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American Historical Association Honors UTEP History Department and Faculty Member

The American Historical Association has selected UTEP’s Department of History and one of the University’s associate professors for prestigious awards.

UTEP’s Department of History has been selected as the winner of the 2016 Equity Award, bestowed annually upon institutions that have demonstrated an exceptional record in the recruitment and retention of students and new faculty from racial and ethnic groups under-represented within the historical professions.

“Since its inception (in 1999), the department’s Ph.D. program has been a national leader in its commitment to training and graduating students of color,” the selection committee commented. “Its programmatic focus on recruitment, mentoring, professional development and job placement has resulted in 17 minority Ph.D. recipients since 1999 and alumni who are teaching and publishing at colleges and universities across the globe.”

Samuel Brunk, Ph.D., history department chair, said the Equity Award reflects two decades of work to make sure the department’s doctoral program truly reflects UTEP’s mission.

Yolanda Chavez Leyva, Ph.D., associate professor of history, was selected as the winner of the 2016 Herbert Feis Award. The award is given annually to someone who has made distinguished contributions to public history.

“Yolanda Chavez Leyva has contributed to the democratization of history by giving voice to residents of one of the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the United States,” the selection committee commented. “Establishing the Museo Urbano, a ‘museum without walls,’ Professor Leyva has overseen oral history projects, museum exhibits, publications and public programs documenting the rich history of the Segundo Barrio in El Paso, while striving to empower residents of the community to use this understanding of the past to shape their future. At a time of fierce polemical debates over immigration, Professor Leyva’s scholarship affirms the pluralism of the American society.”

Leyva said she was surprised and excited to be recognized for her work.

“The organization recognized me individually but it was only possible through work by my students and the openness of the community to the work,” Leyva said. “The award is for a body of work over time and for distinguished contributions to help democratize history. I never thought of it in those terms.”

Some of Leyva’s work in her 15 years at UTEP has included exhibits in museums and community spaces, and projects at art and musical events.

The prize is named in memory of Herbert Feis, a public servant and historian of recent American foreign policy, with an initial endowment from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The prizes will be awarded during the association’s annual meeting in Denver, Jan. 5-8, 2017.

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