Lectureship and Scholarships


The Aspinall Lectureship in History and Political Science has developed into a significant competition with numerous applicants recognized as national authorities in their fields.

It is with pleasure that the Foundation, with Colorado Mesa University, is able to sponsor a free lecture to the public.

2018 Aspinall Lecturer

Dr. Michael Brescia

Dr. Michael Brescia is a legal historian and research curator in the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona where he also has a faculty affiliation with the Department of History.  Born and raised in New Jersey, Michael slowly made his way west via undergraduate studies at West Virginia University, followed by graduate school at the University of Arizona.  He returned to the east by way of rural western New York where he spent five years teaching on the Fredonia campus of the State University of New York and surviving the lake-effect snows.  In 2005, he found himself back in the Southwest after accepting his current position at the University of Arizona.  Michael’s research examines the living legacies of Spanish natural resource law and property rights in the North American West, particularly how two international treaties—the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) and the Gadsden Purchase (1854)—continue to fashion the economic security and cultural values of Hispanic and Native peoples living across what once was the far northern frontier of Mexico.  Michael has co-authored two books: North America: An Introduction (with John C. Super, University of Toronto Press, 2009), and the fourth edition of Mexico and the United States: Ambivalent Vistas (with W. Dirk Raat, University of Georgia Press, 2010).  His water rights scholarship has appeared in a variety of journals, including, for example, Western Legal History, Journal of the Southwest, and California Legal History.  A recipient of the Fulbright-Carlos Rico Scholar Award in North American Studies, Michael’s scholarly and creative activities have been recognized by such organizations as the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society, the American Association for State and Local History, and the Arizona Historical Records Advisory Board.

2018 Lecture

Natural Resources and the Rub of Social Justice in the North American West, 1848-2018

When asked in an interview what made the North American West so distinct from other regions, renowned author Wallace Stegner replied that aridity had imposed different conditions and different terms upon human settlement. Drawing from my research as a legal historian and expert witness, I tell the story of how law and natural resources have come together to define a wide range of property rights across the North American West, including water rights, grazing, and public and private ownership of resources under the Spanish colonial and early Mexican regimen of laws, customs, and usages. These issues remain relevant today in the American West, and are vital to the many resource users—tribal nations, Hispanic communities, and ranching families—whose livelihoods depend, in part, on rights to natural resources established under the prior sovereign, that is, Spain and later Mexico, and protected by international treaty obligations that the United States assumed in the mid-nineteenth century.  I also will discuss the role of the historian as an expert witness whose academic credentials and professional experiences are brought to bear on natural resource litigation, including the difficulties that historians face when they are called upon to address questions raised by outside parties—judges, attorneys, and special masters—seeking resolution of thorny legal issues.

Wednesday, 4 April, 7:00 pm

Dr. Brescia's lecture will take place in the Meyer Ballroom, in Colorado Mesa's University Center. This event is free and open to all.


Aspinall Course

SOCI 396: Paintings, Pipes, and Property Rights: Law and Public History in the New Millennium

Often historians are called upon to bring their knowledge and skills to the courtroom as expert witnesses.  The complexity of certain issues such as public health, cultural heritage, and ownership of natural resources promotes litigation in need of the historian’s expertise. This course examines the difficulties and promises of bringing history into the courtroom, as well as the way historians have informed public policy and the law.

March 26 - April 13, 2018


Each year, applicants from CMU's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences with a 3.0 GPA or higher are interviewed by the Aspinall Foundation Board for scholarships. At present, the Wayne N. Aspinall Award is $7,000. The Charles Traylor Award is $6,000. In addition, three Aspinall Scholarships are awarded for $3,000 each and one at $4,000. There are normally 12-16 qualified applicants.

Please note that Aspinall scholarships are considered and awarded separately from CMU's general scholarship application. Applicants must submit a separate application, available below. The due date is March 1st, 2018.

Download the Aspinall Scholarship Application Form