History 2021


2021 LAS Awards

April Benson  
Outstanding Undergraduate Student
April was born and raised in Colorado Springs, and she is a mountain girl through-and-through. She enlisted into the U.S. Army Reserves at the age of 17, and following her initial training, she attended UCCS for her philosophy degree. Her brother, Peter (a UCCS history major graduate), inspired and encouraged her to enter the double-major program for history. April took his advice and became enchanted with the ancient world and military history. As Dr. Sackett noted: “She excelled in courses on World War II and Nazi Germany. Her philosophy background was not hard to detect.  She explores ideas and tests them for coherence and support. A credit to our Department and to the Philosophy Department.” After hard study and dedicated work for two years, April graduated with her philosophy-history double major with a 4.0 GPA in December 2020. She appreciates all the support the UCCS history and philosophy departments provided her throughout her academic journey, and she hopes to leverage her knowledge in her future active duty military career as a commissioned officer!
Barry C. Binder 
Outstanding Graduate Student
Barry Binder relocated to Colorado Springs in 2017 to pursue his M.A. in History at UCCS, with a desire to study the history of the Pikes Peak region. He earned his B.A. in History from Illinois State University ('96), where he was awarded both the Tasher Outstanding B.A. Student Award and the Tasher Scholarship in History Award for his research and writing conducted in Vladimir Oblast, Russia. Barry's M.A. research has centered on the transmission and evolution of ideas and identity through migration, with thesis papers at UCCS focused on Scottish Arts & Crafts architects in Colorado Springs, the representation of Chinese migrants in Colorado's popular press, and the identity of Mexican migrant laborers ("braceros") through oral histories. Barry's paper for Dr. Wei demonstrated an innovative approach to analyzing little researched primary sources with an insightful argument that complements our received wisdom about Asian Americans. He was awarded UCCS's Graduate Student Research Fellowship in 2018. Barry is an active contributor to public history and historic preservation, having presented his work locally, contributing to the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum's "COS@150" exhibit, and serving as a Commissioner on the Historic Preservation Board of Colorado Springs. His future plans include pursuing opportunities as an adjunct instructor and continuing ongoing research projects on class, race, gender, popular culture, and the press in the Pikes Peak region at the turn of the 20th century.
Marissa Cassibo  
Outstanding Undergraduate Student
Marisa Cassibo was born in McCook, Nebraska but has called many places home as an Air Force brat, Army medic, and current Army spouse.  This connection has fueled her passion and intrigue for other regions’ histories and their cultures.  Her history senior thesis combined two topics she feels especially inspired by: women's contributions during wartime and World War II.  Beyond a high GPA, Marisa is know for her rigorous quality of work and engagement in the classroom. She will complete her final weeks student teaching in May and apply for licensure thereafter.  She is eager to help students cultivate an affection for history and aid them in the discovery of how applicable the lessons of yesterday are to the world today.  Marisa has been honored to be a part of the History Department and learn from the esteemed and decorated staff at UCCS.  
Madison Harris 
Outstanding Undergraduate Student, Humanities Outstanding Student Award (History Major)
Madison Harris will be graduating from UCCS summa cum laude with majors in History and Biomedical Sciences and minors in Leadership Communication Studies and Civic Engagement through U.S. History. Her research focuses on social, legal, and intellectual history, exploring tensions between church and state, civil rights, and religious theology. Madi has shared her award-winning research at both regional and national conferences and through publications and podcasts. At UCCS, she enjoyed being a part of various clubs and organizations like the Chancellor’s Leadership Class, Student Government Association, Honor’s Program, Pre-Health Society, Ethics Bowl Team, and Phi Alpha Theta Historical Honor Society. Madi has given conference presentations of original research at Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conferences, and the International John Whitmer Historical Association Conference, in Kansas City, MO. She has published (or has forthcoming) four peer-reviewed articles, both single and co-authored, in journals including: Utah State Historical Quarterly Journal; Oxford University: Journal of Church and Stat;e Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought; and UCCS Research Journal. See https://communique.uccs.edu/?p=131567 . After graduation, Madi will be attending medical school pursing a dual MD/MHA. She is extremely grateful for the guidance and support of the history department in her academic journey.
Outstanding Graduate Student - Interdisciplinary History
