Mountain West Center Names Bennion Faculty Fellow
Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019
The Mountain West Center for Regional Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences has named Julia M Gossard, an assistant professor of History, as the inaugural Bennion Faculty Fellow. Gossard will oversee the annual Ione Bennion Teachers’ Workshop for the Perpetuation of Democratic Principles.
Ione Bennion (1908-1997), a teacher and community activist, established the generous endowment that created the Bennion Teachers’ Workshop as an annual program for K-12 in-service, pre-service, and post-secondary teachers, said Evelyn Funda, director of the Mountain West Center. Held each year in June, this week-long program on USU campus in Logan provides, as the founding documents outline, “an atmosphere and the educational resources to explore the concepts upon which democracy is built, the conditions under which it flourishes, and the dangers to its existence.”
According to Funda, USU faculty interpret this mission broadly, focusing on timely, interdisciplinary, and global topics that explore democratic principles across the humanities and social sciences. This makes the Bennion Workshop unique, she said, in that it connects teachers from across the Intermountain West with USU faculty experts as well as nationally and internationally recognized visiting scholars, speakers, and activists.
Prior to joining the Mountain West Center as the Bennion Faculty Fellow, Gossard directed the 2018 Bennion Teachers’ Workshop, exploring the subject, “Revolution, Representation, Propaganda: Democracy in the 18th-Century Atlantic.” The workshop spoke to her interests as an 18th-century French historian and allowed her to introduce a lively group of K-12 and collegiate instructors to innovative teaching methods and concepts in revolutionary Atlantic history, addressing the role of individual citizens, propaganda, and the media at a pivotal time in modern history.
As the Bennion Faculty Fellow, Gossard will help faculty develop their ideas into formal proposals, oversee the proposal selection process, and assist the yearly directors to turn their visions into successful workshops, said Funda.
During the 2019-2020 Year of the Woman initiative, Gossard also seeks to connect with and educate the community about Ione Bennion’s tremendous impact on students, faculty, and Cache Valley. By maintaining and fostering new connections to Cache Valley and surrounding communities, the Bennion Teachers’ Workshop is committed to USU’s land-grant mission, she said.
Bennion “did so much for the women of Cache Valley,” said Gossard. “With the Year of the Woman, there's no better person that we can celebrate.”
In 1945, Bennion was named dean of Women at Utah State, but was forced to resign two years later when she married a fellow educator on campus. An anti-nepotism law stated that women could not be teachers or administrators if their husbands were employed by the university.
Instead, she turned her attention to the community, working for 28 years with disadvantaged and disabled students in the Logan City School District. While there, she created the Young Mothers program to encourage teenage mothers to complete high school. She also jumped into politics, advocating for women’s rights and working to secure the passage of the Utah Voting Rights Act of 1965. Bennion was also instrumental in creating the Center for Women and Gender at USU.
“She was progressive in so many ways, especially for her time,” said Gossard. “She did a lot to help women continue their education.”
Bennion, who died in 1997, “needs to be brought back into the conversation,” said Gossard.
A call for proposals for the 2020 Bennion Teachers’ Workshop application cycle will be available soon. Interested faculty should contact Gossard to discuss the application process.
More information at: https://mountainwest.usu.edu/bennion/workshop.
- - Janelle Hyatt, Communications Director, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, (435) 797-0289