ASU history graduate student achieving research goals with travel grant


Rachel Bunning

History graduate student, James Dupey, was awarded the Max Millett Family Travel Grant last year and has since been utilizing it to achieve his research goals.

Over the past year, Dupey was able to spend a month doing research going through a number of  archives in Scotland and examining the heritage of Alexander Campbell, as well as spending another month researching at the American Antiquarian Society. These studies have given him a valuable step forward in completing his current dissertation project. He also published his first journal article in January in the Journal of Southern Religion.

Come spring time, Dupey has three more archival trips planned for further historical research. Dupey is grateful to the grant for allowing him to continue his research.

“I am thankful and thrilled to have been selected for this award,” Dupey said. “I am also thankful that awards like this exist. I cannot express how important I think it is that we as a society continue to invest in critical thought and intellectual inquiry.”

Dupey answered a few questions about the award and studies.

What does it mean to you to be awarded this scholarship?

Getting used to rejection is a lesson that all academics have to learn. I spend a lot of time applying and getting turned down for research support. It never feels good, or even okay, to get a letter that begins with the words, “we regret to inform you.” But letters that begin with “Congratulations, we are pleased to inform you,” are meaningful validations of my research and my effort. This award is especially meaningful because the validation comes from my own research community.

How is this scholarship important to you?

I love teaching and I put a lot of time and effort into making my courses engaging, relevant, and useful for students. At the same time, I try to be a productive scholar. Whether I’m working on a grant application, traveling to an archive for research, submitting a journal article, or putting together a conference panel, it all takes time. I’m also a husband and a father of two wonderful girls. This fellowship will allow me to focus a significantly greater amount of time on my own research and completing this dissertation.

Why did you choose to study about Alexander Campbell?

I am primarily interested in the history of ideas. When I arrived at ASU, I intended to study a Catholic thinker, Orestes Brownson, and his influence on a young Henry David Thoreau. I decided very early in my time at ASU, for various reasons and in consultation with my advisor, Catherine O’Donnell, to change my research focus. I chose to study Alexander Campbell for two reasons: There was a conspicuous gap in American religious historiography, and Campbell was an astute thinker but has usually been cast in the same mold as revivalist preachers who maligned intellectual religiosity. I wanted to fill the historiographical gap and tell this fascinating story about a Scots-Irish immigrant who used Scottish Common Sense philosophy and the exploitation of American print culture to co-opt a nascent populist, religious movement in the United States.

How does winning this scholarship help you move towards your goals?

There is nothing more helpful than having the time to research and write. This award will substantially increase the time I have to focus on finishing this stage of my academic career.