Dustin Cohan

Position title: Lecturer: History 201 – Race & Place in the Migrant Midwest

Email: dcohan2@wisc.edu

Office: 324 University Club Building
Office Hours: Wednesdays 3:30-5:30pm in 324 University Club Building

Dustin Cohan


My name is Dustin Cohan, and I am a Ph.D. Candidate in History. As an undergraduate I attended the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana where I earned a degree in Finance in 2009. After working for five years, I reentered academia at the University of Illinois at Chicago and completed a Bachelor of Arts in history. Two years later, I started the M.A./PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in 2018 I completed my master’s project titled, “Deconstructing Migration: Chicanx Advocacy, Racial Marking, and the Fight for Liberation in Wisconsin, 1971-1977.”

My dissertation, “Remaking America’s Dairyland: Mexican Workers, American Farmers, and the Tenuous Alliance of Modern Dairy, 1976-2016,” examines the post-1986 surge in Mexican immigration and the subsequent employment and settlement of Mexican immigrants on Wisconsin dairy farms. Adopting a transnational framework, this study examines how the 1980s economic recession in Mexico along with transformations in the US dairy industry caused a pioneer group of indigenous Nahua people to seek work outside of Mexico and embark on the treacherous trek from the high mountains of Veracruz to the rural towns of Wisconsin. Drawing largely on oral histories with these and other Mexican laborers, my project centers their lived experiences and the ways they negotiated work and family life as undocumented immigrants in the US. Despite living over two thousand miles from their homeland in the rural isolation of the upper Midwest, immigrant workers established and maintained a transnational culture of work and family that remade Wisconsin dairy farms and transformed their villages in Mexico. Instead of belonging to one nation, undocumented Mexican and Nahua workers developed a cycle of migration that organized and sustained networks in both the US and Mexico.

My work has been featured on the UW-Madison Public History Blog, the West Texas Historical Review, and the Ask a Historian podcast.

Beyond research, I enjoy watching films and reading memoirs. For exercise, I am partial to hiking and playing basketball. When I am not engaged in work or physical activities, I also love to cook for my family and play with my two cats and dog.


M.A., in History, University of Wisconsin-Madison – 2018
B.A., History, University of Illinois at Chicago – 2015
B.S., Finance University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana – 2009


  • U.S./North American History
  • Individual Plan of Study

MA Title

  • “Deconstructing Migration: Chicanx Advocacy, Racial Marking, and the Fight for Liberation in Wisconsin, 1971-1977 ”

Working Dissertation Title

  • “Remaking America’s Dairyland: Mexican Workers, American Farmers, and the Tenuous Alliance of Modern Dairy, 1976-2016”

Selected Publications

  • “Hearing and Helping Farmworkers: Health Services and Oral History in America’s Dairyland,” Public Humanities Exchange, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2020-21.
  • “From Veracruz to Wisconsin: Circular Migration in the Era of Border Militarization,” Digital History Story Map Project for Baldwin Grant, Departments of Geography and History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021.
  • Surviving Conditions and Competing Visions: The Fight for a Chicano Studies Department,” Public History Project Blog. Oct. 5 2020.
  • Review of A Crooked River: Rustlers, Rangers, Regulars on the Lower Rio Grande, 1861-1877. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2018. West Texas Historical Review, 96:1, 283-84.

Selected Awards

  • 2021 Murphy Scholarship, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 2020 Trennert-Iverson Award, Western History Association, University of Kansas
  • 2020 Kaplan History of Social Justice Award, Department of History, UW-Madison
  • 2020 Graduate Public Humanities Exchange Scholarship, Institute for the Research in the Humanities, UW-Madison
  • 2018 Baensch Prize in Wisconsin History, Department of History, UW-Madison
  • 2015 John Lee Goodman Award, University of Illinois at Chicago

Professional Affiliations

  • Western History Association
  • Labor and Working-Class History Association

Courses Taught (as TA)

  • History 160 – Asian American History: Process of Movement and Dislocation. (Professor Cindy I-Fen Cheng)
  • History 219 – The American Jewish Experience. (Professor Tony Michels)
  • History 393 – Civil War, Slavery, and Reconstruction, 1848-1877. (Professor Stephen Kantrowitz)

Courses Taught (as Instructor)

  • History 201 – Race & Place in the Migrant Midwest