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Gift from former Eberly College faculty member to benefit history graduate students

Graduate students in the Department of History at West Virginia University will benefit from a fund established by Charles W. Connell, former history professor and associate dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and Linda Jean Gardner, who  received her doctorate in counseling psychology at WVU and was a former staff member of the advising center in the College of Creative Arts.

The Connell-Gardner Fund of $30,000 will support research activities of current students such as presenting research at conferences, attending symposiums and conferences, conducting oral interviews, reading manuscripts in archives and libraries and fieldwork. The fund will also support the recruitment of new students to the graduate program.

“The Connell-Gardner Fund in History will be invaluable as master’s and doctoral students carry out their archival research and fieldwork around the world and present their work at conferences amid (the pandemic) and afterward,” said Jason Phillips, Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of History. “History is still the best form of time travel; it’s available to anyone with the means to visit an archive or library and experience past events and cultures. This award will help more students travel through time and uncover new knowledge about the human condition.”

“Travel funds were not available to students when I was working on my doctoral thesis,” said Connell. “I hope these funds will help further stimulate student creativity and encourage others to join Lynn and I to support students’ efforts in a world that demands the broader understanding and empathy nurtured by travel and study in locations remote from the home institution.”

The graduate program within the history department was established nearly a century ago, and is an international program, in scope, with areas of strength in West Virginia and Appalachian history, African history, the history of the American Civil War and public history. The program also includes the Transatlantic Master’s in International History and Security Studies with Collegium Civitas in Poland.

Graduate coursework encourages students to pursue comparative and transnational research, as well as to explore the themes of gender and kinship, imperial and postcolonial societies, labor and political economy, and war and society across the documents they analyze.

“The incredibly thoughtful support of Charles W. Connell and Linda Jean Gardner will have a lasting impact on students in our program who have resiliently and creatively weathered a pandemic during their graduate studies,” said Kate Staples, chair of the Department of History. “Original research for historians has been affected by the pandemic in ways similar to research across all disciplines: libraries and archives have been closed or limited their hours, oral histories have been challenging to collect, and travel has been severely restricted.” 

The Connell-Gardner gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.