With all the changes happening at Dickinson State University, history majors have a lot to be excited about. With two endowed chairs boosting the program, new beginnings are on the horizon for a program that fits the Western North Dakota region and the students of Dickinson State.
The program’s health is marked by the addition of two endowed professors: Michael Patrick Cullinane, Ph.D., Professor of History and Lowman Walton Endowed Chair of Theodore Roosevelt Studies; and Jeff Wells, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and the Dennis and Vaune Johnson Endowed Chair in U.S. History, and a distinguished Germanist historian, Dr. David Meier.
“The history and social science programs at DSU are and will remain strong,” stated Wells. “A lot of that has to do with the generosity of the folks who have endowed my position and Professor Cullinane’s position, that allows us to be confident and secure about history going forward. I think we’re starting conversations now about how we can make these programs better. We are looking at ways we can align our course offerings with courses students particularly need for their various career paths, whether it’s in education or in public history.”
One of the tasks Wells will be taking on is expanding undergraduate research. Wells has extensive experience in mentoring students through their research.
“I’ve been able to do some of that at DSU, but not enough yet. I think that is the culture we are trying to really create and support here,” Wells said.
One of the goals of the program is to further cement DSU as an academic powerhouse for all things Theodore Roosevelt. Both endowed professors specialize in the Progressive Era – Roosevelt’s era.
Professor Cullinane is an expert on Roosevelt and the author of two books about the former President, Remembering Theodore Roosevelt: Reminiscences of his Contemporaries and Theodore Roosevelt’s Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon.
“Both of them really deal with the memory and legacy of Roosevelt, so rather than being biographies or examining the history during T.R.’s lifetime, those books really deal with how we’ve used and abused Roosevelt after he died,” Cullinane said. “They’ve been using his image to either make money or make a point or reach some end, but none of it is really Theodore Roosevelt.”
In addition to his books, Cullinane hosts a well-respected podcast entitled The Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and he’s appeared in several documentaries.
He will serve as DSU’s liaison to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, which is set to open in 2026. As a member of the library's curatorial council, he will assist in curating the interior of the museum, in the design and development process.
One of his stated goals is to expand the university’s reach and reputation.
“We’re very good at reaching people in Southwestern North Dakota. That catchment is pretty easily met by going to The Dickinson Press and publishing a story with them – but how do you get a national reputation? Part of my job is to publish with outlets that have that reach – over 100,000 people reading daily,” Cullinane said.
He has already been published in The Hill and The Washington Post, writing on political events that may have some relevance to Roosevelt.
“The T.R. world is bigger than you might think,” Cullinane said. “Obviously, Dickinson and Western North Dakota have their part, but T.R. touched so many people’s lives in the U.S. - [such as with] the National Park Service – there are sites all over the country. I work with and talk to them all the time. There's the Theodore Roosevelt Association, which is the oldest presidential fan club. I’m the public historian for that group.”
With their expertise and connections, the endowed chairs will not only enhance the reputation of the university, but also enrich the student experience, which is the ultimate goal of any university.
For more information about the history program at Dickinson State, please click here.