Arts & Humanities

Series Explores Faculty Research in College of Humanities & Social Sciences

By Andrea DeHaan |

Professor Jennifer Sinor speaks at the 2023 Brewer Festival at Utah State University on Sept. 21, 2023. Sinor's book talk is scheduled for Feb. 28, 2024.

LOGAN — The word "research" at an R1 institution conjures many things. You may find yourself picturing people in lab coats experimenting with spider silk, high-tech machinery being calibrated for satellites, or people gathering samples outdoors. But research encompasses much more. If you’re a USU student, the term might make you think of hours spent in the library or online looking up sources and trying to formulate an idea for your next assignment.

This is where many faculty members at USU in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences find themselves. Not surrounded by expensive equipment in dust-free labs, but skillfully working to gather, understand and synthesize information from multiple verifiable sources and come out on the other side, usually after many years, with a book in hand, or at least under contract.

To help elevate the faculty who have authored books, Julia M. Gossard, associate dean of research in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, created CHaSS Book Talks. This series invites faculty with recent publications to share their research with peer faculty, students and staff.

“The publication of a book marks an important career achievement for many scholars in our field who work for many years on a single project,” Gossard said. “CHaSS Book Talks, then, are an opportunity to celebrate faculty achievement, learn more about our colleagues’ impressive research, and create a robust intellectual community in the college.”

Gossard introduced the series in the fall of 2022, in part to bring attention to authors who published books during the pandemic and revitalize the college’s shared intellectual community post-pandemic. Now, the series is in its fourth semester, with the current lineup featuring seven CHaSS faculty who have published books on topics ranging from the treatment of gender in Chinese fiction to questions of race during the Civil War.

The presentations are somewhat informal with faculty directed to provide a short talk on their book’s inspiration, research process, argument and reception.

“A goal is to have colleagues, students and staff see the complex and fascinating topics CHaSS faculty research,” Gossard said. “Perhaps some of these talks can lead to future collaborations or discussions among colleagues of how to continue to advance research in the humanities and social sciences.”

On Feb. 7, Associate Professor of History Susan Cogan was this spring’s first, sharing the process and projects related to her book “Catholic Social Networks in Early Modern England: Kinship, Gender, and Coexistence.” With fellow faculty, staff and students gathered to learn more about her work, Cogan explained the way some post-Reformation English Catholics culturally positioned themselves, their families and their political networks to avoid persecution and maintain social standing.

“The initial question was how did Catholics survive in what was, allegedly, an environment of rigorous persecution?” Cogan said introducing her book.

“And what I discovered,” she later said, “was that many of the relationships that help Catholic families to either escape persecution or to reduce the persecution they're facing … actually originate generations or into, in some cases, centuries [beforehand].”

After the short discussion, which is also available via Zoom video conferencing, participants have the chance to ask questions, engage with the research, and learn more about the projects that faculty have devoted considerable time to.

This year’s first book talk drew faculty and staff from multiple departments in CHaSS, and these presentations are also open to students and anyone interested in learning more about the range of topics covered.

Attendee and fellow Associate Professor of History Lawrence Culver said, “It was great to have an opportunity to learn about people's work.”

CHaSS alum and current Development Officer Cassidy Nemelka also enjoyed last week’s event, saying it was “awesome to be able to nerd out” while learning about Cogan’s research.

For a full listing of this spring’s events, visit:


Andrea DeHaan
Communications Editor
College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Julia Gossard
Associate Dean for Research
College of Humanities and Social Sciences


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