Aspinall lecture series.


Thirty years of scholarship with the Aspinall Foundation

Three decades ago, the Wayne N. and Julia E. Aspinall Foundation established a lecture and scholarship series at Colorado Mesa University honoring the late U.S. representative’s interest in public service and education. On April 8, F. Ross Peterson, PhD, will give the series’ 30th lecture to the academic and Grand Junction communities in the University Center ballroom. In “Proving Powell’s Prognostications Erroneous,” Peterson will discuss the economics of the Colorado River Basin.

“Dr. Ross Peterson is a well-known and highly respected scholar of the American West,” said history professor Steve Schulte, PhD. “We’re very lucky to have him on campus for three weeks to share his expertise.” Schulte serves as the faculty liaison to the Aspinall Foundation Board. He’s also a board member, voted there after the 2002 publication of his book, Wayne Aspinall and the Shaping of the American West.

One of Schulte’s duties is to coordinate the annual hiring of a guest lecturer for the series. Each year, he works alongside a political science faculty member and a current student — ideally a recent recipient of one of the foundation’s generous scholarships — to select the top three applicants for the position.

“The criteria is distinguished,” he said. “Of course, that’s open to interpretation.” Schulte also asks his committee members to consider whether or not the applicant’s proposed course complements CMU’s offerings. “In other words, does it have student appeal? There are some great scholars in [the pool] every year, but do we really want a course in this or that?” said Schulte.

Once the screening committee has narrowed the field, the board considers the level of public interest in the proposed lectures and then votes on a favorite candidate. They’re usually right on the money — each year the lecture attracts current students, faculty, staff and a large number of community members. Schulte said he also sees many former scholarship recipients. “We reach out and say, ‘Please come to the reception before the lecture and re-introduce yourself.’ And that sure is fun, the hour before the lecture. Some of them are looking older, just like me.”

During his time on campus, Peterson will teach a three-week course on the environmental revolution of the 1960s, detailing the people and events that shaped the decade’s major changes. He will also speak to a lower-division history class and present at a social and behavioral sciences departmental seminar, discussing his career as a faculty member and college professor.

Of course, Peterson’s time here won’t be all work and no play. “One of the things he said when he applied is that he wants to be able to go to some excellent Colorado Mesa baseball games,” Schulte said.

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