On Sept. 27, an anonymous donor gave $100,000 to The University of Southern Mississippi’s Dale Center for the Study of War and Society.
Chair of the History Department Kyle Zelner said the funds will set up a graduate fellowship in the Dale Center to help with events and anything else to keep it running.
“It’s a center housed within the history department that looks at the history of war and its effects on society,” Zelner said. “There are seven faculty members who work on topics around war and society. The anonymous donation is incredibly helpful for the graduate student and for the Dale Center as well.
The Dale Center fellow will help put on events, lecture series and round table discussions. The fellowship is going to help a graduate student live at Southern Miss for a year and pay for his or her schooling, according to Zelner.
University Distinguished Professor of History and the Founding Director of the Dale Center Andrew Wiest said one of the reasons the Dale Center started was because one area of history, specifically military history, could reach a larger part of society.
“This anonymous donor was pleased with the work we have been doing and donated this [fellowship] for us,” Wiest said. “The fellowship will give us the ability to dream bigger and for faculty in the department to focus on writing, teaching and analyzing history.”
The center reaches out to those in the community and to families associated with the military and war, especially in this area veterans and active military in Camp Shelby nearby, according to Wiest.
“War is a societal investment,” Wiest said. “When America goes to war, everyone is involved. We are talking about women, families and the impact of war on people’s soul – which is my primary focus. War even influences art and media.”
Wiest said the fellowship will allow the faculty to focus more on writing and dreaming bigger for Southern Miss.
“Every time we put on an event, it takes months of work,” Wiest said. “Every time we work on a new event, it takes away from us being about to write, analyze or document history. This position will allow for us to focus on writing, dream bigger and to dream more often.”
Professor, Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Alumni Professor in the Humanities and Co-director of the Dale Center for the Study of War and Society Susannah Ural said the Dale Center helps the community and students understand the importance of war.
“I had tenure at a university in Texas that I gave up to come here and be a part of this center,” Ural said. “Personally, I’m fascinated by human conflict and understanding why nations go to war and why
we can’t sometimes resolve our differences in a civilized manner.”
Ural said she cannot think of many other things in the world that make such a dramatic difference
in the lives of people and lives of nations.
“War makes a tremendous impact, and I think it’s essential to study something that’s as awful as war and understand it better,” Ural said. “The Dale Center lets us do that. It helps our students wrestle with these kinds of questions about war. It helps our students understand our presidential candidates.”
“The idea is that it is going to be an ongoing thing and that our graduate students can rely on and the center can rely on. It’s key for a couple of reason. One is to make sure that we have the support we need and to help the center do everything it needs to do to be successful.
Ural said the donation will fund a 12-month fellowship for five consecutive years, which is different from a lot of graduate assistant stipends – which are only nine month.
“In the summer, if we aren’t getting grants to employ our students over the summer then they have to scramble for money,” Ural said. “It’s the kind of thing we’d like to see all our grants and assistantships become.”
Ural said the fellowship student will handle the day-to-day logistics that come with planning events such as emailing.
“Every time we host an event, there is a tremendous amount of planning involved,” Ural said. “Whenever we are doing planning, we are not focused on mentoring our students or writing our books. When we publish our books and these books do well in our community, our peers recognize that some of the best historians are here in Mississippi, and they will send their students here. People realize that Southern Miss is a place that needs to be listened to.”
Edit: At time of publication a quote was misprinted as “The University in Texas” when it was “a university in Texas” that Dr. Ural left tenure for to work at USM. Dr. Ural previously worked at Sam Houston University in Texas.