Bertoti Conference

The Brian Bertoti Innovative Perspectives in History Graduate Research Conference

Since 1998 HGSA has organized a conference annually for graduates students in history from VT and from other MA and PhD programs. Our conference is an opportunity to share graduate research projects in a supportive, professional environment, and a chance to network with your future colleagues.

25th Conference Anniversary Roundtable Discussion, March 2022

The conference is named after a former student who sparked interest among his peers to create a venue for public presentation of student research. Brian Bertoti died before planning for the first conference was completed. The conference name acknowledges his interest in studying the past and his commitment to sharing that study with others.

The conference is a major undertaking and all HGSA members play a role – hosting invited keynote speakers; inviting papers and creating conference panels; attending to local arrangements; advertising the events; and soliciting funds to cover conference expenses.


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On March 31-April 1, 2023, we will host the Bertoti Conference in-person. Our conference is an opportunity for graduates and advanced undergraduates to share research projects in a supportive, professional environment and a chance to network with future colleagues. Our conference values interdisciplinary approaches to the past, and we invite proposals from historians and students in related disciplines whose work represents “innovative perspectives in history.” Presentations on any aspect of history, time period, or world region are welcome.

2023 Conference schedule of events To be announced

Friday, March 31:

Location: Hahn Horticulture Garden Pavilion

Social Hour

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Virginia Tech History Department Welcome

4:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Keynote Address: Dr. Leni Sorensen

4:45 pm – 6:00 pm


Saturday, April 1:

Location: Graduate Life Center Multipurpose Room and Conference Rooms

Breakfast Social

8:00 am – 8:30 am

Session I

8:45 am – 10:15 am

Session II

10:30 am – 12:00 pm

Lunch and Brian Bertoti Award

12:15 pm – 12:30 pm

Luncheon Speaker: Dr. Kelley Fanto Deetz

12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

Session III

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Session IV

3:45 pm – 5:15 pm


Conference Speakers

Dr. Leni Sorensen will deliver the keynote address on Friday, March 31. She earned her B.A. in History at Mary Baldwin College; she earned her M.A. and her Ph.D. in American Studies at the College of William and Mary. She is a food historian and the owner of the Indigo House in Crozet, Virginia. She owns a farmstead devoted to teaching the public about culinary history, historical meals, and effective home provisioning techniques. As a food historian, she researches a wide variety of topics varying from the lives of Black cooks, with a particular emphasis on the American Colonial period and the early nineteenth century, contemporary culinary practices, gardening, and animal processing. Dr. Sorensen contributed as a featured historian on the Netflix series “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America,” a highly rated documentary series, which showcased African-American contributions to the American culinary scene.

Dr. Kelley Fanto Deetz will deliver our luncheon address on Saturday, April 1. She earned her B.A. in Black Studies and History at College of William & Mary, and her M.A. in African American Studies and Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies both from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently the Vice President of Collections and Public Engagement at Stratford Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia. She is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley where she specializes in African American and African Diaspora Studies. Her 2017 book Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine used archaeological evidence, cookbooks, plantation records, and folklore to focus on the lives of enslaved plantation cooks from colonial times through emancipation and beyond.

Brian Bertoti Award

Each year, HGSA acknowledges the best paper presented at the conference with the Brian Bertoti Award for Outstanding Historical Scholarship. To be considered for this award, participants must also submit their paper at presentation length (3,000 words maximum, excluding bibliography and notes) to the Panels Committee by March 1, 2023. The paper selected for the best paper prize will represent exemplary scholarship, innovative methods, and unique perspectives in the historical discipline. Only graduate students are eligible for this award.

Publication in the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review

Outstanding undergraduate papers will also be considered for publication in the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review (VTUHR), which is annually published each spring. All submissions are reviewed by the undergraduate editorial board. Our editors utilize an anonymous peer-review process and employ a standard rubric to evaluate submissions. If you would like your submission to be considered for publication, please send the paper to the Panels Committee by March 1, 2023

For more information on VTUHR, please visit the website: