Notes From The Workfront: FSU History Alumnus Dr. Kent Peacock (PhD 2020)
In mid-June I began a career as part of the Bureau of Health Care Practitioner Regulation in the State of Florida’s Department of Health, Division of Medical Quality Assurance. I had defended my PhD a few months earlier. My choice to seek a position with a government agency happened for many reasons, only one of which was the practical reality that the State of Florida was still hiring in the present context of economic uncertainty. I see government employment as consistent with my long-standing commitment to help work toward bettering the public good. I have pursued that trajectory since completing my BA, by working for social justice-oriented non-profits as well as teaching for the History Department while a graduate student.
My formal position title is Government Operations Consultant I. What does that mean? As the name suggests, my responsibilities involve helping the government, in this case my specific Bureau, to function smoothly and within the law. Most of the time I deal with personnel issues, like recruitment. This is where my training as a historian and instructor helps me out. I develop questions and assessment criteria to which applicants respond in their application material and interviews. This helps me determine if they are qualified for the position they applied for. The process of hiring – as well as letting go, is multi-step, involving numerous individuals and state agencies. It is my job to coordinate and explain this process. Again, this is where my graduate work stands me in good stead. Learning how to collect, analyze and communicate complex material was a fundamental part of my graduate education, whether teaching in the undergraduate classroom, conducting and presenting my research, analyzing the scholarship of other historians, or serving as an officer of the History Graduate Student Association.
Is the Department of Health an odd place for me? To some extent, yes, as my historical interest has never really included public health or medicine. My new colleagues have been surprised to learn that I have a doctorate in history. However, two of the greatest things about studying history are, firstly, all the “soft” or transferable skills you learn while doing history – like framing questions, collecting and analyzing data, communicating verbally and in writing, working in teams, and emphasizing with people. The second skill I took away from my historical training was to objectively view broad structures and institutions, and to assess how they function and how people experience them. You can apply such skills far and wide, not just to the study of the past.
Yet, in my current work, I am still studying history and using “hard” historical skills. In order to understand current practices within the Bureau, I find myself asking questions, gathering evidence from different sources (employees and written records) about how the Bureau operated in the past, and interpreting the sometimes conflicting information. Once I have put all the evidence into a coherent narrative, it is easier to understand why certain things are done the way they are now – and what constituencies need to be considered in reforming them. I have gathered evidence and turned it into a comprehensive narrative - just like I did for my grad seminar research papers!
Like all good history, learning about the past helps us shape a better future. I might be thinking in much more minute and contemporary terms now than I did with my dissertation or other “professional” history projects (which examined massive topics like legal structures, gender, and sexuality decades or even hundreds of years ago), but much is the same and my graduate education with FSU’s History Department certainly set me up to succeed.