Newman students take history conference by storm

By Emily Larkin, Managing and Online Editor

Six Newman students presented at the Kansas Association of Historians Conference on March 29 and 30, the largest showing of students out of all of the private and public universities in attendance.

Students chosen to present included Luke Entz, Courtney Klaus, Brianna Southworth, Leanne Vastbinder, Michael VanDeest and Nathan Yeager. The six participants attended the conference with Professor of History Cheryl Golden.

In order to be chosen to present, students had to write a short proposal explaining their research and presentation, which was then reviewed by a board before being selected or denied, Golden said.

The conference annually draws about 150 historians from both Kansas and beyond, Golden said.

Golden said Newman students explored a wide variety of topics through their presentations.

“We had Manichaeism history, Plague history, French history, military history, literary history and Civil War history.”

VanDeest said his paper focused on “how Catholicism was heavily influenced by something it deems a heresy through the writings of St. Augustine.”

Vandeest said that this conference helped expand his understanding of history and how to discuss subjects with an academic lens.

“It inspired me to look at different areas and time periods outside of my comfort zone and reevaluate how I talk and discuss my field,” he said. “It’s one thing to present to a class and never think about it again, but it’s very different to present to people you’ve never met and to hear the feedback, criticism and general interest they have in what you’re saying.”

First-time conference goer Southworth said the conference was less stressful and more interesting than she anticipated.

“It was a little nerve-wracking having to get up and present to a room of people, but all of the other historians and panel leaders were very friendly,” she said. “Watching other people and the way they presented was interesting as well because some of them were really passionate about their research. The discussions afterward could be really lively.”

Southworth said her research surrounded the Black Plague and “specifically how a few areas (Iceland, Finland, Poland and Milan in Italy) managed to avoid the plague during the first outbreaks.”

Yeager shared his paper on the nature of the heroic sidekick in the hero’s journey through looking at “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

He said his favorite part of the conference was the time he had for growth through his presentation

“This conference gave me the opportunity to present research and writings that I have worked very hard on and be able to receive feedback from other scholars.”

Golden said this is a great opportunity for students to present their work in a “professional setting” that does not come at a great cost to the student or the university, due to the conference being usually held close to Wichita.

Golden said there may be an opportunity for Newman to host the conference in the near future.

“The organizers were so impressed by the number of our students who went that we got their attention, and they asked if we would consider hosting in 2021,” she said. “There would be all kinds of panels of presenters both students and faculty in all types of topics and the campus would be running amuck with historians.”

PHOTO: AT THE KANSAS ASSOCIATION OF HISTORIANS CONFERENCE Newman had the highest student attendance.  Courtesy Photo, Cheryl Golden