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Dordt College News

Paul Otto honored as top undergraduate researcher

April 23, 2010

Otto

Dordt College alumnus Paul Otto (Class of ’87) was honored as George Fox University’s top undergraduate researcher for the 2009-10 academic year. He’s been a professor of history there for eight years, and has been chair of the Department of History and Political Science since 2005. He previously taught at Calvin College and Dordt College.

Otto was recipient of the school’s Undergraduate Faculty Research and Scholarship Award, a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct research this summer on wampum and its role in European-Native American relations in early America. He also recently published a book, “The Dutch-Munsee Encounter in America: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Hudson Valley,” that won the Hendricks Award for the best work on the Dutch experience in early America.

The volume has been reviewed favorably in several academic journals, including two prominent national American history journals: “The Journal of American History” and the “American Historical Review.”

Otto also has written essays published as articles and book chapters. Last year, he delivered a paper at an international conference in Germany that will be published under the title “Wampum: The Transfer and Creation of Rituals on the Early American Frontier.”

As an expert on Dutch-Native American relations, he is consistently invited to speak and write on the topic. Last fall, he spoke on “Henry Hudson, the Munsees, and the Wampum Revolution” at the single professional conference commemorating Henry Hudson’s historic 1609 voyage. The presentation soon will be published.

As a professor, Otto teaches American history survey, introduction to historical studies, Latin American history, Southern African history, Colonial America and the American Revolution in the university’s history major, as well as a Liberal Arts and Critical Issues course required of all George Fox students.

“What I enjoy most about teaching is seeing students become aware and excited about the world of ideas,” he said. “I get most satisfaction out of my job when I see students realize that thinking is important, that their thinking (and the thinking of others) is shaped by worldview and ideology, and that their thinking affects how they live and act each day. Of course, I also love seeing my history students grow in their understanding of the past and how to study it, and seeing them mature as critical thinkers and engaging writers with a passion for their subject.”

Otto’s scholarship on early America will continue with this summer’s project, titled “Beads of Power: Wampum and the Making of Early America.” Wampum, a shortened version of the Algonquian term “wampumpeague,” which means “strings of white (shell),” was highly valued by the Native Americans in Northeast America.

“Wampum played a profound role in European-Native American relations, European and Native American economies, and in the evolution of early American society,” he said.

Otto’s research has been recognized by other institutions and organizations. He has been named a Fellow with the Holland Society of New York and the New Netherland Institute and has received grants from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Dordt College, a master’s degree from Western Washington University, and a doctorate from Indiana University, all in the area of history.

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