Beyond Inspirational

Crystal Moten

Assistant Professor of History Crystal Moten named to list of '40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire'

by Christine Baksi

Assistant Professor of History Crystal Moten has been selected for NerdScholar’s second annual list of “40 Under 40: Professors Who Inspire.” Moten teaches courses relating to urban, African-American and women’s and gender history, as well as 20th century U.S. history. She joined the Dickinson faculty in 2013 as a postdoctoral fellow.

"I am deeply honored to have been nominated and selected for this recognition,” said Moten. “Teaching is my passion, and it warms my heart to know that I am making a difference at Dickinson, reaching students with my efforts and spreading my love of history across campus.”

Moten and her fellow honorees were chosen for their ability to captivate and engage students in the classroom, their outstanding involvement on campus and in the community and their overwhelming passion for their subject matter. Nominations were collected through student, alumni and faculty recommendations following an open call to several hundred colleges and universities across the country.

“To be in class with Professor Moten is one of the greatest joys of my academic career,” said sophomore American studies and English double major Maretta Sonn.

Moten’s research examines black women's struggles for economic justice in the 20th century urban north and the history of African-American female entrepreneurs in the U.S. “This is an area that has mostly been overlooked by scholars, yet it has been of vital importance to our communities and country,” said Helen Takacs, associate professor of international business & management. “Crystal is breaking very important ground with her research.”

Moten is currently working on a manuscript for her forthcoming book, Raising a Lot of Hell: Black Women’s Economic Activism in Postwar Milwaukee, as well as a digital-humanities project that explores the spatial dimensions of African-American life in Milwaukee during the 1950s and 1960s.

Moten was nominated by many students who called out her ability to present course content in meaningful ways. She took students in her “Sex and the City: Gender, Culture, Politics in Contemporary Urban America” course to the Lesbian HerStory Archives (LHA) in New York City. The trip corresponded with the students' reading of Zami by Audre Lorde. The LHA holds paper and artifacts dealing with Lorde’s life as well as other African-American lesbian feminists.

Recently, Moten assigned students to connect course content to their ancestry by interviewing a family member of another generation and reflecting on the research process. One student wrote, “I am very grateful for this project. My grandmother pulled me aside and let me know how special it was to her to be able to share this history with me. She is very excited to read my final paper.” Another student wrote, “I had never studied or written about the Jewish aspect of my family. I was raised Jewish but never knew much about my families’ establishment and experience as Jewish Americans.”

Moten also has been known to adorn herself in the clothing of the time period her class is studying, providing students with an opportunity for visual analysis. She recently co-organized a student fashion show as the culminating project of the first-year learning community, “Styling and Profiling: African-American Identities,” in which first-years identified and analyzed fashion trends that culturally and historically shaped African-American identity. The learning community was made up of students from Moten’s seminar “Tangled: African-American Hair in the U.S.” and a faculty colleague’s course. 

"She has taught me fascinating subjects," said Jessie Jansen ’18, one of the students in the learning community. "More importantly, she has worked to make me feel welcome in Dickinson’s academic community. She has spent multiple hours helping me understand what I want to gain from my college experience. She has pushed me to become a better writer by holding me to a higher standard. She’s an incredible professor because she knows how to listen.”

Nomination letters

Below are excerpts from some of the nomination letters submitted on Moten’s behalf:

“I am happy and blessed to know this phenomenal woman. I always tell many of my friends to take a course with her because I felt challenged and intellectually satisfied.”

–Jahmel Martin ’16

“From the moment I first met Crystal, it was obvious how much she cares about her students and about insuring that her teaching reaches not just their intellectual mind but also their young and developing sense of themselves. She teaches to share knowledge of the content area but also to encourage and support students to be more knowledgeable of themselves, of recognizing who they are and who they want to be.”

–Helen Takacs, associate professor of international business & management

“To be in class with Professor Moten is one of the greatest joys of my Dickinson academic career. As an aspiring academician, I was in awe of how she engaged students personally and intellectually in my U.S. history class. During office hours, her door is always open to develop papers, discuss books and get advice. It is in those moments when she has shown me that being an academician is a commitment to critical thinking and understanding.”

–Maretta Sonn ’17

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Published March 24, 2015