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Expert on modern European history tapped as rising academic star

by Cheryl Roland

Sept. 13, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Dr. Eli Rubin.
KALAMAZOO--A historian who specializes in modern European history and Germany has been called a rising star in academia and named the 2011 winner of Western Michigan University's Emerging Scholar Award.

Dr. Eli Rubin, associate professor of history, will be honored, along with other major campuswide award winners, at WMU's annual Academic Convocation, which is set for 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall. The event also will feature WMU President John M. Dunn's annual State of the University address. Held during the opening weeks of fall semester classes, the convocation is designed as a signature event to welcome faculty, staff and students back to campus.

The Emerging Scholar Award program was launched late in 2006 to acknowledge the accomplishments of WMU faculty members who are among the rising stars in U.S. higher education. It celebrates the contributions of faculty who are in the first decade of their careers at WMU and who, by virtue of their contributions to scholarship or creative activity, have achieved national recognition and demonstrated outstanding promise to achieve renown in their continuing work. The award goes to scholars nominated for consideration through a campuswide selection process and carries with it a $2,000 cash prize.

Rubin, who has been a WMU faculty member since 2004, spent two years--2007-09--in Berlin on a postdoctoral fellowship supported by the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation. He has already published widely in his field, with six major research-based journal articles and book chapters to his credit, and his work has been presented in more than 25 professional papers.
Rubin used his research to write the internationally hailed 2008 book, "Synthetic Socialism: Plastics and Dictatorship in the German Democratic Republic." He is working on two related book projects on the GDR, with one nearing completion, and his work is already being used to train students internationally.

"Dr. Rubin's publications on the German Democratic Republic--better known as East Germany--constitute a significant, influential and highly original contribution to the study of modern Europe and, indeed, our understanding of the 20th-century world," said a historian at another North American university in support of Rubin's nomination for the award. "Rubin is known and admired by the most acclaimed scholars of modern European history at work today."

Rubin's writings, one European scholar says, have earned him an important identity in scholarship on the GDR and other socialist states.

"He has developed an original approach that interprets the crossroads of political history, economics and consumption," that scholar observed. "This work makes an important contribution to the scholarship of history."

In addition to teaching modern world history, European history and German history to undergraduates at WMU, Rubin has led the First-Year Experience freshman skills seminar, and he has served on dissertation and doctoral examination committees for graduate history students. 

Rubin earned his bachelor's degree with honors from Swarthmore College and both his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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