I am an associate professor of history and director of history education at Northern Arizona University. My research and teaching explore American thought and culture, Western U.S. History, the historical inquiry process, and history education. Recent publications include a book on American society in the 1960s, A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture after World War II, and articles in The History Teacher, Magazine of History, Journal of the West, and Pacific Historical Review.
Though I live in and enjoy Arizona, I still claim Montana my home. I was born in the state capital, Helena, and raised primarily in Bozeman. My great grandparents on my mother’s and father’s side homesteaded in the south central part of the state and many of my relatives still live there. My father wrote about his parents’ experience in his book, Too Poor to Move But Always Rich: A Century on Montana Land. Now, I, too, am writing about this place, though my topic is quite different.
Currently, I am engrossed in a fascinating project on Montana’s care of people with disabilities from its beginnings as a state in the 1890s to the present. My work focuses on the state institution for people with disabilities, clinical and research genetics, eugenics, state actions, and the role of physicians, administrators, politicians, parents, and citizen groups in changing understandings, laws, policies and practices. Of particular note, the work sheds light on a medical practitioner in Montana—Dr. Phillip Pallister—who made substantial contributions to our understandings of genetics and people with cognitive and physical disabilities.
I have long been interested in the region’s history. I received my undergraduate and Master’s degree from Montana State University. My M.A. thesis explored the intellectual underpinnings of a progressive Methodist Minister who served the Bozeman community and agitated for social reform in the state. I gained my doctorate at the University of Maryland, College Park, and was very fortunate to be able to study with very gifted historians. Living in the East and studying a wide range of subjects gave me a broader understanding of American history as well as a richer comparative understanding of the U.S. West. Since 2003, I have been a faculty member at NAU and Arizona State University, Tempe (2005-2020), and my intrigue with the American West has grown through my teaching on Southwest and Western history and through a variety of collaborative projects with Western historians. This especially includes work with Dr. Paul Hirt on a National Endowment for the Humanities grant-funded project, “Nature, Culture, and History at Grand Canyon.”
“If there is such a thing as being conditioned by climate and geography, and I think there is, it is the West that has conditioned me. It has the forms and lights and colors that I respond to in nature and in art. If there is a western speech, I speak it; if there is a western character or personality, I am some variant of it; if there is a western culture in the small-c, anthropological sense, I have not escaped it. it has to have shaped me. I may even have contributed to it in minor ways, for culture is a pyramid to which each of us brings a stone.” Wallace Stegner, The American West as Living Space