Q+A with new UTA History Department Chair

Dr. Scott W. Palmer joins UTA College of Liberal Arts as History Department Chair. We sat down for a brief Q + A to learn more about his personal and professional sides.

  1. You are a Russian historian by training. When and where did your interest in Russia begin? 

I became interested Russia shortly after I enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas. I took an introductory course on Russian intellectual and cultural history that was taught by an incredibly talented and dynamic professor. She sparked my interest in the country and its past. Since KU required students to take two years of a foreign language as part of the general education curriculum I decided I’d take a stab at learning Russian. After completing my second year of course work I went on a six-week study abroad trip to the USSR. I was hooked. I returned again for the Spring semester of my senior year and never looked back.

  1. What most attracted you to take on this role at UTA?

To be honest, one of the first things that attracted me to the job was the chance to return to Texas. I can’t claim to be a native to the state, but I consider myself something of a repatriated Texan given that I spent almost my entire childhood in the Piney Woods (Conroe, TX) before my family relocated to Kansas during my senior year of high school.

More important than the location though, I was attracted to the position by the department’s personnel and programs. I recognized that there was a great deal of exciting work being undertaken by the faculty in areas including Digital Humanities; Southwestern Studies; Mexican-American and African-American Studies; Disability Studies, Geography, GIS, Cartography, and Public/Oral History. The Department’s broad multidisciplinary coverage coupled with individual faculty members’ deep content knowledge provide a great many opportunities for students. This was particularly attractive to me in light of my own multidisciplinary background and interests.

Beyond that, I was attracted to UTA because I saw an opportunity to contribute to already vibrant programs at the departmental, College, and campus levels. I think that my research and teaching interests compliment what my History colleagues are already doing very well. Given my work in the History of Technology and Science I’m particularly eager to engage students in STEM and professional fields. I’d like to help develop courses and programs for the department and College that help non-Liberal Arts majors recognize the foundational importance of the humanities to understanding our world, present and past.

  1. What is your vision for the future of the Department of History at UTA?

Having devoted my life to the study of modern Russian history (with a focus on the Soviet era) I am a bit wary of “plans,” especially top-down Grand Plans that seek to restructure or remake things anew on the basis of some speculative or theoretical model.

This doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about “the vision thing”-  what might be done to build upon an already terrific department – but for the time being, I’m focused on learning as much as I can about UTA and the surrounding community. My most important task, of course, is getting to know well the faculty, students, and staff with whom I’m privileged to work.

That said, in the near future, I do hope to introduce to UTA a number of new classes that are part of my personal “course catalog.” At the graduate level I’m interested in directing seminars on “Russia’s Great War and Revolution,” “The Built Environment in the Twentieth Century,” and “Technology and Science in Comparative Perspective.” The undergraduate offerings I’d like to add to the History’s regular course line-up include: “Flight Culture and the Human Experience;” “The Great War, 1914-1918;” “Technology, Culture, and Society;” as well as course on the “History of Video Games.”

  1. Knowing that every institution is certainly different, what do you think are some of the opportunities you may face as new history chair at UTA?

The resources available to the department and across the College create terrific contexts for expanding opportunities for students through experiential learning, cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary training, and the development of transferrable skills (web design, audio-video production and editing, public speaking, etc.), that are essential to one’s success regardless of vocation.

Beyond the classroom we also have the chance to build upon the department’s already exceptional outreach to the local, regional, and national community through greater engagement with public educators, institutions, and foundations.

  1. What is the significance of the digital humanities research being produced by the department of history at UTA?

The department’s digital humanities initiatives number among the most significant and exciting work being undertaken by our faculty. In addition to providing the means to showcase path-breaking scholarship, online projects are making possible cross-disciplinary collaboration with colleagues in other fields while providing valuable experience for our students and educational resources that benefit the broader public. Ultimately, I’d say that our ongoing and future digital humanities initiatives demonstrate that UTA is where “History is Made.”

Dr. Scott W. Palmer Biography:

A specialist in the history of late Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, Scott W. Palmer earned his B.A. in History and Slavic Languages & Literatures from the University of Kansas (1989) before completing his Ph.D. in History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1997). He is author of Dictatorship of the Air: Aviation Culture and the Fate of Modern Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2006) as well as numerous scholarly articles and essays. His current book-length project, How Russia was Made: Technology and Culture from the Icon to the iMac, examines the foreign origins and domestic transformation of major technological systems from the founding of the Kievan state through the opening decades of the twenty-first century.

Dr. Palmer has taught a wide variety of courses including undergraduate surveys on Western Civilization, modern America, and the global history of technology and science. His upper-level offerings include nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe; US military history; the First World War; the history of flight culture; and, of course, Imperial Russian and Soviet history. At the graduate level he has directed seminars on “Russia’s Great War and Revolutions,” “The Twentieth-Century Built Environment,” and “Culture, Society, and the Technological Imagination.” He welcomes the opportunity to direct Ph.D. and M.A. students interested in Russian history, military history, the history of technology and science, and aviation history/airpower doctrine.

For more information, visit Dr. Palmer’s website at: scottwpalmer.com


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