Friday, September 23, 2011

Graduate Assistant Spotlight: Christina Sahovey

We're excited to continue our Graduate Assistant Spotlight series here on our blog. You've already met Public History graduate student and assistant Regina Brinza.

Next up? Meet Christina Sahovey, a graduate student and graduate assistant in the Historical Studies Program. 


Undergraduate Institution: 
Chatham University

Undergraduate Major: 
History, with a concentration in US History.

I'm from Pittsburgh originally (Squirrel Hill, to be specific)


Favorite Movie: 
Almost Famous

Favorite Historical Period: 
Twentieth century, particularly the 1960s

Extracurricular Activities in College: 
I worked in the library, volunteered at Alumni Reunion Weekend, and served on the Senior Gift Committee

Little Known Fact About You: 
I used to play piano, guitar, and bass guitar, beginning when I was a young child.  I still like to dabble occasionally on guitar and bass in my free time, just as a hobby.

What area of history are you focusing on in your graduate career here at Duquesne University? 
I'm hoping to hone in my studies to focus on American urban history.

What are some of the responsibilities you will have as a graduate assistant here in the department?  Who are the faculty members you’ll be assisting?
I have been assigned to Dr. Mayer, Dr. Blatz, and Dr. Coohill (who is currently on sabbatical).  So far for this semester, I will mainly be helping Drs. Mayer and Blatz on research assignments.

How do you like Pittsburgh? 
I like it here in my hometown.  Pittsburgh is a good-sized city -- not too overwhelmingly big, but still large enough to have fun things to do.  Plus I'm kind of fascinated by ethnicity in cities (which goes back to my interest in urban history), so I love that we still have our ethnic enclaves throughout the city.

What are your plans (or your dreams) for after you finish your M.A.? 
Gosh, I haven't really thought that far in advance!  Right now, I'm actually considering becoming an academic librarian, so I'll probably go for my MLIS degree fairly soon thereafter and hopefully work in a university library. 

What is one of the things you’re most excited to experience here at Duquesne/in Pittsburgh? 
Coming from Chatham, a tiny liberal arts college, I'm excited to experience life and academics in a larger university.  I think I'll have some great opportunities to focus more on my interest in urban history here at Duquesne.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Julia A. Sienkewicz

The History Department doesn't just deal with regular history--you know, dates and events and the like. It also houses the Art History Program, led by Dr. Madeline C. Archer. This year, we have the pleasure of welcoming a fantastic new faculty member to an already highly talented group of scholars.

Let us introduce you to Dr. Julia A. Sienkewicz, Assistant Professor of Art History, who comes to us from a previous teaching post at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama.

Dr. Sienkewicz in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

1. Why did you decide to become an art historian?

Interestingly, I did not really make my final decision about being a professional art historian until I was already enrolled at the University of Illinois and completing my Master's degree in Art History. I had always planned to subsequently pursue an M.Arch and go on to practice architecture, but at a certain point I realized that I was enjoying my work in art history too much to even consider doing anything else.

2. If you weren’t teaching art history, what would you be doing?

I guess I would probably be working in historic preservation (see my answer to question 1).

3. Is there some interesting information about Pittsburgh art that you’d like to share?

That's really a question to ask me again sometime in a year or two! For now, I will just reflect that driving by H. H. Richardson's "Allegheny County Courthouse" everyday on my commute to work is just about as special as it gets!

4. What one book would you recommend to every student of art history?

One book that I always look back to for inspiration when I think I've reached a dead end in my research is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's "The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth". She really shows how much can be done with even the seemingly simplest of objects.
Dr. Sienkewicz with her two dogs, Artemis (in the background) and Redbone (in the foreground), during a visit to campus one day.

5. The classic dinner question—which artists (up to 5), living or deceased, would you have to dinner? And just as important—what is the main course?

That's actually a really easy one! Two of the artists that I work on--Horatio Greenough and Thomas Cole--were really good friends and I think that they jointly developed some of their key ideas about American art and architecture in person (and probably over dinner) while they were both living in Florence, Italy. So, I would have to invite the two of them. To round out the dinner party, I might also invite their good friends Samuel F. B. Morse and James Fenimore Cooper (who were also in Florence at around the same time and also believed in the importance of developing an American art). As to what we would eat, I guess that in honor of Florence, my vote would have to be for Ribollita (one of my favorite Tuscan dishes, which is a hearty soup made with bread and veggies). The dessert of vin santo and cantucci (almond biscotti) would be the real key to get them talking, though. Of course, this is only the first and final courses of a true Italian meal, but I would have to think on the rest of the menu!

6. Does art history repeat itself?

Certainly many themes, concerns, and interests of artists repeat themselves. Also, many artists find inspiration in the work of their predecessors. That said, though, no, I really think that all works are historically, culturally, and socially grounded in ways that make them uniquely fascinating from their predecessors.

