Montana State University

Robert Rydell named MSU American studies director

August 17, 2017 -- MSU News Service

Robert Rydell, professor of history and American Studies Program at MSU, has been named as the new director of the university's American Studies program. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

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Robert Rydell, a professor of history in the Montana State University Department of History and Philosophy and the American Studies Program, has been named as the new director of the American Studies program.

The interdisciplinary program in the College of Letters and Science investigates the cultural underpinnings of American life drawing on many disciplines at MSU, including anthropology, the arts, archaeology, Native American Studies, geography and history.

Rydell came to MSU’s Department of History and Philosophy after earning his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1980. Together with history professor David Cherry and English professor Susan Kollin, he built the university’s American Studies Program—the undergraduate degree in 2007, and the master’s and Ph.D. levels in 2009. Along with the history department’s doctoral program—which Rydell also helped to establish—American Studies is the only other Ph.D. in the humanities at MSU. 

He was also instrumental in developing MSU’s museum studies minor, the MSU Humanities Institute and is one of the co-directors of the Center for Western Lands and Peoples at MSU. The latter is a newly formed interdisciplinary research center that is focused on the Western U.S. and Canada.

Rydell’s research is focused on Buffalo Bill’s influence on globalization through international performances later in his career, as well as world’s fairs, in which he is a pre-eminent expert. A prolific scholar, he has authored or co-authored many books. His first book, “All the World’s a Fair,” was based on his dissertation that received the Allan Nevins Prize. “Buffalo Bill in Bologna,” which he co-authored with Dutch scholar Rob Kroes, received the Ray Browne Prize from the Popular Culture Association. His most recent, “Designing Tomorrow,” co-edited with Laura Schiavo, was produced in conjunction with a major exhibition on world’s fairs at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

Rydell has participated in 50-plus invited lectures and seminars and has presented at more than 40 conferences. His presentations have been broadcast on C-SPAN and CNN, and he has been a guest on NPR and WNYC. He teaches courses in the Department of History and Philosophy, the American Studies Program and the Honors College, and serves as chair or member on dozens of graduate committees.

Rydell received the James and Mary Ross Provost’s Award for Excellence and the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2012. In 2016, the was awarded the Mary C. Turpie Prize from the American Studies Association in recognition of his outstanding abilities and achievement in teaching, advising and program development.

His current projects include writing a history of MSU for its 125th anniversary in 2018 as well as writing a cultural biography of U.S. congressman Sol Bloom of New York that Rydell hopes will be in bookstores early in the next decade.

Jody Sanford, 406-994-7791 jody.sanford@montana.edu