History Department Awards 2014-15 Best Seminar Paper

The History Department has awarded its second annual Best Seminar Paper award to Jonathan Mandia for his essay on the production and reception of an Egyptian travelogue written by Vivant Denon, a multitalented artist, engraver, and diplomat, during the failed Egyptian Campaign of the French Revolution.

Jonathan Mandia - History seminar

Jonathan Mandia

Mandia graduated in December 2014 with dual degrees in history and philosophy. He wrote the essay during the “Eighteenth-Century Travel” senior seminar taught by Associate Professor Heather Morrison. Faculty members who taught the history senior seminars, which also included “Republican Rome,” “Degeneration, Health and Modernity,” “Colonial Anglo-America” and “Race and Ethnicity in the United States,” selected outstanding papers, which were then considered by a prize committee.

Andy Evans, who chaired the department last year, said committee members praised the “clarity of the argument, the crispness of the writing, and the range of sources” employed in Mandia’s essay, entitled “Documenting Egypt, Reflecting Europe: Vivant Denon and the Representations of his Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt for the First French Republic.” Mandia received a small monetary award.

In the senior seminar, Mandia examined images of paintings and artifacts and analyzed the medium of travelogues as primary source materials. Mandia said discovering an 1804 edition of Denon’s travelogue in the Sojourner Truth Library allowed him the opportunity to explore two aspects of the seminar that he especially enjoyed.

Personally appointed by Napoleon Bonaparte, Denon was 51 when he embarked on the Egyptian Campaign in 1798. He catalogued Egypt’s artifacts, people, monuments and landscapes through written descriptions and elaborate sketches that were compiled into a two-volume travelogue entitled Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt, published shortly after his return to France in 1802.

In his essay, Mandia argued that Denon’s descriptions and images of a “foreign and mysterious Egypt reflected deep-seated European cultural values of the enlightenment.” The essay considers the influence on Denon’s work of the pseudo-science of physiognomy, which uses outward facial traits to deduce a person’s temperament or morality.

Mandia learned of the physiognomy movement, which was popularized in the eighteenth century by Johann Kasper Lavater, in a discussion with Morrison about Denon’s use of the word physiognomy in his travelogue. Mandia researched the eighteenth century salons of the enlightenment to better understand how the spaces Denon frequented influenced his descriptions of Egyptian people and culture.

“I found that Denon’s experiences as a noble, courtier, diplomat, artist, and writer…positioned him physically and intellectually to provide an interpretation of a foreign and unfamiliar Egypt that a European reader could understand, accept, and culturally consume,” said Mandia. “As an accomplished conversationalist, which was valued in his experiences at court and salons, Denon had a knack for engaging his audience, which shows in his writing and explains the influence of his travelogue.”

Mandia recently moved to Hawaii and plans to pursue graduate work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the future, studying history or secondary education.


LA&S Outstanding Graduates Honored

Students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who excelled academically and outside of the classroom were among graduates honored during the campus-wide Outstanding Graduate Awards ceremony, held Thursday, Dec. 11 in the Multi-Purpose Room.

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Philip Mauceri presented the students with certificates.

Congratulations to all LA&S Outstanding Graduates:

Alexis Moody

Asian Studies
Dennis Gross

Mia Faske
Carly Rome
Hayley Ward

Communication Disorders
Sarah McNamara
Shayna Burgess
Heidi Schmidt (Graduate)

Digital Media and Journalism
Gianna Canevari
Julio Olivencia
Alexandria Fontanez*

Maya Slouka
James Frauenberger
Karissa Keir
Danielle Brown (Graduate)

Kevin Vogelaar
Jessica Pierorazio (Graduate)
Jonathan Mandia*

Languages, Literatures & Cultures
Alexandria Fontanez*
Sarah Walling

Latin American & Caribbean Studies
Adam Repose

Elizabeth Saunders
Jonathan Mandia*

Political Science/International Relations
Andrew Roepe

Hannah Lake
Stefany Batista
Geoffrey Ralls
Morgan Gleason (Graduate)

Sarah Alestalo
Imuetinyan Odigie
Allison Smalley

Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Sudies
Emily Holmes

*Received multiple departmental awards.

