On May 2, 2016, historian Elizabeth Tandy Shermer made a “Virtual Visit” to my HIST 318/518: History of the American West course to discuss her book that I had assigned that semester, Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics (2013). The students certainly found the political development that Shermer describes in her book to be particularly relevant to their understanding of the more recent history of the American West, but also to their understanding of national current events that are front and center during this presidential election year.
Some students asked professor Shermer questions about why she chose to focus on Phoenix, Arizona and how long it took her to conduct the research and then write the book. Other students asked her if she believed that the rise of Western conservatism halted the progress of the civil rights movement, and to share her thoughts as to whether the rapid growth of Phoenix and other sunbelt cities will be sustainable. This was an exciting opportunity for these Indiana students-most of whom have never been to the west-to meet the author and to discuss her book.
Fun fact: Ellie was my first-ever research assistant when I was a post-doc at the University of Virginia and now she’s an award-winning professor at Loyola University in Chicago! They grow up so fast… 😉