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Erika Bsumek discusses her current research on the American West with Life & Letters

Posted: April 24, 2013
Prof. Erika Bsumek

Prof. Erika Bsumek

By Jessica Sinn for Life & Letters

What is the value of humanities research? Why is it a practical component of an undergraduate’s education? The answer is simple. Explorations into literature, philosophy, art, music and poetry teach us how to make sense out of a complex and interdependent world.

Whether they’re deciphering ancient manuscripts, unraveling medieval mysteries, or reciting a Shakespeare play, humanist scholars help us understand the past and give us a clearer picture of what the future holds.

To support research in the humanities, the College of Liberal Arts created the Humanities Research Award, which provides $15,000 for research-related expenses such as travel, archival costs, supplies and materials.

Established in 2009, the annual award was created by Dean Randy Diehl in response to a shortage of external grants for humanities research. The funding allows professors to produce a book or a set of articles and make their work known to the academic community.

We caught up with some past recipients to learn more about their research –– from racial rhetoric to the history of America’s infrastructure to medieval art and literature.

Erika Bsumek, Associate Professeor, Department of History

Research summary: Bsumek’s project “The Concrete West” examines how the American West was transformed by concrete, and how the profession of engineering changed over the course of the 20th century. Bsumek is also studying the impact of large construction projects (dams, highways, cities and suburbs) on the American West. Go here to watch the entire video Q&A (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Watch her discuss her research on Navajo artisans on Not Even Past.

Go here for a complete list of past Humanities Research Award recipients discussing their research with Life & Letters.

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