Professor Brings History Lessons from the Midwest Back to Campus
Sacred Heart University Professor Julie Mujic recently went to Chicago—in the heart of the Midwest—to study American history. While the Windy City is known for its architecture, entertainment, access to Lake Michigan, professional athletic teams and renowned restaurants, American history might not be the first association one would make. But Mujic— who teaches U.S. history survey courses and upper-level electives focusing on 19th-century U.S. history – was honored to be chosen and delighted to attend. And the conference, entitled “The Creation of the Modern American City: Chicago from 1830 to 1910,” actually was right up her historical alley.
Hosted by The Council of Independent Colleges, the seminar was sponsored by of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and co-sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Only 28 full-time history professors were chosen from across the United States to attend, each nominated by his or her chief academic officer. Mujic is beginning her third year at SHU this fall. She earned her Ph.D. in history in 2012 from Kent State University.
The seminar was designed to assist scholars with both teaching and research, Mujic says. She applied because she was interested in adding new content to courses that she teaches at SHU such as “Gilded Age and Progressive Era America” and “Westward Movement in 19th-Century America,” as well as for her “U.S. History since 1865” course. That learning—and the wealth of experience represented in the room—proved extremely valuable, she says.
“I found that I took away many useful ideas and will be able to integrate what I learned into several aspects of my teaching at SHU,” she observes. “Not only was it helpful to learn about Chicago history, but I also gained teaching ideas from spending a week with so many other experienced professors who teach similar courses. Every day felt like a week’s worth of information and new ideas to absorb. Additionally, I gained information to support my current manuscript revision and useful background materials that will help kick-start my next research project.”
Mujic reflects that she also brought back a new appreciation for the significance of urban history in the story of America—perspective that will transfer to her classroom. “Many of our students are from the New York City and Boston areas, and they naturally orient themselves to those urban centers. By learning how to share the story of other major cities like Chicago with them, I’ll be able to better help them understand the history and significance of the cities they hold most dear. It also helped me build a list of research ideas for students’ senior thesis projects!” Mujic hopes to create a new urban history course at SHU in the future.
In her current research project, she considers the history of the Midwestern home front during the Civil War. A second project in the works will focus on the military economy of the Midwest during the Civil War, beginning with Chicago and moving further into the Midwest. The seminar, she concludes, helped her find that orientation point for these projects, and the photographs she took and contacts she made will play important roles in her continuing work and teaching.