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Message From the Chair

Chair’s Welcome 2019

After a year as the chair of the UCLA Department of History, I have a much fuller appreciation of the range of activities and accomplishments that define us. Our department, a busy and complicated institution, boasts 55 active faculty members (and almost as many emeriti faculty), over a hundred graduate students, 750 majors along with 140 students enrolled in our relatively new minor. We are supported by a dedicated staff of over a dozen people, whose efforts are supplemented by a crew of work study students. The department teaches some 12,000 students from across campus in our courses every year. Little wonder that the department is a busy (not to say frenetic) place.   

I’ve watched with enormous pleasure as my colleagues and our students have piled up honors over the past year. For the second year running, a history faculty member has been named a Distinguished Teacher in a university-wide competition; this year history’s faculty awardee is Katsuya Hirano.  Our colleague Sanjay Subramanyam’s illustrious career has been acknowledged with the Dan David Prize.  Two of our emeriti faculty earned honors from UCLA—Ivan Berend with the Dickson Prize—and from the UC—Lynn Hunt with the Panunzio Prize; while a third, Norton Wise, received the Sarton Medal, the highest award from the History of Science Society.

Colleagues continue to publish at an amazing rate, and their books make a difference. UCLA history faculty whose books won major prizes include Geoff Robinson’s work on the genocide perpetrated by the Indonesian government against its people (the 2019 Raphael Lemkin Book Award); Ted Porter’s Genetics in the Madhouse: the Unknown History of Human Heredity won the Cheiron Prize from the International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences; and Kelly Lytle Hernandez’s City of Inmates earned additional awards, the John Hope Franklin Prize by the American Studies Association and the Robert G. Athearn Prize by the Western History Association.

Our students racked up awards too. Graduate student Sean Messara won the Distinguished Teaching Award for excellence in graduate student teaching and will be honored at a ceremony at the Chancellor’s home in the fall. Some of our best undergraduate students earned honors in history by completing an honors thesis during junior and senior years.  Many of them, joined by other student authors, presented their research at our annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Those who enrolled in Muriel McClendon’s seminar studied every-day life in early modern England, and their research won two major student research awards at year’s end.

Keeping such an amazing department going requires that we rejuvenate our faculty with new hires. I am enormously pleased that for the first time in many years, the department is adding three new junior faculty to our roster. Hollian Wint—an expert in east African history—joins us in the fall. Milos Jovanovich and Kevin Kim arrive in January; the former studies eastern European urban history while the latter explores 20th century American foreign policy.  Other searches are underway for the coming year, so stay tuned for future announcements.

As I hope is apparent, I view the history department with great enthusiasm and optimism.  These times are difficult for higher education and for our country and world more generally. Yet the energy and engagement of our students—including the over 350 students we sent out into the world as department graduates in the past year—gives me great hope. That we continue—as faculty, graduate students and undergraduates—to expand knowledge of the past and to explore the most pressing questions about our world and indeed the nature of the human condition reveals the greatness of this department and the importance of the work we collectively do. 

Our website hints at the many areas we currently pursue, and I hope you will take time to explore it.  Come to history events over the course of the year—including our Why History Matters series and the many events hosted by our Luskin Center for History and Policy—or stop by the department to say hello.

We are happy to have your support as we do the significant work of uncovering the past.  It’s fitting that we do so in this, UCLA’s one hundredth year.  History—a foundational discipline for any modern university—was one of the first departments created at UCLA a century ago, and we in the department are pleased to uphold that long tradition of contributing to the excellence of this institution.  


With all best wishes from Bunche Hall,

Carla Pestana

Department Chair


Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair of America in the World