The American Historical Association has awarded April Masten, an associate professor in the Department of History, the 2021 Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award, which recognizes inspiring teachers whose techniques and mastery of subject matter have made a lasting impression and substantial difference to students of history.
Masten, who joined Stony Brook University in 2001, specializes in nineteenth-century America, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on the Early Republic, antebellum, and Civil War eras, industrialization, slavery, women’s history, and popular culture. She has developed a unique research seminar, Dancing Through American History, in which students learn to ring shout, jig, waltz, square dance, jitterbug, and salsa to complement their archival study of the people, places, and periods that produced these dances.
“The AHA’s Asher Award is one of the country’s most prestigious teaching prizes, and we are lucky indeed to have teachers of such high calibre as April Masten in the Department of History at Stony Brook,” said Paul Gootenberg, SUNY distinguished professor and chair of the Department of History.
Masten’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center at Princeton, and the National Humanities Center.
“April is the very best example of a scholar-teacher, whose creative and innovative research is conveyed through equally creative and innovative teaching methods,” said history professor Sara Lipton. “She helps show why studying history at a major research university can be so uniquely rewarding.”
Masten is often cited by students as having helped shape them in their scholarly development, challenging them to explore their passion for studying history through excellence in writing, pursuing honors theses on topics that are meaningful to them, and applying for prestigious fellowship programs — ultimately benefiting from her mastery and mentorship. She holds a PhD in American History from Rutgers University, an MA in the Social History of Art from the University of Leeds, and a BA in Music and Dance from San Francisco State University.
The Eugene Asher Distinguished Teaching Award is named for the late Eugene Asher, for many years a leading advocate for history teaching. The Society for History Education (SHE) shares with the AHA sponsorship of the award. It recognizes outstanding teaching and advocacy for history teaching at two-year, four-year, and graduate colleges and universities.
Masten lives in Setauket, New York and keeps close ties to her hometown of Carmel, California.