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UNLV History Department Selects Renowned North American Historian as Harry Reid Endowed Chair

Susan Lee Johnson will serve as first endowed chair in Liberal Arts; position will elevate history program to leader in the study of the Intermountain West.
People  |  Nov 15, 2018  |  By Karyn S. Hollingsworth
Media Contact: Karyn S. Hollingsworth (702) 895-2513;
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Courtesy Las Vegas News Bureau

The UNLV Department of History has named renowned North American West historian Susan Lee Johnson as the Harry Reid Endowed Chair for the History of the Intermountain West.portrait of Susan Johnson

Johnson’s appointment -- the first endowed chair in the College of Liberal Arts -- is expected to elevate the history department to the national leader in the study of the Intermountain West region. Potential research areas might include religion, the environment, politics, gender, the economy, and the history of the region’s diverse peoples.

“Susan is a renowned scholar, teacher, and mentor of dozens of graduate students who are themselves among the most noted historians of their generation,” said Andy Kirk, chair of the history department. “She holds major positions in national historical organizations and is among the most respected professors in our profession. In short, she is a superstar worthy of this endowed chair who will bring national honor and distinction to our department, our university, and the state of Nevada.”

Johnson will join UNLV in fall 2019 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she has been a professor of history since 2010 and on the faculty since 2001. She is widely regarded as a premier historian of the North American West and its borderlands, and specializes in the study of gender; race, ethnicity, and indigeneity; and desire and embodiment. She also serves as a faculty affiliate of the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department.

Johnson is the author of the book, Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush, which won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished work in American history in 2001. Considered a modern classic, the book is set at the western edge of the Intermountain West and is taught widely in western history classes across the U.S. Johnson’s second book, under contract with the University of North Carolina Press, as well as a third book project are set more squarely in the Intermountain West. She also served as a consultant to the PBS American Experience documentary, The Gold Rush.

“It will be the greatest honor of my life to join the UNLV faculty and the greatest joy to move to the center of the region I so love, to an incredibly diverse and vibrant city with a strong tradition of labor union strength and environmental activism and innovation,” Johnson said.

Johnson previously held faculty appointments at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Michigan. She earned a Ph.D. in history at Yale University, an M.A. at Arizona State University, and a B.A. at Carthage College.

The Harry Reid Endowed Chair was initially funded in 2017 by a $1 million gift from the late Jon Huntsman, Sr. to honor Sen. Harry Reid, his interest in history, and distinguished life of public service. UNLV secured an additional $1.2 million in gifts and pledges from multiple sources to fund the position, including law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and mining company Barrick Gold Corp.


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