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When I was 18 years old, I knew I wanted to be a history professor. History was my favorite topic in high school, thanks to some enthusiastic and creative teachers. So I went to Central Michigan University and double-majored in English and History for my bachelors, studied British History at Strathclyde in Scotland for my Masters, then took a break. College in the 1990s was such a "sink or swim" place to be, and although I was one of the students who successfully swam, I was a little burned out. So I came to Tallahassee to get married, then worked for the State of Florida for six years before going back to pursue my dream. I received my doctorate degree at Florida State University in 2014, having studied under the esteemed Dr. Darrin McMahon (now at Dartmouth) and majored in 18th-Century Intellectual History, with minors in Modern Britain, Colonial/Revolutionary America, and Early-Modern Europe. I had a fellowship for most of graduate school, was virtually a straight-A student, and passed my comps and dissertation with distinction. It sounds so prestigious when I put it like that, but it was an awful lot of hard, grinding work and 60-hour weeks. It ultimately took me twenty years from when I started college. Nonetheless, I did it and was all set to become a history professor, just like I had intended for my entire adult life.

I didn't become a history professor.

My freshman year, I did not grasp the true value of education. Nor did I know about undergraduate research, Directed Individual Studies, fellowships, and other enriching opportunities. As a first-generation college student, my idea of college was simply attending classes and earning a piece of paper proclaiming that I had graduated. Once I realized how wrong I was, I packed as much as I could into my junior and senior year.

My view of history is interdisciplinary, especially focusing on contemporary history, so I double majored with international affairs and sought opportunities in adjacent departments. By the time I graduated in May 2019, I earned two certificates from the Emergency Management and Homeland Security program, a certificate from the Globe, completed the Garnet and Gold Scholar Society requirements, got a TEFL certificate at the Center for Intensive English Studies, and was accepted as a 2019 Rangel Scholar into the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Summer Enrichment program my graduating semester.

I completed most of this during my final two years at FSU. To all current students, make the most of your college experience by actively seeking these opportunities. Go to your professor’s office hours, read the flyers on the department walls, check on social media, apply for fellowships, do everything that you possibly can to expand your knowledge.

Age of Revolutions (AoR) is an online platform that has been making an impact on the field of revolutionary history. The site is innovative in the realm of academic publishing because it is open-access yet maintains a rigorous peer-review process. In an earlier article (The Making of 'Age of Revolution'), we describe how Bryan Banks and Cindy Ermus, both alumni of FSU History and the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution (INFR), created the online platform. When they needed help with the website, their connection to the INFR encouraged them to offer fellow Institute members Justine Carré Miller and Zachary Stoltzfus an opportunity to gain valuable experience. They jumped at the chance. Each has their respective tasks and projects, and both have seized this possibility to hone their digital skills and make a difference in their field.

“When I go to a scholarly website, I don’t expect to be surprised, if only because I am often looking for something specific. But when I go to Age of Revolutions I always find something unexpected and unexpectedly helpful for my own teaching or research. The site offers gateways to new thoughts because its editors are always on top of the latest developments and because they have an especially capacious view of what matters in history. They are not just collecting scholarship; they are actively helping to create new interpretations.”

 Lynn Hunt, UCLA, https://ageofrevolutions.com/blurbs/

 

My journey to my doctorate was hard and atypical, but I have always known that this is what I have wanted, and as a goal the achievement of my Ph.D. never ceased to be on my radar. The three things that helped me to finally obtain it at the mature age of fifty-two included the solid foundation I gained from my experience in the military, my background as a K-12 educator, and the professional nurturing and the targeted and specialized support I received from each one of my professors and fellow graduate students in the History department at Florida State University. Since achieving my doctorate in 2014, I embarked on a journey in international education which has led to K-12 administrative posts in South Korea and India. It continues to be a tremendously rewarding career path, resulting in an expat life of adventure, competitive monetary remuneration, as well as new opportunities to publish.

Del Herman is an FSU alumnus who is currently teaching in an Orange county elementary school as part of the Teach for America program. Del graduated from FSU in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and History and served as a resident assistant (RA) for three years. Del hadn’t planned on teaching third graders during a pandemic, but through this experience, he’s found his unsuspected passion for K-12 education.

What is Teach for America?

Teach for America is a two-year program where people who are generally not Education majors (and mostly early 20-somethings fresh out of college) are recruited to become teachers in lower income public or charter schools all around the country.  I often compare it with the Peace Corps. Even the person who founded Teach for America, Wendy Kopp, got the idea after studying the Peace Corps for her senior thesis at Princeton, in which she proposed the idea of the program. The idea is that you teach for two years and then after those two years, you will take your experiences as a teacher and activist out into your further career and will continue to work until One Day when educational inequity, a rampant problem in our country, no longer exists.

How did you find out about Teach for America?

I went on the job market during the 2009-2010 academic year. That spring, I turned thirty and was in what seemed like a never-ending process of dissertation writing.  Questions about when I would finish school and get a real job—from parents, friends, and acquaintances outside of academia—were mounting.  This only added to the pressure of a rough job market and the nagging thought that I may not get a full-time position. How much longer could I scrape by from my departmental assistantship, adjuncting at Tallahassee Community College, and tutoring student athletes? 

What do you tend to think of when you think of a history major? Archives? Libraries? Museums? Yes, but also no. The skills developed in the study of history are so flexible you can apply them almost anywhere. As a student of history, you’re taught to be constantly curious, to look for patterns, and to think of the big picture. An understanding of history and the skills related to historical study are transferable and needed in any career!

In my career, I have gotten the reputation of being a storyteller, and that is what I’m going to present to you here, my story. My route to Florida State’s History department was an interesting one.  After graduating with a BA in History from the University of Miami with a focus on medieval history, I sent out a number of applications to graduate schools across the country and in Europe looking to continue my academic journey. I received denials from all of them. Not yet willing to leave academia, I entered into a MS ed program at Miami and served as an administrator for a number of years.  However, my heart was not in it and when my girlfriend of the time, now wife of 16 years, moved to Tallahassee to attend the FSU’s School of Music, I decided to move with her. With no job prospects, and time on my hands, I felt it was time to re-enter academia and get back on my original plan.

My graduation (Spring of 2020) looked nothing like I had expected. I had left Tallahassee in March thinking that I would be getting a nice break before coming back to defend my thesis and finish off my semester before hopefully finding an internship to ease me into the working world. Of course, the entire world shutting down had not been in my plans. That being said, I was able to defend my thesis and graduate. I had hoped to work in a museum, which was complicated by the fact that most public gathering places were closed until further notice. I was looking anywhere and everywhere for a job, but I found myself back in Tallahassee once again with the opportunity to work in history in a way I hadn’t thought of before.