Students from the University of the Science and Arts of Oklahoma attend the Phi Theta Alpha history conference at NSU in Tahlequah. Pictured here are, from left, (front row) Kiefer Burkhard, Kelsea Bryant, Beth Powell, (back row) Dr. James Finck, Glen Straughn and Krayton Rodgers. Powell took first place in the undergraduate American history category.

USAO student takes top history award

Monday, April 7, 2014

A student at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma took top honors at a recent statewide history conference for her paper on famed boxer Jack Johnson.

Beth Powell, a junior history major from Blanchard, took first in the undergraduate American history category for her paper, which examined Johnson’s career and legacy in the context of race relations in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

The conference was hosted by Phi Alpha Theta, an honor society for undergraduate and graduate history students, as well as professors of history.

Powell said that she was surprised by the honor.

“I was nervous going in,” Powell said. “I didn’t even know it was a competition. I was just happy to be invited and have the chance to present my paper.

“My judges were very helpful and gave good feedback. It helped me because now I’m less intimidated about grad school and presenting papers. Overall, it was a very positive experience.”

The conference, held at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, featured presentations by approximately 90 students, ranging from undergraduate to doctoral level, from around the state.

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 three 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.”

Finck sponsored five students in total at the conference including: Kelsea Bryant, a senior history major from Tecumseh; Kiefer Burkhard, a junior English major from Edmond; Krayton Rodgers, a junior English major from Chickasha; Glen Straughn, a senior computer science major from Ada; and Powell.

Other paper topics included the role of World War II in creating modern computing, the importance of Alexander Hamilton in shaping the American system of governance, Japanese-American relations prior to the Second World War and Prohibition.