Alan Christy, Cowell College Provost

Date: 
04 Mar 2016
Description: 

The Division of Undergraduate Education is pleased to announce the appointment of Alan Christy as Cowell College Provost, effective July 1, 2016.

Associate Professor Christy joined the History Department in 1995 as a specialist in Japanese and modern East Asian history. He received his B.A. at Carleton College (1985) and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (1996), in addition to conducting four years of fieldwork in rural Japan through Kanagawa University. At UC Santa Cruz, he served as the inaugural History Department Undergraduate Director and for many years he has been the director of the East Asian Studies minor. In 2008 he co-founded, with Professor Alice Yang (also Stevenson College Provost), The Center for the Study of Pacific War Memories, a research center in the Humanities dedicated to building collaborative research projects bringing together students, faculty and the general public on issues regarding the legacies of WWII. For the past five years,, he has led large-scale collaborative public history research projects involving teams of faculty, staff and students here, as well as working with partners in Japan. His current project, The Gail Project uses a set of photographs taken in Okinawa in 1952 by an American army captain to explore the history of postwar Okinawan and American relationships under American military occupation. An exhibition of the photographs and his project team’s research will open on the campus in the spring of 2017 before traveling to Japan for display in multiple sites.

In the classroom, Professor Christy strongly believes in the value of experiential learning and collaborative making. He is committed to the idea of a liberal arts education — interdisciplinary learning with a global reach. He won the Dizikies Faculty Teaching Award in the Humanities in 2012 and The Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014. He may be best known for the large class he team teaches with Professor Yang, “Memories of WWII in the Pacific,” a course in which students explore through assigned readings and their own research projects, the many ways that changing understandings of WWII have shaped the postwar world up to the present. With many students pursuing questions of family or local history, the course, for him, is a model of university education that bridges the perceived distance between classroom and the broader world.

Professor Christy was especially drawn to Cowell College for its esteemed place in the history of the campus, for its core course theme of “Imagining Justice” and for the college’s motto: “The Pursuit of Truth in the Company of Friends.” Much of his teaching and research is devoted to the question of the relationship of historical knowledge to contemporary restorative justice. The most important formative experiences he had in becoming a scholar and in transforming his teaching practice were those that speak directly to his approach to the college motto. In educational systems that stress testing and grades, it is the value of collaboration that is often at most risk of being sidelined. Yet it is through collaboration—work in the company of friends, friends who bring a diverse range of experiences, perspectives and abilities—that the most profound advances of knowledge most often appear. Professor Christy’s goal for the college is to promote and nurture collaborative learning and through that to expand the diversity of the college.

Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education (VPDUE) Richard Hughey notes that “Alan is a campus leader in undergraduate research and experiential learning. His projects and courses in collaborative history include students in a wide range of majors, and the annual field work for undergraduates in Japan is a unique opportunity for students to be historians rather than just read about history.” When discussing undergraduate research, VPDUE Hughey regularly refers to Alan’s work, including that Alan’s web-based collaborative history system led to the establishment of a startup company.

VPDUE Hughey asks the campus to join in appreciation of Cowell Provost Faye Crosby’s six years of service. Faye has shown leadership, dedication, and success in strengthening alumni and friend collaboration and student communities of scholarship at Cowell College, which will no doubt be continued by Professor Christy.