7. What historical location and during what time period would you have liked to live?

Being a woman and somewhat of a feminist, I am really grateful to live in the here and now, as well as in the United States. For the convenience of my research, though, there would be a lot to be said for being around in the 1830s in Washington, D.C. and/or Florence, Italy!

8. What is your favorite historical era or moment?

It is probably already clear from my answers thus far, but I am really fascinated by the complexities of the United States (and really of transatlantic culture) between about 1790 and 1850.

9. What is the most significant historical moment you have known in your lifetime?

There have been many important ones. I guess like most people in the United States today, though, I would have to answer 9/11. As a scholar interested in the history and stakes of American democracy, I think that one day changed many things more than any other single event.

10. If you could teach any course on art history, what would the course be? Or do you already get to teach that course?

I am working on a number of course concepts right now--stay tuned for a few new additions to the course catalog! The truth is that even the basic surveys of art history can be a treat to teach, because I just really enjoy the opportunity to introduce students to the exciting discipline of art history, which is something so few students get the opportunity to study in high school. Probably my dream course, which I hope to experiment with at Duquesne sometime soon, would be "Democracy and Material Culture," in which we would study the art of the United States between, roughly, 1790 and 1850. We would study paintings, prints, buildings, sculptures and landscapes (in other words, the complete impact of the material environment) in order to identify what connections exist between the art produced in this period and the rhetoric of nationalism put forward by artists and social theorists alike in this period.
Thanks, Dr. Sienkewicz, for telling us a little bit more about yourself! And readers, you can check out Dr. Sienkewicz's faculty page on our department website. Finally, if you'd like to learn more about some of our other faculty members, check out our previous Faculty Spotlight posts!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Graduate Assistant Spotlight: Regina Brinza

Each fall, the History Department awards graduate assistantship positions to outstanding students, providing for them full tuition, a modest stipend, and the opportunity to engage in research and other scholarly activities under the supervision of a faculty member. 

And each year, we like to highlight those graduate assistants on our blog. To start off the 2011-2012 academic year, we would like to introduce you to Regina Brinza, a graduate student in the Public History Program.


Undergraduate Institution:
Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, PA

Undergraduate Major:
History, with minors in Public History and Sociology

Greensburg, PA


Favorite Movie:
Out of the more serious genres, I'd pick V for Vendetta or The Truman Show. As for comedies, The Producers and The Ladykillers are high on my list. 

Favorite Historical Period:
Late 19th and early 20th century U.S. - industrialization is fascinating.

Extracurricular Activities in College:
I was president of Saint Vincent's chapter of Phi Alpha Theta. I also volunteered at the Westmoreland County Historical Society and sang in one of the college choirs.  My work-study positions were in Financial Aid, the History Department, and a small museum on campus called the Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery, which exhibits woven blankets and textile processing tools.

Little Known Fact About You:
I recently joined a pinball league, which I found to be surprisingly addictive and challenging.

What area of history are you focusing on in your graduate career here at Duquesne University?
Standardization is a major theme in the industrialization of the U.S., so I'd like to explore the general public's increased access to information as enabled by rail travel, wired communications, and mass consumption of print catalogs and magazines.   I'm on the Public History track and will take the professional courses for archival and museum studies.

What are some of the responsibilities you will have as a graduate assistant here in the department?  Who are the faculty members you’ll be assisting?
I'll be assisting Drs. Jay Dwyer and Jay Li in bibliographical research, finding relevant research grants, and other various tasks that may come up as the semester progresses and as they work on writing projects.

How do you like Pittsburgh?
It's even better than I expected.  Navigation of these unpredictable Pittsburgh roads isn't so bad.  Plus, there have been festivals and other events in the city every weekend.  Even though it's no major metropolis, the city and surrounding area has more museums, restaurants, bars, parks, and other places to go than a person could visit in two years.

What are your plans (or your dreams) for after you finish your M.A.?
Although cultural institutions are taking a hard hit in this economy, I hope to be working in collections at a museum in the Northeast (or perhaps the Midwest).  It might also be rewarding to work for the National Park Service.

What is one of the things you’re most excited to experience here at Duquesne/in Pittsburgh? I can't wait to start an internship, because all of my experience so far has been at small institutions.  It will be interesting to see whether or not I prefer the atmosphere at a larger one.  Plus, I'd like to continue whittling down my gargantuan "to-visit" list of Pittsburgh attractions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tony Horwitz's NCPH Plenary

Check out Tony Horwitz's keynote presentation at the National Council on Public History (NCPH) Annual Meeting. His talk raises intriguing questions, especially for those in the field of Public History.