History Department Colloquium Series Begins Nov. 12

Heather Morrison

Heather Morrison

Associate Professor Heather Morrison’s talk, “The Emperor’s New Plants: The Limits of Imperial Power in an Eighteenth Century Botanical Expedition,” will kick off a new History Department colloquium series, which will feature talks by department members on research in progress. The first talk will be held Wednesday, Nov. 12 from 2-3 p.m. in Jacobson Faculty Tower 1010.

The colloquium is not a series of lectures, but rather group discussions of unpublished works such as the paper by Morrison, who is writing a book on an Austrian botanical expedition in the Age of Enlightenment.

Colloquium papers will circulate beforehand. All are welcome, but participants should read the essay in advance. To receive a copy of the essay, please contact History Department Chair Andy Evans at evansa@newpaltz.edu.

Below is a description of Morrison’s paper:

Towards the beginning of Joseph II’s sole rule in the 1780s, an unfortunate greenhouse disaster ruined much of the exotic plant collection for the palace of Schönbrunn. The Emperor was in the midst of internal reforms and cost-cutting and had little interest in financing a large-scale scientific endeavor, yet an emperor in the eighteenth century must have his plants. The court chose five men with background in the theoretical knowledge of the natural sciences or practical experience with collecting or drawing plants, outfitted them, and sent them off with detailed instructions and elaborate financial arrangements to journey to the “four other parts of the world.” Things did not work as minutely planned. The five managed to make it to North America after months of waiting in the Netherlands, and then the expedition divided and collapsed in the face of personal divisions, financial problems, and large-scale destruction of living plants and animals. Imperial patronage for a scientific expedition was expected to produce an increase in the Empire’s prestige through both the expansion of its collections in the gardens, menagerie, and natural history cabinet and its ability to support a grand international scientific endeavor. This paper will explore how the structure of the Habsburg Monarchy’s internal and international power led to some of the organizational failures of their Imperial Expedition.


Dylan, Bowie and Beyond: An Evening with D.A. Pennebaker

D.A. Pennebaker

D.A. Pennebaker

By Despina Williams Parker

Legendary documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker stood to deliver a talk in Lecture Center 100 on the evening of Oct. 29, following a video retrospective of career milestones such as Don’t Look Back, Crisis and The War Room.

He’d not prepared any comments or seemed to have given much thought to what he might tell the assemblage of digital media faculty, aspiring young filmmakers and fans of his acclaimed documentaries. Pennebaker turned to Lecturer Thomas Cznarty, who delivered his introduction, and asked what, exactly, he was supposed to say.

Later, Pennebaker would call the meticulous planning and scripting of ideas a “yellow pad process,” one that he has never embraced in his art or life.

“I never plan anything, because it would be like planning a love affair,” Pennebaker said. “What would you plan? Everything is a new and wonderful thing that attracts you and comes to you. The idea of planning it negates the whole idea.”

In a fascinating lecture about technology, the power of chance and working without a script, Pennebaker said he was drawn to documentary filmmaking as an art form because it most faithfully realizes the camera’s true potential as an instrument of discovery.

“You tend to go into it to see what will happen, not necessarily to create legends,” Pennebaker said. “You want to use your camera as a way of finding out something that interests you, and as long as it interests you, you keep going.”

Don't Look Back Monterey Pop The War Room

His interest in musicians, which Pennebaker attributed to his boyhood in Chicago – a city “bursting with music” – led him to film some of the most iconic performers of the 60s and 70s.

Pennebaker’s seminal film, Don’t Look Back (1967), which documents Bob Dylan’s last acoustic tour, came about by chance, when Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman invited him to film the artist in England.

Such fortuitous events are a hallmark of Pennebaker’s career, which spans six decades. Pennebaker never searched for cultural icons; they came to him.

“They just barge right into our lives,” he said.

Before filming Don’t Look Back, Pennebaker had only heard one Dylan song on the radio and read an unflattering Time magazine profile, which called him a mediocre folk artist.

Pennebaker said he had not set out to make a music film, but a documentary “about a person who might be a poet.” Dylan’s signature turns of phrase captivated Pennebaker, who said the singer was “able to say things in a kind of condensed way, which great poets do.”

In filming Dylan, Pennebaker said he knew that the singer “was going to spend his life trying to figure out who or what he is, and he’s going to do that through his music.”

Pennebaker’s next film, Monterey Pop, a recording of the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, captured iconic performances by emerging rock legends Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

In the early 1960s, Pennebaker and colleague Richard Leacock developed a portable camera and synchronized sound recording system that gave unprecedented access to musicians on stage, and revolutionized concert filmmaking.

