WESTFIELD-As the election season enters its final weeks, the Westfield Athenaeum and Westfield State University are teaming up for a new series of chats titled “WSU Professors Present” beginning Oct. 14.
“Part of our strategic plan is to become a community forum and Westfield State University is such a rich source of knowledge on all kinds of topics,” said Becky Blackburn, public services librarian, adding that Kate Deviny, Athenaeum director, has been the “driving force” behind the collaboration.
“We have been wanting to partner with them for years and as the election approaches it seemed a great opportunity to incorporate some interesting history and begin that partnership,” said Blackburn.
Deviny shared a similar sentiment.
“Our townspeople love history and while they may think their student time was finished years ago, there is much to be gained and even entertained when professors talk about subjects that are near and dear to their scholarship and hearts,” said Deviny.
Deviny added she believes area residents will enjoy the intriguing comparisons and contrasts, as well as new factoids the professors will share.
Dr. Nicholas Aieta, chair of the History Department, will lead off the virtual series on Oct. 14 with a lecture titled “Presidential Campaigning in Jacksonian America” from 7 – 8 p.m. A question-and-answer session will follow his presentation. Registration is required due to space limitations on the Zoom platform.
Aieta has been a resident and Athenaeum patron for almost 11 years and believes in the importance of making connections between the university and the greater community. Since arriving at Westfield State, he has taught courses focused on early American history including the period between 1815 and 1848.
“Our department has had students work at the Athenaeum for a number of years and students from my courses conducted research on artifacts from the Athenaeum archives in 2018 and 2019,” said Aieta.
During the spring semester, Aieta taught a Jacksonian America course at Westfield State, spending a “great deal of time” on the material culture and habits of presidential campaigning.
“In this virtual conversation I hope to explain some of how campaigning changed both in the public eye and from the perspective of the candidates,” said Aieta.
During his presentation, he will also share political cartoons and discuss the research of Dr. Mark Cheatham from Cumberland University.
The virtual series continues on Oct. 28 from 7 – 8 p.m. with Dr. Michael Konig, also from the History Department, presenting “Franklin Roosevelt and Presidential Leadership.”
“Presidential leadership has become of the most discussed topics in America during this election year,” said Konig. “Americans debate over what personal and political qualities enable a president to act as an effective leader during these difficult times.”
Konig said Franklin Delano Roosevelt emerged as a “powerful and controversial” president during one of the nation’s most challenging periods.
“His persona and his political skills combined to provide a remarkable composite of presidential leadership,” said Konig. “His guidance of the nation through the Great Depression and World War II set the bar for many as to effective and even inspiring leadership. We will examine Roosevelt’s political and personal skills and determine if these attributes provide a relevant standard for presidential leadership today.”
For future “chats,” Deviny is hopeful that Westfield State students will want to talk about their senior thesis, as students from Westfield Academy did many decades ago.
“The months of study that it takes to create a course or a thesis brings a fresh look at a subject,” said Deviny. “We would like to look at everything from music to physics and allow students and professors another way to explain their passion, and sweat.”
For more information and to register for the October programs, visit www.westath.org or call (413) 568-7833.