History students receive recognition at Phi Alpha Theta conference

Lisa Eikenburg

Two History majors had the opportunity to present their research at the Phi Alpha Theta annual regional conference on April 7 and were rewarded for their efforts. Joseph Marsala and Austin Parr, both seniors, traveled to Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., to display their work to the national honorary history fraternity.

According to John Arnold, associate professor of the Department of History and faculty advisor of the Fredonia chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society in history, the conference serves as a way for students to learn from each other.

“It exists primarily to stimulate the study of history on college and university campuses and to provide a forum for students to gather and exchange ideas,” he said.

Mr. Parr’s paper, “Epidemic Disasters of the Native American Northeast,” focused on how Native Americans responded when introduced to smallpox by European colonists. The research examined how the people of the northeast reacted, as opposed to those from other areas in America. His conclusion confirmed the idea that, in order to better understand Native Americans’ characteristic roles within history, historians must interact with them individually.

After the paper was presented before conference-goers and judged, Parr was selected as one of 10 recipients of the Outstanding Conference Paper award. Parr was grateful for the experience.

“Honestly, I was quite surprised to receive an award,” he said. “I went to the conference not expecting anything of the sort, only to show others in my field what I had been working on and to see what sorts of research my colleagues were working on. Winning one of the awards was certainly a very exciting moment, and I think it has definitely urged me to continue with the research I've already done for my paper, perhaps developing it further through grad school and beyond.”

Marsala also received recognition at the conference. His paper, “Christian Religious Community in the Japanese-American Internment: The Brightest Spot in a Terrible Tragedy,” concentrated on how Japanese-American congregations made a positive impact during World War II internment.

“My goal was to communicate the reality of hope and perseverance that thousands of interned Japanese-Americans experienced amidst the injustice of World War II American internment,” he said.

After his research was reviewed, Marsala’s paper earned an honorable mention.

For any undergraduate student, graduate student or faculty member interested in Phi Alpha Theta, the organization’s website includes information on other events and how to qualify for membership.

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