Pennebaker said he arrived at the festival with five volunteer cameramen shooting with the “homemade cameras” that he worried would malfunction at any moment. Though he would not see the footage until he returned to New York, Pennebaker realized that he was witnessing musical history.

Pennebaker recalled making the decision to send two of his least experienced cameramen to film Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, after rationalizing that “no one here listens to Indian music.” Shankar’s performance would wow concert goers and become one of the film’s highlights.

“When I see the film it amazes me,” Pennebaker said. “You watch two guys learn how to be filmmakers in front of your eyes.”

In his concert films, Pennebaker had a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

In 1973, RCA Records commissioned Pennebaker to shoot promotional footage of David Bowie performing as the androgynous alien rock star, Ziggy Stardust. During the concert, Bowie made the announcement that it would be his last performance as the Ziggy Stardust character – which shocked the band as well as the audience.

“Everything about it was a surprise, but the biggest surprise was when he sang, the whole audience would do back-up,” Pennebaker recalled. “It was such an amazing sound. It was like hearing gospel; it had a religious quality to it.”

Pennebaker knew that he had captured something special, and spent the next month working with Bowie to mix the tracks.

“He was terrific. He wanted that film to be good,” Pennebaker said. The film, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, was released in 1973.

Beyond his classic concert films, Pennebaker provided an insider’s look into Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign in the Oscar-nominated The War Room (1994) and most recently, profiled dueling chefs competing in a prestigious French pastry competition in the documentary Kings of Pastry (2009). He co-directed both films with his wife and longtime collaborator, Chris Hegedus.

Much like most of the great films of Pennebaker’s career, Hegedus came knocking at his door. Hegedus arrived at Pennebaker’s studio 45 years ago at a time when Pennebaker was on the edge of bankruptcy. The synch-sound, cinéma vérité style Pennebaker had made famous interested her, and Pennebaker knew he’d found much more than a professional collaborator.

“I knew right away when she came in that she understood everything I was trying to do. I knew that we’d be partners in a real sense,” he said.

In meeting Hegedus, Pennebaker said he became “religious overnight.”

“I thought, ‘Someone is watching over me,’” he recalled.

Pennebaker’s life is a testament to his ability to recognize a good thing when he sees it, and to make art out of all the happy accidents along the way.

To the young filmmakers in the audience, he offered a parting wish: “That you have as good a time doing it as I did.”


Lecture to Address Race, Gender and Mass Criminalization

SUNY New Paltz Department of Sociology and Students Against Mass Incarceration present “The Problem with Carceral Feminism: Race, Gender and Mass Criminalization,” a public lecture by Dr. Beth Richie, on Monday, Nov. 17, at 3:30 p.m. in Lecture Center 100.

Ritchie is a professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Criminology, Law and Justice, and Sociology at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Richie‘s scholarly and activist work emphasizes the ways that race/ethnicity and social position affect women’s experience of violence and incarceration, focusing on the experiences of African American battered women and sexual assault survivors.  Richie is the author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence and America’s Prison Nation (NYU Press, 2012) and numerous articles concerning black feminism and gender violence, race and criminal justice policy, and the social dynamics around issues of sexuality, prison abolition, and grassroots organizations in African American Communities. Her earlier book, Compelled to Crime: the Gender Entrapment of Black Battered Women, is taught in many college courses and is often cited in the popular press for its original arguments concerning race, gender and crime.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

This event received generous support from CAS, the Office of the Provost, the Department of Black Studies, the Department of History, the Scholar’s Mentorship Program, the Honors Program and Residence Life at SUNY New Paltz.  Co-sponsors include the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Native American Studies Program and the Humanistic and Multicultural Education Program.

Award Winning Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker to Deliver Oct. 29 Lecture

By Despina Williams Parker

D.A. Pennebaker, the acclaimed filmmaker behind such documentaries as Don’t Look Back (1967), Inside the War Room (1993), and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973), will present a special lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. in Lecture Center 100.

D.A. Pennebaker

D.A. Pennebaker

Known as one of the founders of the cinéma vérité movement, Pennebaker earned the Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 for his over 60-year career chronicling such cultural milestones as Bob Dylan’s 1965 electric tour of England, Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid and David Bowie’s final performance as Ziggy Stardust.

