A-Z Index

Dr. Elyssa Ford

Dr. Elyssa Ford



53 Valk


660.562.1241 (fax)

Joined Northwest in 2011

Associate Professor

Honors Program Director, Public History & Museums Studies Director


  • Ph.D. History; Arizona State University
  • M.A. History; Arizona State University
  • Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies; Arizona State University
  • B.A. International Studies; Colby College

Courses Taught

  • U.S. to 1877 & U.S. since 1877
  • U.S. since 1877 (Honors section)
  • Public History
  • Local History Practicum
  • Women and Gender in U.S. History
  • Early American Republic
  • U.S. since 1945
  • Research Seminar in U.S. History

Academic Interest

I am a cultural and social historian and am interested in women's history and sport history in the United States. A lot of my work examines these areas by asking questions about gender, race, and sexuality, with a focus on questions of identity and memory. My book (Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion, 2020) looks at race- and group-specific rodeos in the United States, such African American rodeo, LGBT+ rodeo, and Hawaiian rodeo. In it, I argue that rodeo’s ties to the past allow people to connect to it in a way that is deeply personal and to see it as culturally and historically relevant. Because of this, race- and group-specific rodeos not only have continued far beyond the time of segregation, but have become even more relevant for the communities that support them. My next book project focuses more specifically on the gay rodeo circuit. Participants in gay rodeo created a different queer sexual subculture that straddled the urban and rural. It also is a site with tensions between offering an inclusive environment (for men and women, for trans and cis competitors, and more) and one that still was created by gay men for gay men. Topics examined include hypermasculinity, sex and AIDS, rodeo drag queens, political and consumer power, and the position of women within this setting.

Scholarly Activity

Selected Publications

  • "Bringing Town and Gown Together: Using Local History to Engage Students and Create Collaborative Partnerships," Journal of Museum Education 41:4 (Oct. 2016): 262-274.
  • "Pa'u Riding in Hawai'i: Memory, Race, and Community on Parade," Pacific Historical Review 84:3 (Aug. 2015): 277-306.

Selected Recent Presentations

  • "No 'Limp Wrists' Here: Masculinity & Femininity in the Gay Rodeo," at the Western History Association, October 2020
  • "Alma Nash & the Maryville Milieu," Podcast with the State Historical Society of Missouri, Summer 2020
  • "The 'Smithsonian Effect' in Small-Town America?: 'Repairing' Rural Communities through Museum on Main Street," at the National Council of Public History, March 2019
  • "Profession-Based Learning: Building Bridges between Theory & Practice and between Academic & Cultural Institutions," at the Missouri Association of Museums & Archives, October 2018
  • "Rodeo and the Transmission of Identity and Belonging: The Sporting West," at the Western History Association, October 2017
  • "There is no 'L' in the IGRA: The Complicated Position of Lesbians in Gay Rodeo," at the Conference on Women, June 2017
  • "Hard Questions: When to save a museum and when to let it die?," at the National Council of Public History, April 2017
  • "Where Gay Men can be 'Real' Men: The Gay Rodeo," at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, November 2015
  • "What is Rural Feminism?," at the Rural Women's Studies Association, February 2015

Student Group Advisement

  • Society of President’s Scholars & the Celebration of Quality
  • Honors Student Advisory Board
  • International Scholarship Committee

Other Professional Experiences

  • Steering Committee, Missouri Conference on History, 2018-Present
  • Northwest Region Representative, Missouri Association of Museums and Archives, 2017-Present
  • Public History Liaison, Coordinative Council for Women’s Historians, 2017-Present
  • Development Committee, National Council for Public History, 2017-Present
  • Board Member, Nodaway County Historical Society Museum (Missouri), 2013-Present
  • Fulbright Award, Romania, 2009-2010
  • Leadership Resident, Harpswell Foundation, Cambodia, Summer 2009