History students rank high at recent conference

Kiefer Burkhard, Beth Powell and Dr. James Finck standing in the garden between Troutt and Austin Halls.
Kiefer Burkhard (left) and Beth Powell were recognized at a recent Phi Alpha Theta history conference for exceptional writing and scholarship. The pair was accompanied and sponsored by Dr. James Finck, assistant professor of American history.

History students rank high at recent conference


[This article contains contributions from Communication student Candace Williams.]

A strong conference showing from history students suggests a bright future for an emerging Phi Alpha Theta chapter.

Kiefer Burkhard, a senior history and English double major from Edmond, scored the highest point total in the undergraduate American history category for his paper.

His paper examined the Boxer Rebellion and the U.S and British policies contributing to it.

Burkhard said attending the conference was beneficial for his future.

“It will be great to put on my resume that I was able to attend the conference, let alone place,” Burkhard said. “It was great to be able to practice my speaking skills, and the judges gave useful pointers on how to improve our papers.”

Beth Powell, a senior history and American Indian studies major from Newcastle, notched the third highest score with her paper on agricultural policies during the Cold War.

Phi Alpha Theta is an honor society for undergraduate and graduate history students, as well as professors of history. The conference, held at Oklahoma Christian University, featured presentations by students from around the state.

Phi Alpha Theta requires participating institutions to employ three full-time history faculty in order to form a chapter. USAO hired its third history faculty member in fall of 2014 and is in the process of applying for membership.

Because USAO is not a member of Phi Alpha Theta yet, Burkhard and Powell did not receive awards but were recognized by the organization nonetheless.

Dr. James Finck, assistant professor of history, said the conference was ideal for students interested in attending graduate school.

“It’s a good conference,” Finck said. “Everyone there was really interested in building undergraduate confidence. We’ve attended four years in a row now and have made a good showing every year. Historians around the state are becoming more aware of the caliber of students we produce.”

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