We all have that crazy relative who believes outrageous conspiracy theories or a lot of so-called facts that aren’t supported by the evidence. This person seems to live in an entirely different universe than those of us who are sane, right? The truth is, we are all misinformed to some degree, says Dr. Matthew Motta, a political science professor who studies misinformation. We talk about why people are motivated to find information that supports their beliefs instead of the truth, and how we can have the most success reaching those who have refused to listen to others. He also shares other helpful tips such as, “If you want to know something about the curvature of the Earth, ask a flat-earther,” and why it is important to realize how much you don’t know.

Every semester, one CAS student is selected for the prestigious Orange Gown. Alannah Templon, a double major in Biology: Allied Health and Sociolgy: Anthropology, was selected to represent the class of Spring 2021. Templon reflects on her research, involvement on-campus, plans for after graduation, and some of her favorite memories at OSU. 

Peter Exline, “the philosopher king of Hollywood,” is a 1969 OSU Department of Philosophy grad. His life and career have overlapped with the likes of Michael Douglas and the famous Coen Brothers. In fact, he served as an inspiration for multiple characters in the film The Big Lebowski. He joins us to talk about his fascinating career, how he went from Stillwater to Hollywood, and what's on everyone's mind: “What's with that rug?”

Also, as a warning, this episode includes just a few words that would categorize it as PG-13.

In Fall 2020, students in Dr. Brandy Thomas Wells’ HIST 4073: Digital Methods in History course learned how historians develop and use digital resources to deepen our understanding of the past and how they use these resources to communicate with members of the profession and the larger public.

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Greetings from the (admittedly very messy) desk of the Director of Public History! It has been humbling to witness all the hard work and energy that went into our projects this year. Despite the stress of facing a global pandemic that brought many challenges and disappointments, our students and colleagues completed truly inspiring projects, internships, exhibits, and research. It is a testament to the talent, strength and dedication of our program that we are entering the new year with overwhelmingly positive momentum.

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In such a profoundly stressful climate, our graduate students in History remained productive and energetic, and inspired me throughout the year, both in the classroom and beyond. And when they also struggled as humans in that stressful context, they helped preserve each other’s spirit. It is a pleasure serving as Director of Graduate Studies for this strong and impressive cast of current graduate students.

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Dr. Ron Petrin, a longtime member of the Department of History faculty, died the Wednesday before Thanksgiving after a long illness. He will be missed as a friend, colleague and mentor, and remembered for his many contributions to the Department.

petrin 2Dr. Petrin was especially passionate about working with students, a characteristic from which all of his students benefitted.  In the classroom his teaching demonstrated his incredible breadth of knowledge that inspired undergraduate and graduate students alike.  His commitment to students excelled even more outside the classroom.  He served on dozens and dozens of M.A. and Ph.D. committees, shepherded graduate students through the rigorous process of completing degrees, drove students to conferences throughout the southern plains to present their research and begin the process of becoming part of the profession, and was active in Phi Alpha Theta.

Many of his students remember fondly his – as one of his colleagues kiddingly called it – “holding court” at a local establishment.  For those of us who joined Dr. Petrin for a beverage on a Friday night, those gatherings, where historiographical controversies and the problems of the day were thoroughly debated, felt like a French salon – the Okie surroundings notwithstanding.  These meetings had the happy effect of building strong bonds of friendship among those involved, with Dr. Petrin serving as the lynchpin that connected generations of students to each other and OSU.

His mentorship continued after graduation. One of his former students, Shelly Lemons, commented that she often sought his advice on job changes, navigating administrative hassles, and whether to pursue certain opportunities. Be it for a triumph, setback, or moment of uncertainty, Dr. Petrin's counsel always served to make her "feel like I was doing the right things and on the right track, building my confidence that I could do whatever it was I needed to do. For that I am forever grateful."

He of course had many qualities and idiosyncrasies that can’t help but make one smile: his impish laugh, his refusal to drive on gravel roads (having been warned when he first moved to Oklahoma that when the pavement ends you best turn around), and his left hand tucked deftly in the back of his pants as he explained complicated ideas amid a cloud of chalk dust in front of the tiny blackboard in the conference room in Life Sciences West.

petrin jorschMore than anything, though, he’ll be remembered for his generosity: with his intellectual gifts, with his patience, and with his time.  For those of us fortunate enough to have spent time with Dr. Petrin as part of the History Department, we are much better – personally and professionally – for that experience.

In honor of Dr. Petrin, the History Department and former students have established the Dr. Ron Petrin Memorial Scholarship that will help current and future History students attend conferences and conduct research.  It seemed the most fitting way to continue his legacy of helping students while connecting generations of students. To donate to this fund, please visit philanthropete.osugiving.com/project/24255.

Dr. Thomas F. Jorsch
Instructor of American Studies
Oklahoma State University
OSU Ph.D. in American History (2004)

This year the Department of History launched a five-part public program called "Why it Matters: Talks on the American Past," featuring new books by OSU history faculty each month via Facebook Live. We had a great turnout, with audience members live-streaming the conversation and asking questions in real time. Head of Department Dr. Brian Hosmer, who gamely took on the role of series moderator, first welcomed Dr. Holly Karibo in November to discuss the history of border control, followed by Dr. Laura Arata in December for a conversation about the history of tourism in the 19th-century American West. The Spring events featured Dr. Justin Prince discussing the transformation of American field artillery in World War I, Dr. David Gray examining the evolution of office management ideology from World War I through the Cold War, and Dr. Richard Boles covering race in America's churches. The broadcasts are posted to YouTube, Facebook or OStateTV for those who missed it.

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