Great Lakes history sparks dialogue between disciplines

By Kara Haight | 10/10/12 4:35pm

Grand Valley State University’s history department and women and gender’s studies program are partnering with the Women’s and Gender Historians of the Midwest (WGHOM) to host this year’s 2012 Great Lakes History Conference, which will open dialogue across disciplines.

Conference chair Gretchen Galbraith said the theme of this year’s program, “Born in Revolution: History, Gender and the Power of Conflict,” is an appropriate topic for all.

“(The theme) has relevance for all of our lives because it brings together issues that are as relevant in 2012 as they were in the past,” said Galbraith, who teaches history at GVSU and is a founding board member of WGHOM. “We want this conference to create conversations between students and faculty, members of the community and the university, and between filmmakers and historians.”

The conference will include sessions and panels consisting of GVSU faculty and other professors and historians from universities across the Midwest. The conference will also include two keynote speakers.

Friday will bring filmmaker Grace Lee who will present excerpts from her documentary, “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.” The film is about the life and work of centenarian Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit activist and feminist.

On Saturday, Northern Illinois University history professor Beatrix Hoffman will discuss her upcoming book, “Health Care for Some,” which explores health care in the U.S. in a talk titled “Health Care for All! Women, Activism, and the Human Right to Health.”

“This event has a long track record of bringing fascinating programming from which students, faculty and local community members with interest in history can benefit,” said Monica Johnstone, director of communications and advancement in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Johnstone said the topics emphasized during the conference are important for all Michigan residents to explore.

“This conference will provide a wonderful opportunity to consider people and issues of on-going relevance both here in Michigan and nationally,” she said.

The Great Lakes History Conference has been around for 30 years and aims to bring historians from the public and universities together to discuss research.

According to the history department’s website, the event began in 1975 when two GVSU professors, Charles Sorensen and Anthony Travis, wanted faculty from GVSU and other Midwest colleges to come together to present their research. The conference has grown to include graduate students, historian and independent scholars, and it’s meant to bring scholarly work into the public eye.

Galbraith has been involved with the conference for 20 years, but is in her first year of chairing it.
“It made sense to me to make this year’s conference a collaboration between GVSU’s history department and WGHOM,” she said. “In addition to having participation from GVSU history faculty and students, historians from across the Midwest have contributed to its program.”

While the program will consist of collaboration from a wide range of scholars, all students and faculty are encouraged to attend the panels and sessions.

“It is a great opportunity for students to see the role that research plays in the lives of faculty and students,” Galbraith said. “We also believe that our keynote speakers’ themes have relevance for non-historians.”

The conference will take place Oct. 12 and 13 on GVSU’s Pew Campus. The keynote speeches and panels are open to all GVSU students but if attending, Galbraith should be notified at to ensure enough seating is available. More information about the conference can be found at

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