Candidate statement for September 2017 ACHA Election
I appreciate the opportunity to be a candidate for vice-president of the American Catholic Historical Association. I hold an endowed chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of New Mexico. Before I came to UNM, I taught at Villanova University. The move from a Catholic Augustinian institution on the East Coast to a public university in the Southwest, one with a majority-minority student body, has made me to think about Catholic studies in new ways. First, teaching (as I do now) in an American Studies Department, where my colleagues come from other fields, has caused me to reflect on all Catholic studies might gain from robust interdisciplinary collaboration. I believe the success of Catholic studies depends on the ability of its scholars to grow collaborative relationships across fields, including fields outside of history and religious studies. Those of us who study Catholicism have not only much to learn from, but also much to offer, disciplines where Catholicism is evaluated (when its considered at all) in primarily political terms. The ACHA is well positioned to foster inter-disciplinary collaboration, especially at its annual meeting. If elected I will work with the executive committee to build a meeting that supports this collaboration.
Second, teaching Catholic history to Hispanic and Indigenous students (many of whom do not identify as Catholic) has forced me to take seriously the biases embedded in the models I use to study that history. The success of Catholic studies also depends on the field’s ability to demonstrate relevance to a diversifying population of students and young scholars, at both Catholic and public institutions. A 2014 Pew study found that Hispanic Catholic millennials in the U.S. now outnumber their white counterparts. I think a lot about what it means to present my own field of ‘American Catholic history’– a field created by Euro-American descendants of the “immigrant church”– to this changing populous. I believe historians of Catholicism have an obligation to consider racial and colonialist biases embedded in our teaching and scholarship, and their consequences, and to work against them. The ACHA can be at the forefront of this work too. If elected I will encourage initiatives that support scholars who are reimagining the field of Catholic history, in ways that grapple with the problems and possibilities of this new era. Finally, if elected I will also work for better inclusion of contingent faculty within ACHA leadership. Colleges and universities nationwide are replacing tenure-track faculty with contingent labor. Increasingly scholars of Catholicism are spending part or all of their careers in contingent positions. It is essential that professional organizations, the ACHA included, examine their leadership structures to ensure scholars in contingent positions have opportunity for participation. The AAR, for example, recently voted on a bylaw amendment to add a Contingent Faculty Director to its Board of Directors. The ACHA bylaws already, and importantly, require graduate student representation on the executive committee. If elected I will encourage an amendment to ensure similar representation by contingent faculty on the committee.
Thank you to all for considering my candidacy.