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A panel presents to 2023 History Graduate Student Organization 13th Annual Conference attendees within the Glasscock Building at Texas A&M University
A panel presents to 2023 History Graduate Student Organization 13th Annual Conference attendees in the Melbern G. Glasscock Building on the Texas A&M University campus. | Image: Courtesy photo

Organizing a good conference takes a lot of work, from choosing dates, location, theme and speakers to setting up a selection process for panels and presentations from a pool of submissions to fill a schedule. Add to that as grand of a topic as all human history, and you have the History Graduate Student Organization (HGSO) 14th Annual Conference, set for February 9-10 at Texas A&M University.

The leadership team for the HGSO within the Department of History tasked with organizing this year’s conference consists of four graduate student board members, including Sophia Rouse ’22, Patrick Grigsby ’21, Madelaine Setiawan ’22 and Darby Cheek ’22. The four have been working together for the past several months to plan the latest installment of what has become a hallmark event for both the organization and department as well as the discipline.

The 2024 conference centers on the theme of “Navigating Crises and Resolutions” wherein the HGSO encouraged submissions on “conversations and research that explore crises and challenges throughout history, resolutions and laws, and the conversations in between.” The HGSO wanted to feature scholarly discussion on “new perspectives, ideas and reflections regarding historical events that have continued to impact our present time” that considers “race, identities, gender, conflict, communities, violence and culture” and explore “transnational history, environment, nonhuman actors, migration and memory.”

“My favorite part about organizing the conference so far is seeing how many different research topics we received,” Rouse said. “We purposely chose a broad topic so we can have as many sub-themes as possible in history represented. For example, we have papers on topics ranging from the U.S. Civil War to the Stonewall riots this year.”

The HGSO welcomed abstracts from undergraduate and graduate students t0 be reviewed and selected by the four board members. Overall, the HGSO received 125 submissions, not only from students at universities all over Texas, the southern U.S. and throughout the nation, but internationally from a number of countries including Canada, Pakistan, India, Egypt and Austria.

“When we looked at abstracts, we also considered intersections of political science, anthropology, global languages, international relations and more,” Rouse said. “Our topic can be explored through so many lenses that this makes the conference a good place to see how history scholarship can be interdisciplinary and can overlap with different fields.”

A speaker presents to a small group of 2023 History Graduate Student Organization 13th Annual Conference attendees within the Glasscock Building at Texas A&M University
Image: Courtesy photo

Each year, the conference features keynote speakers who are distinguished scholars in the field of history, including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Frederick Douglass Prize, Truman Library Scholar’s Award and more. This year’s keynote speakers are Dr. Kara Dixon Vuic, the LCpl. Benjamin W. Schmidt Professor of War, Conflict and Society in 20th Century America at Texas Christian University, and Dr. Christian Pinnen, an associate professor of history and political science at Mississippi College.

Both speaker selections were purposeful if not personal to the HGSO board members, who chose to invite Vuic to honor Texas A&M’s ties to military history and Pinnen in recognition of the diverse fields represented within the Department of History and conference attendees, such as the field of borderlands research. Vuic, whose work focuses on servicewomen who participated in U.S. wars in the 20th century, will be primarily speaking on what compels women to serve during total war in the U.S., while Pinnen, a co-director of African American Studies at Mississippi College, will be speaking on race and slavery in the lower Mississippi Valley as a borderland.

Ultimately, Rouse notes, this is a two-day conference featuring national and international scholars organized by four Aggies in graduate school, demonstrating the level of talent and dedication present in both the Department of History and broader College of Arts and Sciences. She encourages Texas A&M students, faculty and staff to attend with a communal and supportive spirit to help other Aggies achieve their goals and continued success.

“Being on the organizing side of this conference, I’m getting to connect with Texas A&M, my department and other students more,” Rouse said. “Directors of programs and department chairs attend the conference and take the time to speak to students and visit panels. I remember when I presented at this conference for the first time last year, I met many fellow scholars that I’m still in contact with. In fact, one scholar I met is presenting at another conference with me in the spring. I personally enjoy going to conferences because you get to meet so many different people.”

 Visit the HGSO Conference website for more information on the schedule, speakers and location.