Michael Matthews named O’Briant Developing Professor in History

The associate professor of history is the inaugural recipient of an honor that supports a faculty member in the Department of History whose professional accomplishments are in keeping with Elon University’s teacher-scholar model.

Associate Professor Michael Matthews, a faculty member in the Department of History and Geography with a passion for mentoring undergraduate researchers, has received Elon University’s Stella S. and John C. O’Briant Developing Professorship in History in recognition of his scholarly work and dedication to teaching.

Matthews is the first Elon educator to hold this new professorship for faculty members in the history department. The award supports ongoing scholarly projects that shape the way professors teach and inspire their students. It will assist Matthews with two book projects: a history of the working-class and opposition press in Porfirian Mexico—the period between 1876-1911—and a cultural history of love and courtship during the same era.

The book project on love and courtship in Porfirian Mexico is a long-term project that Matthews anticipates will require considerable research and travel to Mexico.

“It’s an incredible feeling to receive this award considering all the highly productive scholars in my department,” Matthews said. “To be recognized is an honor. I’m happy that the department is supporting me in my attempts to push my research forward and, hopefully, contribute to new perspectives on the history of modern Mexico.”

Since joining the Elon faculty in 2008, Matthews – who grew up in Canada, Spain and Peru – has taught courses in colonial and modern Latin America, Mexican history, and the world in the 20th century. He is the recipient of two Elon Faculty Research and Development grants and one of the university’s 2009 Hultquist Awards, which assist new faculty in their research development.

Matthews earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Simon Fraser University and his doctorate in history from the University of Arizona. It was his work at Arizona that served as the foundation of his first book, “The Civilizing Machine: A Cultural History of Mexican Railroads, 1876-1910,” published by the University of Nebraska Press as part of its “The Mexican Experience” series.

He more recently completed a co-edited volume with Stephen Neufeld at Cal State Fullerton titled “Mexico in Verse: A History of Music, Rhyme, and Power.” The volume examines the history of music and poetry in Mexico from the 1840s to the 1980s and will be published this year by the University of Arizona Press.

Matthews serves as the coordinator of Elon’s Latin American Studies program and associate coordinator for International Studies. He has mentored several undergraduates, including four students in the university’s prestigious Lumen Prize program.

“Dr. Matthews is an outstanding selection for the inaugural O’Briant Professorship,” said Elon University Provost Steven House. “He is a fine scholar and an excellent mentor of student research. I look forward to following his development as a teacher-scholar-mentor.”

The Stella S. and John C. O’Briant Developing Professorship in History was established through the estate of the late John Conrad O’Briant, an Elon alumnus from the Class of 1975. The gift was made in honor of O’Briant and his mother.