Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

The Ramonat Seminar

The History Department is very pleased to offer, through the generosity of donor Susan Ramonat, the annual Ramonat Seminar in American Catholic History and Culture.


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 by a Loyola faculty member, 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.

The Ramonat Seminar 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.


The 2018-2019 academic year is a perfect moment to offer a Ramonat Seminar focused on American Politics and how Catholics and Catholicism shaped twentieth-century politics at the local, state, and federal level. There will be a midterm election in Fall 2018 and a Chicago mayoral election in Spring 2019.  

Readings and speakers will explore how Catholics shaped Chicago’s ward politics from the Progressive Era through the two Daley machines, how Catholics across Illinois brought their faith and sensibilities to the legislature, and how Catholics and Catholicism factored in the transformation of American politics. 

A major feature of this course must accordingly be the hostility Catholics, their parishes, and their elected representatives faced, providing insights into the struggles Catholics had attaining voting rights, securing protection against religious discrimination at home and at work, as well as being broadly recognized as a vital, legitimate part of the American polity.

An examination of twentieth-century local, state, and national politics will show students how the face of American Catholicism dramatically changed from the Irish and Italian immigrants to the Latino and South Asian immigrants who have recently won elected office through the Republican and Democratic parties.

For 2018-19, the Ramonat Seminar is cross-listed with the following departments and programs: Political Science, Theology, Religious Studies, Urban Studies, Sociolegal Studies, and Catholic Studies.

2018-2019 Ramonat Seminar Instructors

Instructor: Elizabeth Tandy Shermer

Elizabeth Tandy Shermer is an associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago where she teaches courses in twentieth-century United States history with an emphasis in the fields of capitalism, business, labor, political ideas and ideologies, regional development, and urbanization. For more information, please contact Dr. Shermer at eshermer@luc.edu.

Teaching Assistant: Ruby Oram

Ruby Oram is a PhD candidate studying United States history and public history at Loyola University Chicago. Her research focuses on the history of education, gender, labor, and architecture in twentieth-century Chicago.


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. Applications are generally due in early April and students will learn of their acceptance before the start of fall registration. . Please check back this spring for more details and deadlines for applying to the 2019-2020 Ramonat Seminar. 

Applicants to the seminar will be required to submit: 

  • Ramonat Seminar Application (to be posted in Spring 2019);
  • A short essay on why the course is of interest;
  • A copy of your transcript;
  • A writing sample.