Seven Peru State students attend Phi Alpha Theta National Conference

Seven Peru State students attend Phi Alpha Theta National Conference

Peru, Nebraska– Seven Peru State students traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana for a national history honor society conference. Students attending the National Biennial Phi Alpha Theta Conference were accompanied by history professors Dr. Kathleen Nehls and Dr. Sara Crook

(Photo of students from Dr. Crook. Caption: Peru State’s Phi Alpha Theta students at Jackson Square in the French Quarters of New Orleans, Louisiana: (left to right) Hannah Earnhardt, Kaitlin Benefiel, Bailey Dennis, Samantha Jackson, Jared Mueller, and Ben Nelson.)

Three of the seven students presented papers during the conference. Kaitlin Benefiel and Ben Nelson presented on papers from their senior thesis in HIST 425, a seminar in American History. Rachael Hall presented a political science paper she revised for the conference.

Benefiel’s paper, entitled “Busting Sod and Stereotypes: Laboring Women of the Homesteading Era,” detailed personal diaries and memoirs from western women who labored in non-traditional roles during the homesteading period in the American West.

Benefiel said, “Public speaking has always been an anxiety-inducing activity for me, and I wouldn’t have ever guessed that I would willingly put myself in a situation like this. Even before we went to New Orleans, presenting my research in front of my classmates worried me, and now I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to present research for a group of people!”

Nelson’s presented on his paper, “A Child’s Life: Japanese American Children’s Experience in WWII Relocation Camps.” Using recent oral histories, Nelson wrote to further understand Japanese-American children’s experiences in World War II internment camps and how those experiences impacted their lives.

Nelson said, “After presenting my paper in New Orleans at the Phi Alpha Theta history conference, I was able to reflect upon the tremendous amount of work needed to complete our papers, and I am extremely grateful for all of the help and support we received from our teachers and the campus community.”

“Thanks to Phi Alpha Theta and Peru State College I feel I am that much closer to success.”

Hall’s paper, entitled “Troubled Medicine: A Brief History of the Lethal Injection,” drew from medical journals, court documents, newspapers, electronic and digital media and magazine accounts. Hall analyzed Dr. Jay Chapman’s creation of the lethal injection and its controversial history.

Dr. Nehls said, “Peru State can be very proud of how these budding scholars represented the school. Their presentations were poised and well-delivered, and they fielded questions from the audience easily and in a way that reflected how assiduously they had pursued their research.”

Bailey Dennis, another conference attendee, said, “The best experience I had attending the PAT national conference was listening to the papers students had written. My favorite paper was by a woman who did research on French Women during World War II. It inspires me to do research on the topic, but also to want to write my own paper and submit one for the conference.”

Peru State’s Phi Alpha Theta President Samantha Jackson said, “The honor of attending a national conference is wonderful for our Phi Alpha Theta chapter, Eta Delta, because we represented what a chapter at a small school is capable of.”

Jackson added, “Our chapter also caught the eye of an executive on the National Phi Alpha Theta board last year and [this year] received Honorable Mention for the Best Chapter Award.”

Dr. Sara Crook adds, “The National President encouraged us to apply once he learned of all the activities the group had been pursuing the past couple of years, particularly the fundraising activities for purchase of the new state historical marker, and the retooling of the Little Red School House into the Visitor and Interpretative Center.”

Jackson concludes, “As a result, Peru State College Phi Alpha Theta was mentioned in the conference booklet, which brought attention to our name and allowed us to see what we all do makes an impact at the national level.”

For more information about Peru State’s Phi Alpha Theta chapter, contact Dr. Sara Crook at or (402) 872-2279.


Ashley Peiman contributed to this release.