Vicki Howard

Associate Professor of History

Where are you from?/Where did you go to school?
I'm originally from Vancouver, BC, Canada. I received my Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Why is the "Liberal Arts in Practice" method an effective way for your students to learn?
Students in my history courses learn the art of historical interpretation through hands-on experience with primary-source documents in Hartwick's rich archives, through materials I bring to class, and through digitized historical documents.

What about your work energizes/excites you?
I am fascinated by large historical transformations, such as industrialization and de-industrialization, and by the way traditional practices survive in the face of such major economic and social change. All my intellectual endeavors come back to these economic transformations and their effect on culture. For example, these interests have shaped my curriculum development in American history here at Hartwick, leading to courses like "American Consumer Society," "Main Street USA," "American Business History," and "Food in America."

Do you consider yourself a mentor to students? In what way?
Every new research paper a student undertakes presents the possibility of new discovery or the creation of new knowledge. In upper-division history seminars, I get the chance to guide students in primary-source research. I spend a lot of time helping them find productive sources and I enjoy working individually with them on the documents.

What are your classes like?/What is your best place to teach?
In my history courses, I always try to find connections between the past and students' contemporary experience. Every day before class, I scan the New York Times to see if I can find current news items to bring in that reflect upon our day's subject matter. Sometimes I also check YouTube. I like teaching in the classrooms in Yager, which is the library building. There, we can easily make trips down to the Hartwick archives, the periodical section, the stacks, and the computer lab for hands on research activities, which we do frequently.

Have you won any awards/special honors/recognition?
Yes, most recent list is included below.

  • Hartwick College Faculty Research Grant, 2011-2012 for book project, Snack Food Nation: Big Business and the Transformation of American Food-ways in the 20th Century.
  • Winifred Wandersee Scholar-in-Residence Award, 2009-2010, Hartwick College.
  • Nebraska State Historical Society, Research Grant, Lincoln, NE 2007-2008 for project titled "National v. Local Consumer Culture: A Nebraskan Department Store Case Study."
  • Hartwick College Faculty Research Grants, 2007-2010 for book project The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store, 1890-2005.
  • Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellowship, June-August, 2002 (six months awarded)

What research are you doing, how do you engage your students in your work?
Some of my courses come directly out of the expertise I gained doing research for my book and future book projects. I taught a course titled "Weddings, Marriage, and the Family: Historical Perspectives," which built of research conducted for my first book. A recent course I've taught, titled "Main Street USA," came out of research conducted for an upcoming book on the history of downtown department stores. Another recent course, titled "Food in America," reflects reading I've been doing for my next book, which will be a history of industrial foods.

What are your most recent publications, scholarly works, exhibitions, performances?
My work for the last two years includes:

"Weddings in American Consumer Society, 1945-1970s." RTAP 110 Module in Retrieving the American Past. Customized U.S. History reader published by Pearson Custom Publishing, Boston, MA: Spring 2012.

Review of Tracey Deutsch, Building a Housewife's Paradise: Gender, Politics, and American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century. Journal of American History. March 2011.

"A History of Department Store Advertising in Newspapers, Radio, and Television, 1890-1960s. The Journal of Historical Research in Marketing. Special Issue on Retailing. January 2010.

"The Bridal Business: Teaching Strategies for Business History." The Organization of American Historian's Magazine of History: A Quarterly Magazine for Teachers of History. January 2010. Issue on Business History. Edited by Pamela W. Laird and Mark H. Rose.

What is your most valued Hartwick experience?
Teaching a first-year seminar. I like to meet freshmen. They have so much energy and idealism. Also, I like seeing students graduate and go on to the next stage of their lives. Commencement is a happy event.