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Heather Thiessen-Reily

Heather Thiessen-Reily

Professor of History, MGMM Interim Program Director


Ph.D., Tulane University, History, 2002
M.A., Flinders University of South Australia, History, 1992
B.A., University of Saskatchewan, International Studies, 1987


Areas of Expertise or Experience

As an undergraduate my studies encompassed History and International Politics. My Master’s thesis examined state development in revolutionary societies using the case studies of Cárdenista Mexico and Sandinista Nicaragua. My Ph.D. field specializations are Latin American History and African History. My dissertation is an examination of caudillo politics and national construction in mid-nineteenth century Bolivia. Since coming to Western, I have participated in a Fulbright Hayes program to Kenya, in numerous National Collegiate Honors Council faculty experiential programs and in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute: “Nature and History at the Nation’s edge: Field Institute in Environmental and Borderlands History” based out of the University of Arizona in Tucson.  This later experience developed my deep interest and love for the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands and my current research interests lay along the border. I also developed Western’s Public History program.

Publishing or Professional Activity

I have and continue to present papers at regional, national and international conferences, including the American Historical Association, the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies, the International Congress of Americanists in Santiago, Chile, the Bolivian Studies Association in La Paz, Bolivia and at an NEH funded conference on nationalism at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. I have published articles in English and Spanish on Latin American and African topics and am currently developing new research projects involving the U.S.-Mexico Border. I recently returned from a semester long sabbatical wrapping up some archival research on an environmental history of an historical Mexican land grant in Arizona and Sonora.

Over the years at Western, I have served as the Faculty Senate Chair, the director of the Honors program, a member of Western’s Honors Council, Environmental Studies Council, Assessment Committee, Curriculum Committee, International Studies Committee, ISEP Advisor and Selection Committee, Teacher Education Advisory Board, and as a FACT representative to the former Board of Trustees. I am currently serving on FPAC and Academic Policies for my department. I am also the faculty advisor for Western’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta and for the Amigos student club.

I have guest lectured on and off campus on topics which range from Hispanic settlement in Colorado to Dia de los Muertos. I currently serve as a commissioner on the Gunnison County History Preservation Commission.

Why Western?

I was studying in New Orleans and embarking on dissertation research in Bolivia when I came across an advertisement for a Latin American historian at Western Colorado University. Everything about the job and the school seemed tailor-made to me. Asa prairie girl who was born and raised in Western Canada, I knew I wanted to move back out west and if I could, find a job at a small Liberal Arts college. When my husband heard the job was near Crested Butte (“mountain biking capital of the USA!”) he said, “What are we waiting for?” I sent off an application and left the country. The next thing I knew, I received a phone call in Bolivia, was flown out for an interview after I returned to the USA and suddely we were moving to Colorado. It has been an amazing experience and what drew me to Western has kept me here: the community, the beautiful environment and the students.

What Else Should You Know?

More than any activity, I love to travel. I have been fortunate to have visited every continent, except Antarctica, at least once. I believe that travel enriches one’s soul, expands one’s knowledge and experience and is an education in itself. I am a voracious reader and enjoy a regular escape into fiction whenever my schedule allows. I live up valley in CB South, with my husband, who is the Chief Marshal in Crested Butte, one of my two children and a very friendly Malamute. Oh, and despite living in the United States for over two decades years, I still spell Honours with a “u” and civilisation with an “s.” You can take the girl out of Canada but not Canadian spelling out of the girl.

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