Loyola University Chicago

Department of History


Announcing the 2015-16 Ramonat Seminar

Announcing the 2015-16 Ramonat Seminar


The History Department is very pleased to offer, through the generosity of donor Susan Ramonat, the inaugural Ramonat Seminar in American Catholic History and Culture for the 2015-16 academic year.  The Ramonat Seminar is an interdisciplinary, two-semester course that provides Loyola undergraduates with the unique opportunity to explore changing topics within American Catholic history, literature, and culture through hands-on research. 

Taught alternately by a Loyola faculty member or a recent PhD, the seminar is limited to 12 participants who pursue common readings in the fall semester and individual research projects in the spring semester.  Unlike standard undergraduate courses, the Ramonat Seminar provides promising students, who will be named Ramonat Scholars, with resources for research, travel, and even publication in digital and print formats, all aimed at their general professional development.  The best final research paper or digital project from each year’s seminar, to be voted on by a panel of three judges from among the faculty of the University, will win The Susan Ramonat Prize for Scholarly Excellence

Application for the Ramonat Seminar is competitive. Applications are due April 1st.  Scroll down for details on how to apply.

The theme of the 2015-16 Ramonat Seminar is:

Immigrant Catholics and the Making of Nineteenth-Century Chicago

August 26 through December 11, 2015: Wednesdays and Fridays, 1-2:15 pm

January 19 through April 26, 2016: Tuesdays, 2:30-5 pm

Catholics played a formative role in the life and development of nineteenth-century Chicago.  Unlike the East Coast where Catholic immigrants were late arrivals to cities already built by Protestants, Chicago’s Catholics were among the earliest settlers.  They built churches, homes, and elaborate networks of hospitals, schools, and asylums open to all city residents, regardless of faith.  They brought beliefs, practices, and worldviews shaped by the European communities from whence they came, but reconciled them with a new world of democratic participation, market capitalism, and cultural pluralism.  In the process, Catholics created new American identities even as they faced debilitating poverty, ethnic and racial strife, Protestant prejudice, and violence.  The experience of nineteenth-century Catholic Chicagoans provides a window for understanding the American immigrant experience more broadly.      

Drawing on university libraries, local archives, and recent scholarship, students will explore the experience of nineteenth-century Catholic Chicagoans and the contributions they made to the development and growth of the city.  The seminar will examine the various causes that impelled millions of Catholics to leave Europe for the United States; the contributions of European Jesuits and women religious through missions to Native American and urban populations; the establishment of a Catholic community on the west side of Chicago centered around parish, schools, and benevolent institutions; the emergence of a vibrant urban Catholic culture expressed in literature, song, theater, labor activism, and political networking; and finally the prominent place of Catholics at the famous Columbian Exposition of 1893, a half-century after their arrival in the city. 

This is a two-semester course. Students are required to take both the fall and spring courses.  Fall class meetings will be built around readings, discussion, field trips, guest lectures with leading scholars, and digital projects.  Working with the instructor, local archivists, and librarians, students will develop and complete a research project of their own design in the spring semester.  Primary sources that students might choose include:

  • Parish and institutional records;
  • Newspapers;
  • Novels;
  • Memoirs, Diaries and Journals;
  • Court Records;
  • Maps;
  • Photographs;
  • Sheet Music and Musical Event Programs;
  • Theater Programs;
  • Sporting Event Records;
  • and Library Collections.

Each student will have access to a $500 research budget for her or his project.  Final presentations of this research can take the form of a research paper or a digital project.  Projects will be presented at the end of the semester at a public mini-conference and the best paper or project will be awarded The Susan Ramonat Prize for Scholarly Excellence.


Application for the Ramonat Seminar is competitive and open to undergraduate students in all majors.  Accepted students are required to complete both the fall and spring courses.  Applicants are required to submit by April 1, 2015 for consideration:

  • an application form;
  • a short essay on why the course is of interest;
  • a copy of your transcript;
  • and a writing sample.

Students will learn of their acceptance by April 8th, before the start of fall registration. For more information about the Ramonat Seminar or to apply, please contact Professor Kyle Roberts, Department of History (kroberts2@luc.edu)

About the Instructor:

Kyle Roberts is the assistant professor of Public History and New Media in the History Department.  He teaches courses in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Atlantic World religion as well Public History and Digital History.  He is the Director of the Jesuit Libraries Project and the Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project, digital reconstructions of Loyola’s original library.   Dr. Roberts’ first book, Evangelical Gotham, explores the role Protestant Evangelicals played in the growth and development of New York City before the Civil War.  His second book will look at the social, intellectual, and spiritual lives of Catholics in Chicago after the Civil War.

To download the flyer for the 2015-16 Ramonat Seminar, click here.