Arts & Humanities

Phi Alpha Theta Club Holds Uintah Basin History Road Trip

By Marcus Jensen |

USU students in the Phi Alpha Theta club pose for a photograph at the Utah Field House of Natural History on Sept. 9, 2023. Club members learned about the prehistory of the Uintah Basin. (Credit: USU/Faith Simper)

VERNAL, Utah — The Utah State University history club, Phi Alpha Theta, gathered students from across USU Statewide Campuses for a weekend of history and adventure on Sept. 8-9. Students traveled to the Uintah Basin to learn local history from USU faculty and experience the region’s natural wonders.

Eleven students interested in history from several USU campuses converged at the USU Uintah Basin campus. Five USU faculty members from across the state were also in attendance, guiding students on their tour of several historic sites. The trip was coordinated by Clayton Brown, associate professor of History at USU Uintah Basin and associate department head for Statewide Campuses.

“We had several goals for this field trip, but the most important thing was to bring statewide faculty and students together for a rare, in-person experience,” Brown said. “We were able to showcase the history of Utah and the Basin to our history club and history majors. The Uintah Basin is the perfect place for historians. Here we have everything from ancient dinosaur fossils to Native American petroglyphs to mountain men and outlaw lore.”

Students enjoyed a brief tour of the USU Uintah Basin campus in Vernal followed by a Dutch oven dinner on the spacious grounds of USU Uintah Basin. Faculty and students then gathered at the campfire to hear stories of Native American lore, mountain men and outlaws told by John Barton, history principal lecturer at USU Uintah Basin. Nichelle Frank, assistant professor of U.S. history at USU Eastern, talked to students about the long environmental legacy of mining towns in the American West.

After staying the night in town, students took a behind-the-scenes tour of labs and collections at the Utah Field House of Natural History, where they learned about the prehistoric history of the basin. The group lunched at the Josie Morris cabin, visited Fremont petroglyphs — which are roughly 1,000 years old — and then trekked to the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument where Ben Burger, associate professor of paleontology, explained the history of fossil hunting in the region.

"The trip was a marvelous opportunity for all students and faculty involved,” said Braydon Wright, president of the Phi Alpha Theta club at USU. “We're always eager to interact with Utah's local history and especially love working alongside our fellow history students located at our other campuses."

Phi Alpha Theta is a national professional society whose mission is to promote the study of history through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. The society seeks to bring students and teachers together for intellectual and social exchanges. At USU, the history club sponsors social events, conferences and scholarship opportunities. For more information, visit

USU students in the Phi Alpha Theta club surround a campfire to listen to stories about Native American lore, mountain men and outlaws told by John Barton, history lecturer at USU Uintah Basin, on Sept. 8, 2023. (Credit: USU/Faith Simper)


Marcus Jensen
News Coordinator
University Marketing and Communications


Clayton Brown
Associate Professor of History
USU Uintah Basin


Statewide Campuses 323stories History 132stories Humanities 110stories Clubs 82stories

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