WMU News

Upton Foundation funds new WMU fellowship

Nov. 15, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- A unique opportunity to research and document a vital aspect of Southwest Michigan's history has been created by the establishment of a new graduate student fellowship at Western Michigan University funded by the Fredrick S. Upton Foundation.

WMU's Department of History and the Fort Miami Heritage Society of St. Joseph, Mich., have created the Fredrick S. Upton Fellowship in Public History with a $60,000 gift from the Upton Foundation. Offering an annual stipend of $16,000 plus a dedicated research budget, the Upton Fellowship will pair a student pursuing a doctoral degree in public history with the Fort Miami Heritage Society for a series of projects that will examine the area's history.

"This fellowship is quite prestigious because not only will the recipient receive support that is unprecedented in the humanities at this University, but he or she also will have the chance to work extensively with the community to bring its cultural heritage to light," says Dr. Marion "Buddy" Gray, chairperson of the Department of History. "It's a great opportunity for the individual and the University."

The Upton Fellow will work with academic and public history institutions and community-based organizations to conduct research on the region's rich heritage. Included in that history is Fort Miami, a 17th-century French fort located in St. Joseph, which is believed to be the first European settlement in Southwest Michigan. In addition, the fellow will help explore and document the history of the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor community and surrounding region, from prehistoric times to its more modern roots in maritime activities, shipping and agriculture.

"We are looking at the broader history of our community and the relationship of this region and these communities to other regions and areas of the country," says Fort Miami Heritage Society Executive Director Kenneth R. Pott.

Because the Fort Miami Heritage Society had successfully worked with WMU on past projects, Pott saw an opportunity to once again collaborate with the University to help further research of the region's history.

"Ken originally came to us with the idea of working with WMU," says Stephen Upton, chairman of the Fredrick S. Upton Foundation, "and because the Foundation has been quite active in helping the Fort Miami Heritage Society get started, we thought this would be beneficial for the community and wanted to support this important project."

Dr. Kristin Szylvian, WMU associate professor of history and chairperson of the Upton Fellowship Committee, says the new fellowship will benefit WMU as well because the University will play an active part in the exploration and documentation of Southwest Michigan's history.

"The Department of History has long since recognized the importance of having a relationship with the Fort Miami Heritage Society. Working with them affords us a greater degree to which WMU students can explore and become part of historical Michigan," says Szylvian. "In addition, it will further strengthen our already substantial program in public history."

Dr. Elise Jorgens, dean of WMU's College of Arts and Sciences, says the new Upton Fellowship is establishing a model for other fellowships in the college.

"This fellowship is ideal because it is a competitive award that builds off of an existing graduate appointment, and that will help us recruit exceptional students," Jorgens says.

Pott agrees. "We plan to bring someone on board who has a great degree of background, training and experience," he says. "The person who receives this fellowship will be truly exceptional."

The first Upton Fellow is expected to begin fall 2002. Applications for the fellowship are due Feb. 1, 2002.

For more information, persons should contact Kristin Szylvian at (616) 387-4639.

Media contact: Scott K. Crary, 616 387-8400

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