Michelle is from Tucson, Arizona. After moving to Colorado, she ran she own successful business for many years. She decided to return to school to follow her passion in the study of history and teaching. She received her teaching license and her undergraduate degree in History at UCCS. Her undergraduate thesis, “A March for Human Rights: The Madres de Plaza de Mayo and the US President Carter’s Administrative Multilateral Policies,” focused on grassroots activism within social justice movements. Michelle continued on in the History Master’s program and received the Graduate Cesar Chavez Award for her work titled, “Weaving a Web of Justice: Political Economy and Tradition in Mayan Cooperatives.” Her M.A. research focused on ethnic minority groups and indigenous peoples, with a focus on identity, recognition, and justice. Michelle hopes to continue researching, writing, and speaking to social and environmental justice around the world. As Dr. Forrest commented: "From our initial correspondence, Michelle challenged her soul into others’ historical humanity.” Michelle would also like to share her passion for history through teaching. If not for all the support and encouragement from the faculty, staff, and peers at UCCS, Michelle’s educational journey would not have been as positive and rewarding. Michelle would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one at UCCS.
Kyle Newkirk
Outstanding Graduate Student
Kyle has lived in Colorado most of his life and currently teaches at Fountain Fort Carson High School. He began his education at Pikes Peak Community College before enrolling at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs for his undergraduate and graduate studies. His research focuses on stories of identity, reform, and integration - especially in the realm of education. He has written about integration of Chinese Americans in the public school system at the height of the Yellow Peril, reform of English education in the wake of World War Two, and the restructuring of American classrooms following the panic caused by Sputnik in 1957. Kyle researched and wrote about changes to the British educational system that were prompted by the Second World War, when British educators evaluated the existing system in light of needs that the war exposed. Kyle completed for Prof. Harvey two publishable-quality research papers on the rise of American domestic life, consumerism, and patriotic education from the 1930s to the 1950s. Kyle has a deep respect for and commitment to the service of teaching. He fully intends to continue his career in public education to help young people see the value in themselves and the value of an education.
Alicia Portillos
The Florence Murphy Scholarship
Paul Tomes
Outstanding Graduate Student
Paul was born in Southern California but has lived in Colorado Springs for most of his life. He graduated from UCCS in 2018 with an undergraduate degree in English, with a focus in literature. After deciding to pursue his MA in History, Paul became interested in the interactions between history and art, especially through literature and performance. His work in the History MA program has concerned that intersection of history, literature, and performance, as well as ways people have historically responded to and written about dictators and tyrannical leaders. Among the faculty, Paul is known as a superb writer and insightful researcher. He is especially adept at applying concepts to historical research. Dr. Sackett writes: “In a fine paper just completed on the French philosopher and writer Albert Camus, he took an idea from the historian Carolyn J. Dean about European courtroom trials around 1950 being used, without strict regard for the law, to project testimony about suffering. In this way, the courtroom became like a theatre. Paul turned the idea around in his interpretation of a play by Camus. He saw that the theatre was being used like a courtroom. He puts great energy into concepts and works hard until he is satisfied with the result. And his writing is both beautiful and precise.” After graduation, Paul hopes to find a way to turn writing into a career.
Joshua Van Sanford  
Outstanding Undergraduate Student
After completing his associate’s degree at PPCC, Joshua Van Sanford transferred to UCCS to complete his BA in history, with the eventual goal of graduate school. At both PPCC and UCCS, Joshua focused on indigenous studies and history, and he presented work on Native American experiences in the First World War at CSURF 2019, while still a student at PPCC. These topics inspired and encouraged his senior thesis that compared the experiences of Native American, indigenous, and colonized groups in the First World War, attempting to analyze the similarities and differences of colonial treatment of colonized peoples as well as their application of “Martial Race Theory.” Joshua completed an internship at the organization One Nation Walking in 2020 as well. Joshua is currently in the history master’s program at UCCS after graduating with his BA in 2020. He is working to pursue his goal of becoming a professor of history. Joshua currently works as a tutor in history at PPCC, hoping to hone his teaching skills in order to better help students in the future. He would like to thank all the friends, family, and faculty that have supported him in his academic journey. He is especially thankful to the many professors at both PPCC and UCCS who provided priceless knowledge and constant passion.

Wunderli Scholarships


The Department gives out annual scholarships of up to $5,000 per student, named in honor of Rick Wunderli, long-time Professor of Medieval History at UCCS. The scholarship comes from an endowment established by Judith Price (1944-2012), a long-time Instructor in the Department.

2021 Awardees:

  • Vanessa Davila
  • Bailey Ford
  • David Mack
  • Jeffrey Mann
  • Kali Ryan
  • Miranda Sherwood
  • Anna Ward