Published: May 18, 2021

Dear Students, Colleagues, Alumni, and Friends,

This last year the History Department was thrilled to welcome two new professors--Xiaofei Gao and Cameron Blevins--into our ranks. For years the Department has been looking to address its coverage in China History and Digital Studies, and it is quite exciting to have found such talented faculty in both areas at once. It was no easy feat for either of them to transition into a new job in a new city without any face-to-face welcome or assistance. But Fei and Cameron have quickly integrated themselves into our community through their creativity, energy, and good nature. One can only imagine what each will bring to the Department once we have all returned to campus.

We've felt more bittersweet emotions as we've congratulated Jay Fell and Richard Smith for their retirements this year. For years Jay and Richard have been anchors for our U.S. West and European programs, and their thoughtfulness and good humor have made them beloved figures among students and faculty, alike. Happily for us, Jay and Richard both intend to continue teaching next year on a part-time basis. This will allow us to give them the proper, in-person celebration they deserve. 

This has been a difficult year for everyone. As students and faculty were forced to go remote, we lost the human connections of the classrooms and the Department's third-floor hallway. Much of our work as students and scholars--the research, the writing, and the preparation for classes--is solitary in nature, but we are ultimately all here for the unique personal relationships a university culture allows. Meanwhile, old boundaries separating our home lives from our work lives disintegrated. When we gathered, our Zoom screens projected the illusion of a lone figure against a composed background, but of course just outside the edges of the frame, our regular lives--and the lives of our roommates and family members--swirled around us. Thanks to all of those who extended one another a bit of grace during these awkward and often tough times.

And congratulations to this year's graduating seniors and masters students. Finishing a degree with three consecutive semesters of remote instruction is about as impressive an academic feat as I can imagine. For the time being, we will celebrate your accomplishment at our remote end-of-the-year celebration. But we would also love to stay in touch with you and in the coming year find ways to honor your accomplishment in person.

Christopher Agee
Chair & Associate Professor