Putting a new spin on history

Last year's HATH conference in the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. Photo Courtesy of Amy Fluker

By Nicholas Bianco
Jambar Contributor

An annual conference coming to Youngstown State University offers a new way to look at historical events, some with a science-fiction twist.

The 10th History Across the Humanities Conference is scheduled for Feb. 22 through 24 at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor. The event is free and open to the public. 

Photo Courtesy of Amy Fluker

Amy Fluker, an associate professor of history studies, said all YSU students are encouraged to attend the student-led conference, not just those majoring or minoring in history. 

Laura Beadling, an associate professor of English and film studies, said attendees can learn about scientific history and invention.

“There’s going to be a lot about science fiction as a genre in movies, TV and literature,” Beadling said. 

YSU students and faculty will present on a variety of topics, such as gaming and leisure, pop culture and identity, and re-evaluating historical disasters. Students from other universities will present as well.

Fluker said attending the HATH conference is beneficial for any college student. 

“This is the only conference in our region and one of the only few in the country that’s open to undergraduate students of any discipline from any school,” Fluker said. “This is an opportunity that doesn’t exist at other universities.”  

Associate professor of history studies Kyle Starkey said HATH provides a valuable opportunity for students to earn experience presenting at a conference.

“Our goal is to provide a space not only for students to feel comfortable presenting, but to include workshops where students can find opportunities in terms of internships or employment opportunities with humanities degrees,” Starkey said.

The conference originated in 2014 when Starkey was a YSU graduate student. According to the event’s website, the HATH conference was the idea of Valerie Waksmunski-Starr, a graduate student in YSU’s History Program whose thesis focused on Ancient China. She died of cancer after completing her thesis, and the HATH Conference is named in her honor.

Fluker chose science fiction as this year’s theme. 

“We are partnering with the English and World Languages Department this year as well as with the Trumbull County Historical Society to highlight this year’s science fiction theme,” Fluker said.  

According to Fluker, the science fiction theme supports the Trumbull County Historical Center because the center is developing a science fiction museum in Warren.

“As they are building that museum and sort of preparing to launch it, we thought this conference would be a great opportunity to put our students in the way of this amazing opportunity that’s coming to the Valley,” Fluker said. 

New York Times bestselling author John Scalzi will speak at the HATH conference. Scalzi has won many awards for his science fiction books.  

“We’re hoping he will bring in more people from outside campus than ever before,” Fluker said.  

Scalzi will speak at 7 p.m. on Feb. 22 in the DeBartolo Hall auditorium. Beadling said the event is free thanks to funding from the Grace Ruth Endowment.