Summer looks Bright for Dr. Lori Dagger

Skye Gailing

    On Feb. 21, Knox College announced the first cohort of scholars to participate in its newly established Bright Institute, a program for early American historians who teach at liberal arts colleges, according to the college’s website. Included in this prestigious group of professors is Dr. Lori J. Daggar, Assistant Professor of History here at Ursinus.

     The Bright Institute, which is a three-year program, begins this summer.  In August, Dr. Daggar will travel to Galesburg, Illinois, to participate in a two-week in-residence program at Knox College. Additionally, the Bright Institute provides its cohort of scholars with $3,000 for research support each year for the length of the program.

    What are your current research interests?

   I am currently working on a book project that looks at the growth of the American empire in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  I study agricultural missions in the Ohio Country, specifically Miami and Shawnee Country, and I examine how these missions acted as hinges for U.S. economic and political development but also offered Native peoples additional means to negotiate for power.

     How did you learn about the Bright Institute and what made you want to apply?

    I actually learned about the Bright Institute via Twitter!  I saw a tweet that promised research funds and a space to talk about research and teaching with colleagues from around the country, so I decided that this was a great opportunity that I needed to get in on.  I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted!

     What are you most looking forward to in this program?

     I’m most looking forward to talking about research and teaching with colleagues whom I don’t know.  I’m very familiar with some of [these colleagues’] work, and I think we all share a lot of similar interests—a lot of us are interested in Indigenous history, a lot of folks are interested in African American history, or print culture—you name it.  I think it’s going to be a really productive space, both to think about my own teaching, but also my research, and how the two can connect even more than they already do.

     What are you hoping to get out of the program?

    Honestly, I’m just hoping to grow as a scholar and a teacher.  I’m hoping to really immerse myself for two weeks in productive conversations and to take my book project into new directions based on those conversations.  I would also like to use some of the funding to visit archives I otherwise would not have been able to visit; I need to go to Kansas [for my research], for example, and hopefully I’ll be able to get out there next summer thanks to the funding provided by the Bright Institute.  [The program] is also just going to make my work better, which is exciting.

     What are your research and pedagogical goals for this summer?

    I don’t know what to expect quite yet, but I’m looking forward to having great conversations.  I’m teaching a course in Spring 2019 on the American empire that is going to be directly related to my research. One of my goals is to get some new ideas for what I might bring to that course . . . different museums and archives I can take my students to, for example.  I’m always looking for new ideas—whether it be Reacting to the Past, which I tried last fall, or some pedagogy I’ve never heard of that one of these colleagues might share with me.  That would be exciting.  I’m also hoping to think a bit more about digital history and [how to incorporate] digital projects into some of my teaching.  I’m always on the lookout for additional ways to bring my research passions to my teaching and to share that with students.

     Daggar, who started working at Ursinus last year, is currently teaching CIE 200 and a 300-level History elective called “Witches, Drudges, and Good Wives: Unpacking Gender, Race, and Sex in Early America.” 

     To learn more about the Bright Institute and Dr. Daggar’s work, please visit