The lecture, entitled “D.A. Pennebaker: An Evening with a Legend,” will also include a six-minute video retrospective of Pennebaker’s career and a question and answer period.

Thomas Cznarty, a lecturer in the Department of Digital Media and Journalism, reached out to Pennebaker after teaching several of his films in his Digital Media Production and Documentary Filmmaking courses. He credits Pennebaker’s 1953 documentary, Daybreak Express, with reshaping his notion of what great documentaries can be.

Daybreak Express was filmed on New York City’s 3rd Avenue elevated subway train (discontinued in 1955) and set to a jazz composition by Duke Ellington. The documentary is non-linear, with no narration and captures a unique moment in the city’s history.

Cznarty, himself an award-winning documentary filmmaker, said Pennebaker’s early film taught him that “visuals can tell the whole story.” He is excited for his students to meet a living legend.

The lecture is sponsored by the Department of Digital Media and Journalism, with additional support from the Provost’s Office, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of Fine & Performing Arts, Department of Communication, Department of History and Department of Sociology.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

From New Paltz to Japan to England: Alum Pursues Advanced Studies Abroad

William Borchert

William Borchert

William Borchert ’10 lived locally when he was an undergraduate at New Paltz, commuting from his hometown of nearby Marlboro. But for his graduate studies, Borchert decided it was time to conquer some other continents.

After graduating from New Paltz in three years with three majors (biology, history, Asian studies) and three minors (business administration, evolutionary studies, and religious studies), Borchert attended Meiji University in Tokyo to study the Japanese government’s response to pandemic influenza. From there, he went to the University of Tokyo, where he wrote a thesis comparing the effectiveness of treatments for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and earned his master’s degree in international health. The next leg of his journey will take place at England’s Cambridge University, where Borchert is pursuing a Ph.D. in public health.

“I knew I wanted to study medicine in the future, so I didn’t change my majors – I just added them,” says Borchert. “When I graduated, I was a little bit more on the social science side as opposed to the biological science side. Science should never take a backseat, but I realized that medicine is not only science alone. Medicine is also an art.”

He adds, “I’m glad I have that background. It was a good preparation.”

Borchert already had some history with Tokyo, as he studied abroad at Sophia University while he was attending New Paltz. He also worked for the Center for International Programs as an undergrad.

Aside from his Japanese language abilities, Borchert says the skills he gained from his professors and from working in the International Office have gone a long way in his post-New Paltz endeavors. He says he always makes a point to visit his biology professors whenever he’s stateside, and lists biology Professor Jeffrey Reinking and psychology Professor Glenn Geher among those who particularly influenced him.

“Behold the power of SUNY,” says Borchert, who graduated from New Paltz debt-free thanks to federal grants and staying close to home. “I’m very glad I went to a SUNY.”

Essay on WWI Infant Mortality Exhibition Earns History Department’s Best Seminar Paper Award

Melissa Franson

Melissa Franson (History, ’14) received the History Department’s Best Seminar Paper award for her essay, entitled “National Baby Week: Saving the British Race.” She is pictured receiving an Outstanding Graduate certificate from SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian.

By Despina Williams Parker

An essay on a World War I infant mortality exhibition that did not provide any meaningful solutions to the problem it was convened to address has earned the History Department’s first ever Best Seminar Paper award.

Recent graduate Melissa Franson (History, ’14) wrote the essay, entitled “National Baby Week: Saving the British Race,” during associate professor Andrew Evans’ spring senior seminar on World War I. The essay examines the National Baby Week exhibition, held July 2-7, 1917, in Great Britain during the middle of World War I.

Franson said she’d hoped to explore the general topic of women and children during World War I when she encountered an advertisement for National Baby Week during her initial research using the Sojourner Truth Library’s digital archives. In the London Times editions published during the period, Franson found advertisements, articles and posters that provided a window into the event.

As she continued her research, Franson uncovered statistical evidence that undermined the stated purpose of the exhibition. “I found the [infant] mortality rate was actually declining during the war years rather than climbing,” said Franson, who believes the exhibition organizers’ anxiety had less to do with actual infant deaths than with British military casualties and maintaining social status.

“What alarmed British society was the high mortality rate of British soldiers in the war, especially the officers who exemplified the ‘desirable’ characteristics of the British race, and thus the context of National Baby Week encompassed a larger concern over the survival of the British race during the war,” Franson noted. Her research suggests that “the aim of the organizers of National Baby Week was not so much to help with the infant mortality rate but to ensure that the ‘right’ kind of babies were being ‘saved.’”

