STS Faculty Profile: Frank Van Nuys

STS Faculty Profile

Frank Van Nuys is Professor of History and will be the interim Department Head for Humanities & Social Sciences in Spring 2022.

What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?

I would say that I am a generalist in the history of the American West and not particularly comfortable claiming expertise in any area within that field. I am more confident saying that I am conversant in a variety of areas, including the West, of course, but also environmental history. The nature of my job here at Mines accommodates being both a generalist and having some latitude to develop and teach courses that interest me. Of late, in addition to the surveys in American history and Western Civilization, I have been teaching Westward Expansion of the U.S. and Environmental History of the U.S.

My focus earlier in my academic career was on race and immigration, so, for instance, I did my Master’s thesis on so-called alien land laws in California, which were designed to prevent Japanese immigrants from owning or leasing agricultural land in the early 20th century. My first book, Americanizing the West: Race, Immigrants, and Citizenship, 1890-1930, looked at the Western part of the nation as an important driver in immigration restriction and the Americanization programs of the 1910s and 1920s.

After that, my fascination with wildlife issues and the attraction of a deeper engagement with environmental history shifted my focus. Controversies over mountain lions re-populating the Black Hills about fifteen years ago provided the impetus for my second book, Varmints and Victims: Predator Control in the American West, which was published in 2015.

STS Faculty Profile: Matthew Whitehead

STS Faculty Profile

Matthew Whitehead is the Director of the Apex Gallery and a Lecturer who teaches Art and Art History classes in the Humanities department.

What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?

I am an artist. I appropriate images and visual experiences from my surroundings and use them as inspiration for abstractions, mostly drawings, paintings, and collages. I work intuitively, paying close attention to composition and craft. My interest in the arts and the effect it has had on my life pushed me to pursue a career in education. I have taught painting, drawing, photography, illustration, design, graphic design, ceramics, stained glass, sculpture, art history, and foundational arts to students of all ages.

The arts have always been an important part of my life. I come from a family of artists and creatives. On my mother’s side, my grandfather was a renowned potter, painter, and art professor, and my grandmother was a social worker who now spends her time making traditional braided rugs and hand stitching quilts. My mother is a costume designer and art educator by trade but is also an actress and choir singer. My uncle is a potter, and my aunts are also artists of one kind or another. My grandmother on my Dad’s side was a trained aerial performer and painter. My dad was an actor, then a lawyer, and now he’s back to acting again. Given our family background, my siblings and I had no choice but to go into creative fields. My oldest brother is an actor, director, producer, filmmaker, and a professor of acting while my sister is an artist and landscape architect. Becoming an artist always felt like a natural fit.

STS Faculty Profile: John Dreyer

STS Faculty Profile

John Dreyer is Associate Professor of Political Science in the Social Sciences department. 

What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?

I received my PhD in International Relations, and today I focus on strategy and International Security. Most of my research is currently focused on military advisors and how they have operated and what they have done for the last 150 years. It’s fun! My research also fills a niche in the field that is not well covered. My teaching is Foreign Policy/International Relations/Military History with some Political Ideology thrown in for good measure.

I chose Political Science because I liked the idea of theory and the boundaries it pushed. The subfield of International Security also appealed to me. I have taken an interest in military affairs for years and believed I might as well have a go at making it into a degree. I can write and teach about topics that I enjoy and bring that enjoyment to my courses.

What’s one of your favorite courses, topics, or specific texts to teach? Why?

Military history! This is a personal class for me. I’ve been devouring books on all manner of military history since I could read. Every year I choose books that I enjoy and that I believe my students will love as well. My favourite book that I used in 2021 was Ron Chernow’s Grant, which traces the evolution of one of America’s top leaders of all time. Another book I really enjoy using is Odd Arne Westad’s The Global Cold War and the Third World, which talks about small proxy conflicts and small states.

STS Faculty Profile: Erica Haugtvedt

STS Faculty Profile

haugtvedt-novum-profile-picErica Haugtvedt is Assistant Professor of English in the Humanities department and regularly teaches both HUM 200 (Connections: Humanities and Technology) and HUM 375 (Computers in Society) as part of the Science, Technology, and Society degree program.

What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?

I study the history of fandom. I study the nineteenth-century British novel and its spin-offs as evidence of how people reacted to and thought about narratives and characters. I like to think about how print newspapers, magazines, books, and theatre are all interrelated. Another way of saying what I specialize in is to say that I study the history of transmedia storytelling (for more about what transmedia storytelling means, see Henry Jenkins’ writing here).

I think there were a lot of things that drew me to these topics, but the main memory I’ll relate it back to is being a fan of Harry Potter in high school. Harry Potter books had been coming out since I was in late elementary school, but I hadn’t read them because I thought they were too popular and overrated. Then, during my freshmen year of high school, my best friend convinced me to read Harry Potter around when the fourth book came out. She said that I would love them, and she was totally right. There was a long publication gap between the fourth book and the fifth book (three years), so during that time my best friend and I became part of the Harry Potter fandom online as we waited for more from Rowling. This was a transformative experience for me because fandom was a unique culture that had a sophisticated scholarly apparatus for detailing facts from the books and for interpreting them. You can say a lot about fandom that is derisive, but that mode of reading and looking for more engagement—that really made a lasting impression on me. I’m not active in fandom anymore, sadly, but I will always be ready to defend fans and fandom.

Young Harry Potter fans in costume.