Jill Hummels
Office of the Provost

Military historian to join KU as new foundation professor

Tue, 03/31/2015

Beth Baily, Foundation Distingushed ProfessorLAWRENCE — An expert in recent U.S. history will join the University of Kansas as a new Foundation Distinguished Professor.

Beth Bailey, who specializes in the history of relations between the U.S. military and American society as well as the history of gender and sexuality, will join KU on Aug. 18. Bailey is one of five Foundation Distinguished Professors to be announced this year and one of 12 overall. Bailey has been professor of history at Temple University since 2004, where she has served as acting director of the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy.

“KU’s robust ties to the fast-growing field of new military history will become even stronger with Beth Bailey’s arrival on campus,” said Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “Her expertise adds to the depth of KU’s highly regarded graduate military history program and provides a bridge to several other programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as to international experts and military leaders. She promises to bring additional forward-thinking perspectives to our growing educational partnerships with the U.S Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. As a foundation professor, she will help advance one of the university’s strategic initiatives to build communities and expand opportunities.”

Bailey is a prolific writer and a major contributor to A People and A Nation, one of the most popular American history textbooks. Her most recent book, “America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force,” examines the nation’s move from the draft to an all-volunteer force in the wake of the Vietnam War. It analyzes the Army’s efforts to imagine and create a force that could respond to rapidly changing and complex international situations. It also offers, through the lens of the military, a history of the United States from the war in Vietnam through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing that the Army was the institution that most directly confronted the social change movements of the 1960s and their legacies, and the site of critical struggles over the meaning of citizenship and its rights and obligations. The book explores the challenges the military faced in competing with business and industry for a capable workforce as well as addressing cultural shifts in gender, sexuality and racial dynamics.

She has also chronicled the dramatic shifts in courtship and sexual relations through her books “From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in 20th Century America” and “Sex in the Heartland.” The latter uses Lawrence as the setting to explore long-term changes in American society and recast commonly held beliefs surrounding the nation’s sexual revolution. Bailey was a visiting assistant professor of history at KU in the late '80s.

Jeffrey Moran, chair of the KU Department of History, said Bailey’s insight and expertise will offer wide appeal ranging far beyond students and researchers interested in military history or gender and sexuality.

“Beth Bailey's reputation extends even further. She is one of the best-known scholars of modern American history regardless of subfield,” Moran said.

Bailey’s recent research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; she held a Fulbright fellowship at the University of Indonesia and has been a visiting scholar in Japan, France and Australia. She is currently the Oscar Handlin Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, working on a book about the U.S. Army and issues of race from 1965–1985.

In 2012, she was a fellow at the West Point Summer Seminar in Military History, and in 2011 Bailey was a fellow at the U.S. Army War College National Security Seminar. Prior to joining Temple University, Bailey was a professor of American studies and director of the Feminist Research Institute at the University of New Mexico. There she received the Faculty Recognition Award and the Gunther Starkey Award for Teaching Excellence.

She earned her doctorate and master’s degree in American history from the University of Chicago in 1986 and 1981, respectively. She holds a bachelor’s degree in American culture from Northwestern University.

KU’s Foundation Distinguished Professor initiative is a unique partnership between the university and the state of Kansas to attract eminent faculty members to support one of the university’s four strategic initiative themes.

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