Franson cites as evidence the type of events held during the exhibition – garden parties, parades, a beautiful baby show – which did not speak to the actual causes of infant mortality, such as poverty, malnutrition and substandard medical care.

A book entitled, Maternity: Letters from Working Mothers, edited by Margaret Llewelyn Davies, brought to light what the exhibition’s lavish offerings obscured. The letters provided first-hand accounts on the myriad ways poverty affects families, and the hardships that result in infant deaths.

“The National Baby Week exhibition did little to address the problems facing lower class families, yet purported the desire to save the babies. Given that the promoters and organizers of National Baby Week were predominantly members of the upper-class of British society and the problems of infant mortality were felt primarily by lower-class British families, I found it fascinating that the event largely ignored the larger problems found in British society that caused infant mortality,” Franson said.

History faculty members who taught the senior seminar during the 2013-14 school year selected papers for the award, and a prize committee made the final selection. Evans said the committee felt that Franson’s paper was “a model of the interplay of evidence and argument. She insightfully analyzes the way a particular event (National Baby Week) elucidates larger social and cultural issues of British social classes. She also provides a comprehensive historical context for that analysis.” Franson received a small monetary award for her work.

Franson also earned the honor of being named one of the History Department’s “Outstanding Graduates.” The campus-wide program recognizes the academic achievements of exceptional graduates from all New Paltz departments. A recognition ceremony was held in May, and Franson received a certificate from President Donald Christian.

Evans called Franson one of the History Department’s “real stars.”

“She’s one of those students who is ferociously learning all the time,” he said.

In the fall, Franson will attend SUNY Binghamton, where she has been accepted into the PhD program for history with full funding. She said she considers herself a “social historian,” and will focus on early American history and the subfields of women’s history and British history.

She credited History Department faculty members Evans, Louis Roper, Susan Lewis and Reynolds Scott-Childress with inspiring her to “reach for the next level.”

LA&S Summer Internship Scholarships

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce scholarships to support low-paying or unpaid summer internships for students.  For summer 2014 we will offer two or three $1,000 awards.  This program is supported by generous contributions from SUNY New Paltz parents, alumni, and friends to the LA&S Dean’s Fund.

These are merit-based awards that take into account the student’s GPA, the quality of the internship, the relevance of the internship to the student’s academic major and educational goals, and the relevance of the internship to the student’s future career.


  • Applicants should be majors in a department or program within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
  • Applicants should have a 3.3 or higher cumulative G.P.A.
  • Preference will be given to students in their junior year; seniors who will graduate in May or August 2014 are not eligible for this award.
  • The internship cannot be with a business or organization run by a family member, relative, or close family friend.

To apply, students should submit the following:

  • A 300-500 word description of the internship and its relation to the student’s academic major, educational goals, and career plans
  • A resume
  • An academic transcript with cumulative G.P.A.
  • Two letters of recommendation from faculty

Applications should be sent to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, JFT 614.  Deadline for applications is May 7, 2014.  Awards will be announced on May 15, 2014.

Lecture on Civil Rights in Black Barber Shops Highlights History Honors Society Induction


The History Department and Phi Alpha Theta International History Honors Society present a lecture by Dr. Quincy Mills entitled, “Intimacy and Trust: Service Work and Civil Rights in Black Barber Shops.” The lecture will be held Thursday, April 17 at 5 p.m. in Jacobsen Faculty Tower, Room 1010.

Quincy Mills is Associate Professor of history at Vassar College where he teaches courses in African American history. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. His first book, Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America, was recently published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. He has appeared on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate show as well as Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal. With support from the American Council of Learned Societies, he is currently working on a second book tentatively titled The Wages of Resistance: Financing the Black Freedom Movement.  In this lecture, Dr. Mills will examine how black barbers, as service workers, filled a critical role as conduits of racial politics in nineteenth and twentieth-century America.  The intimacy and trust that has historically informed the relationship between barber and customer offers a window onto the politics of deference and the notion of self-segregation.

The reception honoring student inductees into the international history honors society begins at 5:00 p.m.  Dr. Mills will commence his talk at 5:30 p.m.  All are welcome to attend both events.

Refreshments will be provided by Major Connections. The event is supported by Campus Auxiliary Services.