May 2013's Researcher of the Month:
Dr. Toby Bates, Assistant Professor of History - MSU Meridian Campus
Toby Bates is an Assistant Professor of History on the MSU Meridian Campus. Bates worked in radio and in his family’s Tupelo trucking firm before deciding to pursue an academic career. He made the career change because of his intense passion for studying and teaching history. He joined the faculty of the Arts and Science Division at MSU Meridian in 2008 and published his first book chronicling Ronald Regan’s transformation of the nation’s political culture in 2011. Bates book reached a second printing within six weeks. His treatment of Reagan and the inclusion of “pop culture” as evidence for his thesis led to an invitation to Hollywood to be interviewed for a forthcoming movie about the history of the 1980s. Switching centuries, Bates is currently writing a biography of Civil War general, Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss, one of those rare Civil War figures lacking a biography.
Bates specializes in how culture and historians shape our memory of the past and sees Prentiss’s story as an opportunity to demonstrate changing perceptions of an individual and era by following Prentiss’s evolution from despised coward to redeemed hero in the press and popular imagination.
Bates has published the outline of his thinking for the next book in an article in the Journal of Mississippi History and he contributes reviews to a number of professional journals. Aside from published work, Bates devotes a great deal of effort to research for innovative classes such as “Bad Meat and Bigfoot,” which he team taught with a biologist, Jarrod Fogarty, last summer. This coming summer the pair will revise the experimental course to be “Godzilla and Global Warming.”