Historian Unger Honored With Research Award
Research explores progressive era politics, suffrage, environment
By Julia MacIntyre '21
At the annual convocation launching the 2018-2019 academic year, Santa Clara University’s College of Arts and Sciences recognized Prof. Nancy Unger (History) for her impressive body of scholarly work, social activism, and opinion editorials with the prestigious Professor Joseph Bayma, S.J. Scholarship Award.
Growing up in rainy Seattle with two avid book readers as parents, Unger quickly became enthralled with history, calling herself “naïve enough” to pursue it as a career. “I just thought, 'This is what my passion is and this is what I really want to do.’”
A historian specializing in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era for the past quarter century, Unger remains excited and engaged with teaching, researching, and writing. Her research includes three books and a fourth edited volume. Her work has explored a variety of topics, including Progressive era politicians Robert La Follette and Belle Case La Follette as well as issues of women’s suffrage and the environment. Unger also dedicates time to writing op-eds, giving talks, participating in both TV and radio broadcasts, and any other opportunities that allow her to emphasize the “practical value” of studying history, which she describes as “a really useful tool.”
As both a professor and a researcher, Prof. Unger firmly believes that knowledge is power that cannot be unlearned. She notes, “When that truth hits you, it can be life changing.” While history is incredibly powerful, it requires a historian to convey why it matters, which Prof. Unger emphasizes in her classroom: “There better be a good, practical reason for anything on this campus. I have no doubt about the practical value of history.”