University of New Mexico History Professor Margaret Connell-Szasz was installed as president of the Western History Association at the organization's recent conference in Tucson, Ariz.
Connell-Szasz has been involved with WHA since her graduate student years. "I did my master's at the University of Washington and Ph.D. at UNM in the American West with a focus on Native America. Indian history draws a tremendous amount of attention in the Western History Association, attracting many panels and sessions at every conference, so it was a natural fit for me," she said.
The WHA has more than 1,100 members and UNM has one of the largest contingents, including current faculty, graduate students and former students who are teaching and working in public history across the United States, Connell-Szasz said. A number of UNM History Department faculty have previously held the office of WHA president.
"Collectively, we serve as a tremendous public relations contingent for the university, since we are so prominent in the organization. [Distinguished Professor] Paul Hutton was executive director for many years. As UNM Regents Professor of History, I am honored to serve as WHA president for 2013-2014, and will preside over the 2014 conference, planned for Newport Beach, Calif., where the conference theme will be 'The West and the World.'"
"Since I have links with various peoples of Europe, both on the continent and also including Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England, I determined that the theme of the conference would be 'The West and the World.' This is particularly appropriate, given the Pacific Rim location of the conference. Working with friends from abroad, I am organizing a panel discussion to include participants from different countries who teach some aspect of the American West. The purpose of the panel will be for an exchange of ideas on perceptions of this region in the countries that are represented on the panel," Connell-Szasz said.
Included with her conference plans, Connell-Szasz and a former doctoral student are working to organize a panel that will feature faculty and students from Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). "They will discuss the history of these institutions and their present status, which is significant with more than 35 TCUs in the United States and Canada," she said.
Connell-Szasz teaches courses on American Indians/Alaska Natives; Celtic History (Scotland, Ireland, and Wales); comparative ethnohistory; and U.S. History. Connell-Szasz has taught at the University of Exeter in England and the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and has lectured widely in Scotland and England. She has also spent several summers at the University of Aberdeen teaching UNM students through the UNM Summer School Abroad program. She has been named as an endowed lecturer at UNM as well. She is currently completing her next book entitled: “Scottish Highlander and Native American Encounters with Eighteenth-Century Schoolmasters.” She has also finalized an agreement with the University of Nebraska Press to begin a new series on Indigenous Education, which will include three other editors, and serves on the editorial board for Montana, The Magazine of Western History and the Journal of American Indian Education.