Throughout the journey, our resident historian, Tom Prezelski, will research each city and town along the route to determine when it might have been a Great America. He will tell us the pros and cons of living in that era and some interesting bits of history that may surprise you.

  • When was this city/town great?
  • Why was this time period great?
  • Who was included in this Great America? Who was not included?
  • How did it become great?
  • What’s left of this greatness?

The heart of each essay is to show a perceived greatness for one specific time period, the highlight the diverse cultures and developments of America, and that for every Great America, there are two sides to the story.


In Search of the Great America - Tom Prezelski headshot post sizeTom Prezelski is a Tucson native whose family roots in Southern Arizona extend back to the eighteenth century. A University of Arizona graduate, he worked as a transportation and economic development planner for both the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation before serving three terms in the Arizona House of Representatives. He has served on the board that plans Tucson’s All Souls Procession, the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission, as well as several other city commissions and community boards. He volunteers at the re-created Presidio San Agustín de Tucson as a historical re-enactor portraying a Spanish colonial soldier. His writings on Arizona history, politics and culture have appeared in The Tucson Sentinel, The Tucson Weekly and Zocalo. He is the author of Californio Lancers: The 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry in the Far West, 1863-1866, which was recognized by syndicated columnist Gustavo Arellano as of the ten best Mexican-themed books of 2015.

2020 Public History INTERN

In Search of the Great America - intern Laurend Bruno headshot post sizeLauren Bruno is an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona working towards degrees in History and Cognitive Neuroscience. Her studies focus on exploring how STEM fields and developing technologies impact social interactions, especially in relation to structures of power and gender. She is also pursuing a minor in Creative Writing to better understand how people create shared experiences through language. In the future Lauren hopes to contribute to an interdisciplinary conversation between the sciences, social issues, and art.

During school she works in housing as a residential assistant where she enjoys interacting and educating residents from wide-ranging backgrounds. Programming for residents has broadened her knowledge on topics like unhealthy relationships, mental health, and cultural diversity at the university.