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History Faculty Receives Twin Fellowships

CSULB’s History Department drew a rare double honor when faculty members Caitlin Murdock and Marie Kelleher received twin fellowships from the prestigious American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) for the 2007-08 academic year.

“Getting even one of these is a coup for a department, but getting two in the same year (especially for two junior scholars) is just unprecedented,” said Kelleher, who joined the university in 2003. Kelleher also was recognized recently with a one-year Solmsen Postdoctoral Fellowship sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, which she began in August.

The ACLS is a private, non-profit federation of 69 national scholarly organizations with a mission to advance humanistic studies in all fields of learning in the humanities and the social sciences and to maintain and strengthen relations among the national societies devoted to such studies. The ACLS fellowships permit scholars to devote a full year to research and writing in such fields as literatures and languages, history, anthropology, political theory, philosophy, classics, religion, art history, linguistics, musicology and the study of diverse world civilizations and cultures. More than 3,000 scholars have held ACLS fellowships in the past 60 years.

“I am delighted to be recognized after a national competition that drew more than 1,000 applicants,” said Murdock, who also joined the university in 2003. “This kind of recognition often goes to more conventionally research-oriented institutions. For me, part of what is important, particularly in light of CSULB’s shift toward an emphasis on scholarship in addition to teaching, is for junior faculty to have time to write. This will give me that time and help me to be in better contact with my field as well as to recharge my teaching batteries.”

Murdock will use her fellowship to support a year’s research into her next book titled Changing Places: Mobilizing Society, Culture and Territory in Central Europe’s Borderlands, 1870-1938. Her research explores the story of the border between Germany and Czechoslovakia, and how the fluidity of modernizing societies has pushed the creation of borders. “I’m looking at a specific place, but the definition of borders is a part of modern life around the globe,” she said. “We see similar dynamics on the U.S.-Mexico border, and between new E.U. states and their eastern neighbors. And, we’ll understand our own experiences in defining and controlling borders better if we understand how they’ve changed in the past.”

Kelleher will combine her ACLS and Solmsen fellowships to spend the academic year 2007-08 completing her book The Measure of Woman: Gender and Legal Culture in Medieval Spain. “Even more than wanting to write this book, I’ve found that I want to read it,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.” Kelleher’s book will examine 14th century women and legal culture in the northeastern region of Spain known in the Middle Ages as “the crown of Aragon.” I’m looking at the relationship between law and women as part of an ongoing conversation about gender in which women participate. I believe that, in the process of litigation, women influenced the creation of the categories that defined them, both legally and socially. I want to get at how women, knowingly or not, engage with the gender assumptions that underpin the larger structures that define their lives.”

Kelleher’s Solmsen fellowship supports scholars working on literary and historical studies of the European classical, medieval and renaissance periods up to the year 1700. Other Solmsen honorees this year represent such campuses as Cambridge University, McGill University, Xavier University and the University of Memphis. “It’s not just the fellowships that support us but also the support of the History Department, the College of Liberal Arts and CSULB,” said Kelleher. “They say, go away for a year and do your research and writing because we know you will be a more productive member of the department, the college and the university as a whole when you return.” Murdock received a Faculty Scholarly and Creative Activity Award (SCAC) in 2007 to study “German National Territory during the Great Depression.” She earned her bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College, her master’s from Atlanta’s Emory University and her doctorate in 2003 from Stanford.

Kelleher also received a SCAC for the most recent academic year that allowed her to complete one of her early book chapters. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Portland’s Lewis and Clark College and her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. 

“Grants like these make a huge difference in recruiting new faculty at CSULB,” said Murdock. “I have served on two search committees and I know what differences scholarships can make. Plus, receiving an ACLS fellowship is important in terms of recognition for scholars in their fields. The fact is, the more these granting agencies see strong applications from Cal State Long Beach, the better we do when applying for other scholarships.”

Kelleher encourages faculty to persist in their pursuit of external research funding.

"I applied for three this year; I wound up with two. It takes time and luck," she said. "I suggest CSULB faculty sign up for the grant-writing workshops available on campus every January. Having time to devote to research allows you to fall in love with your field of study all over again. You come back to the classroom with that much more enthusiasm, and I think that is absolutely critical for the success of any department’s mission.”