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Student Spotlight

Elise Leal | History Department Alumna

History Department Spotlight, Elise Leal, June 2018

Elise Leal | History Department Alumna

After earning a B.A. in Communication Studies at Regent University, Elise entered Texas State’s M.A. in History program in 2011. Under the direction of her advisor, Dr. Ronald Angelo Johnson, she received rigorous training in the historian’s craft and developed a sustained interest in exploring how belief systems – religious, gendered, and otherwise – influence culture. Elise became particularly fascinated with how these interactions shaped the new American republic, prompting her to write a thesis on the rise of a children’s religious reform movement called Sunday schools in the early nineteenth century. She also received valuable pedagogical training at Texas State through multiple semesters working as an Instructional Assistant. Through these experiences, Elise began formulating the goal of developing into the type of professor that gives every student thorough training in the historical skills required to use the past to contextualize the present, function as informed citizens within their communities, and develop the self-awareness required for being agents of positive change.

These research interests and teaching goals animated her formation as a historian after graduating from Texas State. In 2013 she entered the History Ph.D. program at Baylor University, where she continued to hone her skills as a scholar of early American religion, gender, and childhood under the direction of Dr. Thomas Kidd. This May she successfully defended her dissertation, which analyzes the Sunday school movement from 1790-1860 to show how concepts of childhood, and young people themselves, helped transform early American religious practices while also contributing to the broader formation of a child-centric culture that persists in the modern day. Elise’s research has received grants and awards from institutions such as the Boston Athenaeum and the American Society of Church History, and her first article is forthcoming in a top-tier journal this fall. Elise also continued to develop as a teacher during her time at Baylor, and received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award in the spring of 2017. Her Ph.D. experience was further enhanced by opportunities to expand her academic skillset outside the History Department, including two years leading the Graduate Student Association and one year serving as Special Graduate Assistant to Baylor’s president. She is excited to transition to the next stage of her academic journey as an Assistant Professor of Early American History at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, beginning this fall.

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