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UW American Heritage Center Announces 2021 Fellowship Recipients

May 12, 2021

A professor, three graduate students and a historian are recipients of fellowships from the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC).

Each fellowship supports a 20-day research stay at the AHC. Academic scholars at any level, from graduate students to tenured faculty, were encouraged to apply.

Recipients are Assistant Professor Jennifer Helton; doctoral candidates Zephaniah Fleetwood and Rob Konkel; and master’s degree student Matthew Brown.

“This year, we are excited to award the first joint fellowship between the American Heritage Center and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (BBCW) in Cody to Kathryn McKee,” AHC Director Paul Flesher says. “The fellowship is named for Peter Simpson, who has been an important influence on the AHC and the BBCW -- and, of course, on UW and on Cody.”

Award recipients and projects are:

Peter K. Simpson Fellowship on the American West

McKee, a historian from Raleigh, N.C., will use collections at the AHC and the BBCW to conduct research on several topics related to the mythology of the West to advance her knowledge and understanding about the history and myths of the American West. She plans to submit articles to the North Carolina Historical Review, Journal of Southern History and Montana: The Magazine of Western History.

Alan K. Simpson Fellowship in Western Political History

Fleetwood, a doctoral student at the University of California-Davis, will explore the papers of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior James Watt for his dissertation in which Watt represented an emerging variant of anti-environmentalism. Fleetwood explains that he will analyze how Watt used evangelical and populist rhetoric to justify and promote his particular understanding of environmental and public land policies.

Bernard L. Majewski Research Fellowship

Konkel, a doctoral candidate at Princeton University, is charting a global history of the liberal international order and U.S. power in the world through the lens of strategic minerals during the period of two world wars. He argues that rivalries and anxieties over resource interdependence not only drove the creation of interwar trading blocs, but also shaped the form and structure of post-1945 geopolitical entities and international institutions. He will work with the Anaconda Co. geological documents.

George A. Rentschler Fellowship on the Study of the American West

Brown, a UW master’s candidate from Laramie, is writing his thesis on the production of botanical knowledge within institutions of higher education from 1890 to 1930 using former UW Professor Aven Nelson, the Rocky Mountain Herbarium and UW as a case study. Brown will explore a variety of collections including the papers of botanists Nelson, E.B. Payson and W.G. Solheim, and also the records of UW’s Department of Botany.

Women in Public Life Fellowship

Helton, an assistant professor of history at Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif., is writing a book-length history of women and Wyoming politics from the 1850s through the New Deal era. She notes that, despite the fact that Wyoming was the first territory and state to grant full political equality to women, no systematic scholarly book on the role of women in Wyoming politics, and the role of Wyoming in the national and international suffrage movement, has ever been written.

“The American Heritage Center holds important collections for the study of the American West, in both the long-ago past and recent decades,” Flesher says. “We are pleased to award fellowships and travel grants to these excellent scholars and students to help bring researchers back to the AHC after our COVID-imposed restrictions.”

In addition to the five fellowships, the AHC also awarded eight grants of $750 each to assist with expenses for scholars traveling from locations throughout the U.S. researching on a wide variety of topics. Among the subjects are American national parks; antitrust efforts; FBI investigations into the film industry; the eugenics movement; careers of composer Walter Scharf and geographer Edward Ackerman; and the use of musical theater to create a multilayered and often contradictory view of history.

The AHC awards travel grants and fellowships annually. The next application deadline is March 2022.

For more information about the AHC’s travel grant and fellowship program, visit the website at For more information, call AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener at (307) 766-2557 or email

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