August 30, 2014  

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Stur Awarded First Nina Bell Suggs Professorship at Southern Miss

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Southern Miss history professor Heather Stur near the Hai Van Pass while leading the university's 2011 Vietnam Summer Studies Program.
Southern Miss history professor Heather Stur near the Hai Van Pass while leading the university's 2011 Vietnam Summer Studies Program.

A 1931 graduate’s financial gift to her alma mater is being used to honor the research and teaching efforts of junior faculty members at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Heather Stur, an assistant professor of history, is the first recipient of the Nina Bell Suggs Endowed Professorship which was established in March 2011 and will be awarded annually. Stur was selected at the end of the spring 2012 semester by a university committee appointed by the Office of the Provost.

“Dr. Stur is a rising star in her field and a valuable member of our faculty,” said Southern Miss Provost Dr. Denis Wiesenburg. “We’re pleased to recognize and honor her accomplishments with this professorship.”

The award follows the release of Stur’s first book, Beyond Combat: Women and Gender in the Vietnam War Era, published by Cambridge University Press in fall 2011. Beyond Combat looks at how the social upheaval of the 1960s impacted U.S. foreign policy, while also inspiring a re-examination of the societal roles of males and females.

Suggs, who died in September 2000, earned a degree in business from what was then State Teachers College and later worked as a teacher. She was a life member of the Southern Miss Alumni Association.

Stur joined the Southern Miss faculty in 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. A fellow in the Department of History’s Center for the Study of War and Society, her research expertise includes gender and war, U.S. foreign relations and post-1945 America. She is also a 2012 recipient of the College of Arts and Letters Junior Faculty Research Award.

“It's such an honor to have been chosen for the Suggs Professorship, because I’m sure all of the applicants were extremely strong candidates,” Stur said. “The recognition from my colleagues across the university suggests my work is valuable to people outside of history and the humanities. That’s important because I’ve always hoped to reach audiences beyond my discipline.”

Stur said the award is also meaningful because she has students from various majors throughout the university in her classes. “Hopefully, my work is translating to them all through my teaching.”

In addition to leading the Vietnam Summer Studies Program, Stur has created several new courses for the Department of History, including the History of Sports in America; Women and War; Music and Migrations: A History of the Delta Blues; and Women and Gender in War, Diplomacy, and Empire. She is currently working on a new book about the American South during the Vietnam War, which has received interest from a variety of noted publishers.

“Dr. Stur's classes are some of the best offered in the History Department. She chooses books and articles which spark vigorous and cordial class discussion,” said Becky Zimmer, a doctoral student in history from North Carolina.

“Even when students disagree with the author's argument as expressed in the assigned reading, Dr. Stur encourages the student to present their point of view, challenging him or her to defend their stance with evidence from outside sources as well as those from the class,” Zimmer said. “The encouragement and challenge she provides create a dynamic learning environment, inspiring students.”

Stur’s service to the university includes membership on the College of Arts and Letters Awards Committee and as chair of the Center for the Study of War and Society’s Jack Lucas Award committee, which recognizes the top undergraduate essay on a war and society topic.

“Dr. Stur is a disciplined and focused scholar, and represents a remarkable freshman class of professors making a significant contribution to the lives of our students and the research profile of our college,” said Dr. Steve Moser, dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

For more information about faculty awards and endowments through the Office of the Provost, online visit http://www.usm.edu/provost/awards-endowments