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History Majors Defended Honors Theses, Presented at Florida Conference

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2012

Westminster College senior history majors Jessie Foertsch and Amanda Leonard are the first two students to defend their Honors theses in Westminster's new four-year All-College Honors Program.  They also presented papers with senior history majors Jennifer Edder and Luke Franchuk at the Phi Alpha Theta (national history honor society) biennial conference Jan. 3-7 in Orlando, Fla.

Foertsch's thesis, "A Glimpse into the Mind of a Late-18th-Century American Traveler: Travel Literature Illustrates a National History and Identity," was advised by Dr. Timothy Cuff, Westminster associate professor of history.

Foertsch examined the travelogue of Crawford White, who settled and helped develop New Castle in the early 19th century.  The journal, supplied by Dr. James Perkins, Westminster professor of English emeritus, recorded White's reflections on his travels from central Pennsylvania to South Carolina to Kentucky and back at the end of the 18th century.

Foertsch's paper argues that travel literature in general, and White's journal in particular, provides a valuable lens through which to see and understand U.S. history in the early national period.  The paper also seeks to place this travelogue within both its literary and historical context.

Foertsch is a daughter of Albert and Debora Foertsch of Butler and a graduate of Knoch High School.

Leonard's thesis, "Reactions to Nativism and Immigration Restriction in the Jewish Press of Pittsburgh, 1921-1924," was advised by Cuff.

Leonard documented the reactions of leaders in Pittsburgh's Jewish community to national legislation in the early 1920s that tightly restricted immigration from eastern and southern Europe.  Consistent with work on other immigrant groups, Leonard found that Jewish leaders sought both to reinforce the idea of the "American-ness" of Jews while criticizing some forms of immigration restriction as "anti-American."

Leonard is a daughter of Mark and Lorrie Leonard of Imperial and a graduate of West Allegheny High School.

The All-College Honors Program provides opportunities for selected students to gain a deep appreciation of the multiple dimensions of knowledge.  Only the most outstanding students in each class are eligible and the program is designed to create a community of Honors Scholars and to promote intellectual vitality and academic rigor.  Honors Scholars complete an enhanced curriculum including rigorous research, thesis preparation, problem solving, and independent investigation beyond the norm.  The culmination of the program is an Honors Scholar Project, in which the scholars work closely with a faculty member in their major to grapple with questions and issues in their field of interest.

At the Florida conference, Foertsch's paper, "American Travel Literature's Role in Formulating a National History and Identity: A Glimpse into the Mind of the Late-18th-Century American Traveler," and Leonard's paper, "Jewish Reactions to Nativism: An Analysis of The Jewish Criterion of Pittsburgh in the 1920s," were based on their thesis research.

Edder presented "Peace is Patriotic: The Riveting and Controversial Stories of Pittsburgh Antiwar Veterans in the 1960s," a paper based on her Honors research and advised by Dr. David Twining, Westminster professor of history.  She will defend her thesis this spring.

Edder interviewed veterans who protested the Vietnam War, concluding that antiwar veterans helped to spread a definition of patriotism as the promotion of peace and a just cause.

Edder is a daughter of Richard and Judith Edder of Conway and a graduate of Freedom Area High School.

Franchuk's paper, "Thank Allah for Oil: Saudi Arabia, Royal Succession, and Religious Tradition," was written for a course on monarchs and dynasties taught by Dr. Russell Martin, Westminster professor of history.

The paper analyzed the Saudi Basic Law of Government of 1992 and found that, while this law states that Islam is an essential component to Saudi royal succession, secularism is equally, if not more, important to the establishment and continuation of the Arabian monarchy.

Franchuk is a son of Gary and Patrice Franchuk of Butler and a graduate of Shady Side Academy.

The students were accompanied to the conference by Dr. Patricia Clark, Westminster associate professor of history.  She served as chair and discussant for panels on "European Events and Their Effects" and "Literature and Poetry."

"This conference provides a significant opportunity for history students to present their work and receive feedback on it, not only from professional historians, but also from their peers," Clark said.

Clark, who joined the Westminster faculty in 2004, earned an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and master's degrees and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

Contact Clark at (724) 946-7248 or email for additional information.

Jessie Foertsch (l) and Amanda Leonard
(L-r) Luke Franchuk, Jennifer Edder, Jessie Foertsch, Amanda Leonard, Dr. Patricia Clark