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Two Kean History Professors Named New Jersey Public Scholars

 Frank Argote-Freyre, Ph.D., and Sue Kozel

Kean University history faculty members Frank Argote-Freyre, Ph.D., and Sue Kozel will be giving lectures throughout the state over the next two years as newly named New Jersey Public Scholars. 

The Public Scholars Project from the New Jersey Council on the Humanities subsidizes scholarly lectures and presentations in New Jersey communities to explore history, values, culture and beliefs. Argote-Freyre and Kozel join their Kean colleagues, Acting College of Liberal Arts Dean Jonathan Mercantini, Ph.D., and History Professor Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D., who have been offering lectures through the Public Scholars Project for several years.

“I am very honored,” said Argote-Freyre, an associate professor of Latin American history. “I believe as historians we need to bring our knowledge into the arena of public debate and help inform the policy discussions at all levels of government. The public lecture series is a way to engage the public in a discourse on these issues.”

Argote-Freyre will offer two talks — Immigration: American Promise, American Menace and Who Really Elects the President: The Workings of the Electoral College. He was an Obama elector in 2012 and expects his experience as a member of the Electoral College to be of great interest during the upcoming presidential election. Argote-Freyre has already been asked by three libraries to speak on the issue.

Sue Kozel, an adjunct professor of history at Kean, will tell the story of a New Jersey slave, Wench Betty, in a lecture entitled, Why Wench Betty’s Story Matters: The Murder of a NJ Slave in 1784. Kozel, who will further her studies about slavery as a resident fellow at the International Center for Jefferson Studies in Virginia next year, is already scheduled to speak before a New Jersey social justice group for Black History Month in February.

“We can think of Wench Betty’s story and relate it to modern issues of discrimination and hate crimes that marginalize people who are viewed as less equal,” Kozel said. “That is what I hope to convey to my audiences.”

Both professors believe that sharing their knowledge and expertise with New Jersey citizens in lectures at local libraries, historical societies and other meeting places is part of their mission at Kean. 

“Many of the policy debates of today have occurred in different contexts in the past and a historian can shed light on those debates with a knowledge of the past,” said Argote-Freyre.

The New Jersey Public Scholars Project supports at least 200 public lectures each year, on a wide range of topics including New Jersey history, immigrant experiences, arts and culture, women’s suffrage and the environment. New Jersey Public Scholars receive a $250 honorarium for each lecture they give.

“I am very excited to be a part of this dynamic group of scholars offering more than 90 separate programs on such important topics and to help inform New Jersey’s residents about our own state’s cruel history of slavery,” Kozel said.