Mitchell Ecklund ’25 presents paper at prestigious American Historical Association conference

Mitchell Ecklund '25 stands with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

Mitchell Ecklund ’25, a history and English double major and Africana studies minor at 69þƷ, presented his junior Independent Study topic at the American Historical Association conference Jan. 4-7 in San Francisco, California. He was selected to present “British Empire’s Political and Economic Response to the Irish Potato Famine of 1845” as part of the prestigious conference’s Undergraduate Lightning Round on Colonization, Empire, and Postcolonial Struggle.

He became intrigued in the topic for his junior I.S. after reading The Graves are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People” by John Kelly. “I really wanted to dive more into it and explore beyond what we learned about the Irish potato famine in American schools. About all we heard was there was a famine, and the Irish immigrants came over to the U.S.,” he said. “It was really interesting to explore the religious, political, and economic factors that led to the famine and how Britain responded to that,” he said.

The British government posted government notices about the famine and where the workhouses were located, he said during his presentation. “Most of the Irish population was illiterate so they couldn’t read the government notices. That information prompted a lot of questions about the illiteracy rate in Ireland from the audience,” he said.

“In attending the conference, Mitch was able to show his research and communication skills, as well as expand his professional network. There is significant competition to get to present at the annual meeting,” said Katherine Holt, Aileen Dunham Professorship in History. Ecklund, as all junior history majors, presented his history junior I.S. poster session to a wider Wooster campus.

After the campus presentation, he met with Holt to discuss other opportunities to present his research. “We encourage students to submit to regional conferences like the annual Phi Alpha Theta (history honor society) conference for undergraduate research in Ohio. Mitch took the initiative to think even bigger and apply to present his work at our national conference,” Holt said. “We’re really proud of him.  It is such an honor to have his work accepted for such a prestigious event, and it sounds like he got good feedback from the audience.”

The best part of the conference for Ecklund was meeting and interacting with faculty and students from all over the world. He enjoyed seeing what people from Australia, England, France, Germany, Poland, and Italy are doing with history and historical events. He also unexpectedly crossed paths with MSNBC news program host Rachel Maddow. After the conference ended, Ecklund took time to visit Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Pier 59. With his historic perspective, he noted that the Alcatraz history was well presented, but “they need to do some work with the history about the Native Americans occupation,” he commented.

His interest in history started in middle school. “I never met any of my grandfathers, so my great uncles were kind of like my grandfathers,” he said. One of them fought in World War II and was at the Omaha Beach landing in Normandy. “Growing up and hearing those stories led me toward my passion for history,” he said.

Ecklund thanked the College for supporting the trip through the Hayden Schilling Fund. Wooster was the right choice for the distant runner, both for the track and cross-country program and for the research opportunities. “You can do research anywhere, but it’s never guaranteed that you will get the support and resources necessary. I chose Wooster because the college and the professors, who are all doing research, have provided support and resources for student research and other experiential opportunities,” he said.

Featured photo: For Ecklund, meeting and interacting with faculty and students from all over the world was one of the best parts of attending the American Historical Association national conference in San Francisco. He crossed paths with MSNBC news program host Rachel Maddow, pictured with him here.

Posted in News on March 27, 2024.

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Critically examine events and societies of the past and learn to tell the stories future generations need to know

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An interdisciplinary approach to interpreting the lives and experiences of the world's Black women and men.

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