students). The following description of one of his early “learnings” about working with the kids is a perfect example. After a failed attempt to get the class to go down the stairs in an orderly fashion resulted in a scattered, ill-timed process, he reflected, “I didn’t know how to explain to them about rules! I just thought they would listen and follow my directions. It took me a while to figure out how to get the kids to walk up and down the stairs like I wanted them to, but NOW when you see me with a class on the stairs, there are no problems!”
Justin is excited to be a part of the History Colorado volunteer team. He explained, “This museum is a special place and volunteers are a big part of that.”
When asked how he felt about being a 2022 recipient of the Pat Krupa Award, Justin’s answer showed his innate generosity of spirit: “It’s an honor I wasn’t expecting. I wish this award could be given to all our volunteers!”
Thank you, Justin, for all you do, and congratulations on this important recognition.
The Understanding the Holocaust, Genocide, and Mass Violence in the Public Imagination conference held in September 2022 was a huge success. The Opening Reception featured guest speakers: Phil Weiser, Colorado Attorney General; Joe Hutchinson, former Colorado Poet Laureate; and Renée Rudermann, poet and MSU Denver faculty emerita.
Dr. Laugen received the inaugural Gold Star Award for curriculum work from our Associate Vice President of Curriculum. This award recognizes a faculty member who “went above and beyond” in curriculum work. As most of us know, Dr. Laugen is tireless in his service to our students and department. In his former role as Chair of the Curriculum Committee, he helped steward many curriculum proposals to successful implementation, and he led the Herculean effort to get all our general studies courses approved for redesignation last fall. He has also served for several years on the university general studies task force.
Dr. Koshatka-Seman was named as a 2022 Colorado Book Award finalist in the category of “Biography” for her book, Borderlands Curanderos: The Worlds of Santa Teresa Urrea and Don Pedrito Jaramillo.
In March 2022, the University of Houston’s Center for Public History held a successful panel, consisting of historians, literary scholars, and a curandera, exploring the role of Mexican healing in American history and today’s society. The panel titled, “Curanderismo: Mexican Healing Practices in American Society”, explored the role and history of Mexican healing, and the relationship to community, healthcare, biomedicine, and COVID-19.
History faculty, Drs. Cristina Bejan and Andrea Maestrejuan, shared their expert knowledge of the conflict in Ukraine, in the pop-up panel discussion with MSU Denver President Davidson in March 2022. Dr. Kimberly Klimek, also a faculty member in the Department of History, moderated the discussion.
As part of the Global History at MSU Denver Series, Dr. Cristina Bejan, MSU Denver History Affiliate Faculty member, discussed their book, Intellectuals and Fascism in Interwar Romania: The Criterion Association. The conversation was led by MSU Denver alum Cardinal Tomczyk.
Past News and Success Stories
Don't miss out on all our wonderful news and success stories. Visit the Department of History Student Site to view stories from 2021 and before.