This archived article was written by: Michael Powell
When most people say in theatre, “break a leg” they mean to wish the actor the best of luck. In Susan Neel’s case, she literally broke her leg in a dance class which made her re-think her dancing career into one that eventually brought her to the College of Eastern Utah this fall.
After Neel broke her leg she helped her dance teacher’s mother sew costumes for Ballet West. She instantly liked sewing the costumes but even more liked learning about the history of the costumes. With the new found liking of history, she decided to take some history classes and ended up with a bachelor degree form the University of Utah.
She moved to Los Angeles where she earned a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Neel’s area of specialization is environmental history and the history of the American West. Her dissertation was about the rise of the early environmental movement in the 1950s. Her research centered on the conflict between the development of national parks in the Colorado River basin and the construction of dams as places like Echo Park in Dinosaur National Monument. Neel has also studied the history of Yellowstone National Park and scenic tourism in the American West.
Neel taught U.S. history at Montana State University in Bozeman before returning to Utah to help care for her elderly parents.
At CEU she teaches American Civilization and a two semester survey of U.S. history. She is particularly interested in using digital technology to teach. Neel puts her course syllabi on the World Wide Web and likes to have her students do projects and tests online.
She enjoys living in Utah and appreciates the beautiful desert environments in the eastern and southern parts of the state.
Besides teaching history, Neel enjoys art. She has owned a small art gallery and is excited about taking part in the local art scene.