SHAFR Conference Knows Much About History

Friday, June 24, 2016post has photos

The University of San Diego is hosting 500 members of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR), whose annual national meeting is taking place June 23-25 at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.


SHAFR, dedicated to the scholarly study of the history of American foreign relations, does this through sponsorship of research, annual meetings and publications. This weekend's event, happening on the west coast for the first time in 30 years, has more than 90 panels over the three days with academic historians discussing such topics as World War I and II, the Vietnam War, Cold War, religion, social democracy, U.S. foreign policy, decolonization, economics, U.S. in the Middle East, international human rights, globalization and much more.

While the majority of conference participants represent other academic institutions, this conference is a bonus educational opportunity for USD Class of 2016 history graduates, Morgan Hansen and Sierra Schipper, and junior history major Emily Bolender. All three are volunteering for the conference as well as attending the panels, according to USD History Professor Kathryn Statler, a SHAFR member and part of the conference organizing committee.

"You can learn from the past, but you can't always predict the future," said Hansen when asked about his passion to study history. The conference enables him to extended his passion for a wide range of topics. He attended a roundtable discussion Thursday titled, "Turning Point? Rethinking World War II as a Watershed in U.S. Foreign Relations." Hansen, whose senior thesis centered on U.S.-Germany relations, said the panel, which was filmed for broadcast by C-SPAN, offered him an opportunity to hear panelists explain their thoughts and to examine this question from a different perspective.

Bolender, who is also a Medieval Renaissance studies minor, had yet to attend a panel on Thursday but said she was looking forward to attending panels to learn more about the actions between different cultures and to be immersed in such a creative and collaborative academic environment. The same holds true for her as an USD student. Having a diverse class schedule such as the history of California, the fall of Ancient Rome and a modern look at the Middle East prepares her well for the SHAFR event.

Schipper volunteered with one of the book vendors inside the IPJ rotunda, but was equally interested in the panels she plans to attend. Schipper's USD experience has been quite memorable and meaningful with study and travel abroad in China and Japan, working with second- and third-graders at Linda Vista Elementary School through USD's Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action (CASA) and interning at Balboa Park's Japanese Friendship Garden. A history major and Asian Studies minor, Schipper said she was an international relations major at first, but switched because of the more political slant it took.

"I was more interested to find stories about how things came to be a certain way, I was more interested in diplomacy and facts that gave me new ways to analyze things,” she said.

Her travels, especially to China in Summer 2014 with USD History Professor Yi Sun, reaffirmed her major decision. The trip to China, she said, was "the best three weeks of my life." Schipper's thesis focused on U.S.-Japanese relations, including an examination of the pop culture demonization of Yoko Ono, the widowed wife of Beatles musician John Lennon.

Each USD student has a slightly different focus on history, but their interest in the SHAFR event brings them and 500 other attendees together at USD.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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