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Karen L. Jolly
Karen L. Jolly

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of History has appointed Karen L. Jolly as its inaugural Jerry H. Bentley Distinguished Professor in World History. For the 2022–23 school year, Jolly will take on the newly established role, which provides research and other scholarly support for history faculty who are pursuing projects in the field of world history.

The position is named in honor of the UH Mānoa emeritus professor whose leadership in world history research and teaching brought UH’s contributions in this field to global attention. The endowed professorship is generously supported by Carol Mon Lee in honor of her late husband.

Two people smiling
From right—Carol Mon Lee and her late husband Jerry Bentley

“Carol has been exceptionally generous in establishing several funds in memory of Jerry’s legacy. She supports history research and students, and also established a fund for faculty research and travel and a graduate student scholarship,” said Peter Arnade, dean of the UH Mānoa College of Arts, Languages and Letters. “This new initiative, the Bentley Distinguished Professorship in World History, is a crucial source of support for history faculty research and publication, allowing the department to maintain its international excellence in this dynamic field.”

Jolly is a professor in the UH Mānoa history department and one of the most popular world history instructors on campus.

She is a recipient of the UH Mānoa Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching (1998–99) and is a two-time National Endowment for the Humanities awardee.

Recognized as a significant scholar within the field, Jolly has published several monographs, edited volumes and numerous peer-refereed articles. She arrived at UH Mānoa as a medieval Europeanist, who embraced world history after being personally mentored by Bentley.

“Beginning under Jerry Bentley’s influence and continuing to listen more and more to Indigenous voices in Oceania (Kānaka Maoli or Native Hawaiians), my understanding of humanity and our intertwined histories has evolved significantly. These changes are visible in my research, teaching and service such that I have reached a point of identifying myself as a global medievalist, with certain caveats and acknowledgements of limited positionality,” explained Jolly.

The endowed professorship was created to help inspire faculty to perpetuate Bentley’s continuing legacy in the field of world history. The globally-respected scholar believed that studying history from a transnational perspective increased our appreciation for the mutual benefit of cross-cultural interactions, fostered tolerance and mutual respect, and strengthened an appreciation for the historical ties that connected peoples and regions.

More on Jolly

This year, Jolly is working on a pedagogical project to rethink the meaning and impact of pre-modern world history, starting with history courses on the Global Middle Ages. She continues to partake in a complete revamping of the foundations course on pre-modern world history, currently under revision in the general education curriculum. A scholar in the area of ethical teaching and research, Jolly challenges students with big questions: What does it mean to be human? What contributes to human flourishing?

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