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Message From the Chair

Chair’s Welcome

I am honored to serve as chair of the department that has nurtured me since I declared the History major as a UCLA student about 40 years ago, when I had the privilege of learning about the world from some of the world's best historians. I chose to continue studying History at UCLA, decided to focus on Latin America, received my PhD in 1994, and joined the faculty the following year. Since then, I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with hundreds of graduate students and thousands of undergraduates at the one of the best public universities in the world. I am the 21st chair of the department since its founding as one of the original departments in 1919, and am honored to follow the lead of my esteemed colleague, Carla Pestana.  


Our department is a beehive of activity. Some 75 active faculty do innovative research while teaching more than 100 graduate students and more than 10,000 undergraduates every year, including more than 500 History majors and almost 200 minors. Dozens of distinguished emeriti professors contribute to our intellectual community by publishing, giving talks, and teaching. They have set a very high standard for those of us who follow in their footsteps. We all rely on the indispensable expertise of 15 excellent full-time staff who are helping me to learn my new position. It is a pleasure to work with the staff and our three vice chairs, Professors Stefania Tutino, Robin Derby and Michael Meranze.


We welcome Professor Glenn Penny, the new Bruman Chair in modern German history. And we have two ongoing searches: the Eugen Weber Chair in European history and a junior position in the History of Science and Medicine. A search for the Wellman Chair in Medieval History is imminent, in addition to three more junior searches.


Our postdoctoral fellows population is growing: we welcome our second Weber Postdoc in European History, Noelle Turtur, and the inaugural Luskin Center for History and Policy Postdoc, Ben Zdencanovic. Chancellor’s Postdoc Jackson Smith has renewed for a second year and will be joined by fellow Chancellor’s Postdocs Patricia Marcos in November and Samuel Lamontagne in January.  


Personally, I am excited to begin the new academic year by seeing people in person. I look forward to working with 14 incoming doctoral students who represent nine separate fields of study in the first-year seminar on historical theories, methods and debates. And I look forward to teaching History 8A in good old Moore 100. The campus is bustling with excitement again.  


At the same time, we remain committed to extending our mission of research, teaching and service beyond the campus. The Luskin Center for History & Policy, under the able leadership of our colleague David Myers, and with the generous support of Meyer and Renee Luskin, exemplifies that mission. The LCHP is organizing public programs and research on a range of important local, regional and national issues, such as homelessness, white nationalism, environmental justice, the concurrent rise in student debt and university endowments, the politics of health care policy in California, and rent control. I recommend that you check out their lively podcast, "Then and Now." Likewise, our "Why History Matters" series explores connections between the past and present in thought-provoking ways. Our Public History Initiative, led by colleague Tawny Paul, offers classes and internships related to public history and programming, community engagement, instructional improvement, and pre-doctoral program mentoring. Many of our faculty continue to collaborate with educators in the California History & Social Science Project, working with K-12 teachers to introduce recent historical research into the curriculum of multiple southern California school districts. And our colleague and UCLA History alumna, MacArthur Fellow Kelly Lytle Hernández, continues her outstanding work with students and staff to map and document the fiscal and human costs of mass incarceration in Los Angeles through the "Million Dollar Hoods" program. Finally, the department is now housing the Hispanic American Historical Review at UCLA from 2022-2027. Members of our Latin American field are editing the distinguished research journal, founded in 1918, beginning this year with senior editor William Summerhill taking the lead. I must say, it is difficult to document and promote all of the positive, progressive activities associated with our History Department, but we will try our best to do so on our updated website and in our weekly announcements. And we invite you to participate in our many public programs.


Clearly, the study of History is as important to the university's curriculum and to public discourse as it was when I declared the major in the 1980s. History was one of the first departments created at UCLA more than a century ago, and the study of history is as important as ever for understanding the nation and the world in which we live. Our democracy depends on informed citizens who understand how the past has shaped the present so that we can make educated choices for the future.


We are grateful for your support of our mission and look forward to seeing you in the coming year. Meantime, I wish you well.


Kevin Terraciano
Department Chair and Professor