A-Z Index

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 in the U.S.
  • Practicum in American Local History
  • Women and Gender in U.S. History
  • U.S. since 1945
  • Research Seminar in U.S. History

Academic Interest

As a social and cultural historian, I am interested in gender, sexuality, and the American West. Much of my work focuses on questions of identity and memory. My first book Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion (University Press of Kansas, 2020) looks at race- and group-specific rodeos in the United States, including Black, Indigenous, Hawaiian, and gay rodeo circuits. 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, under contract with the University of Washington Press, is co-authored with Rebecca Scofield at the University of Idaho. This work examines the gay rodeo circuit more specifically. Participants in gay rodeo created a different queer sexual subculture that straddled the urban and rural. Gay rodeo also has been an arena filled 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, drag queens and camp events, political and consumer power, and the position of women within this setting.

As a public historian, I am interested in promoting using local history as a teaching tool for facilitating student engagement, and I publish on profession-based learning project design with a focus on undergraduate students working collaboratively on projects with community partners. I have led oral history projects to gather the stories of long-time Northwest employees, military veterans on campus, and Nodaway County farmers. These oral histories are housed at the Northwest University Archives and at the Nodaway County Historical Society. I have also worked with students to prepare National Register nominations, document local historic cemeteries, research and design museum exhibits, and create various websites and digital history projects that document local histories.

Scholarly Activity

Other Professional Experiences

  • Public History Committee Co-Chair, Western History Association, 2022-Present
  • Steering Committee, Missouri Conference on History, 2018-Present
  • Northwest Region Representative, Missouri Association of Museums and Archives, 2017-Present
  • Public History Liaison, Coordinating Council for Women’s Historians, 2017-Present
  • Development Committee, National Council for Public History, 2017-Present
  • Board Member, Nodaway County Historical Society Museum, 2013-Present
  • Fulbright Award, Romania, 2009-2010
  • Leadership Resident, Harpswell Foundation, Cambodia, Summer 2009