I didn’t start out in history.  I completed BAs in English and Anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. From there I went to the University of West Florida for an MA in Anthropology. At around that time, I decided to pivot and shift my focus away from historical archaeology to history. To that end, I began another MA at Florida State University, this time in American History. Afterward, I transitioned into the PhD program and wrote my dissertation on the connection between gender and bodies in the United States Marine Corps between World War I and the Korean War. I’m currently working on turning the dissertation into a book manuscript.

Shortly after finishing my PhD in May 2019, I began a job with SNA International, a contractor that hires historians, anthropologists, and various other positions for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).  The DPAA’s mission is to fully account for as many missing and/or unidentified US servicemembers as possible.  Presently, there are still more than 81,900 missing American servicemembers, mostly from World War II and the Korean War. The agency works to return these missing individuals to their families (

My name is Sebastian Mejia, and I was part of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program cohort in the summer of 2019.  At Florida State, I obtained a B.S. in Latin American & Caribbean Studies, another B.S. in International Affairs with a concentration in History, and a Minor in Portuguese. I graduated in Spring 2020. I took several Latin American & Caribbean History courses and wrote an honors thesis with Dr. Hicks as my advisor. I also took one of the History department’s senior seminar courses with Dr. Herrera.

I learned about the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) from a peer in the Service Scholars Program who had attended a conference where a presenter spoke about their experience in the program. MURAP is hosted by the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The program is dedicated to diversifying the professoriate via training rising seniors in the humanities, social sciences, and fine arts.

For the application, MURAP asks that you write about your research interests and a possible research project that you can realistically undertake. Additionally, they ask about your commitment to diversity, your commitment to pursuing a Ph.D., and your interest in teaching at the university level.

I graduated from FSU in 2019, and I am currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Back at Florida State, I worked with Dr. G. Kurt Piehler to study U.S. political history and modern conservatism, while doing the course work including Asian and European history as minor fields. Only one and a half years have passed since my Ph.D. defense, yet this seems decades ago as various experiences have flooded me: I returned to Japan after almost seven years in the United States; I began to live in Tokyo which is increasingly transforming its demography; and leaving behind my long student life, I started my academic career as a professor. Despite the tremendous shifts, I can feel my experiences at FSU are deeply embedded in myself.

When Dr. James Denham started his higher education at FSU, he was not planning to pursue a graduate degree in History. He went on to graduate from FSU in 1988 after receiving his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D in History. Now a professor and director of the Lawton M. Chiles Jr. Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College, Denham considers his time at FSU foundational for sparking his interest in history and for preparing him for his career as a professor and a researcher. He is a historian of Florida and the South, with an emphasis on issues of law and criminal history.  FSU allowed him to dive into his research and find his passion for the discipline. Recently, Dr. Denham spoke with Marina Ortiz, a member of FSU History’s social media team, to reflect upon his time as a FSU student and share his experience teaching at a small liberal arts school.

Want to teach English abroad? We asked Russell Rivers, a senior in History, how he got selected to teach English in Korea. Russell will graduate this fall semester and is going to Korea in 2021.

Congratulations. What got you interested in living and working in Korea?

Who would not want to work on superheroes? To look at their lives and exploits in a world of fast-paced adventures and moral absolutes. This is what Spencer Molenaar has decided to work on in his Honors in the Major project (HITM) for History. He is taking the films Ironman and Ironman 2 as “texts of the moment,” and is investigating both how the films reflected on but also were received by American society in the first decade of the 2000s.

            Christina Portuallo was introduced to the Lowell Correctional Institution and its questionable history in Dr. McTighe’s undergraduate class on mass incarceration. This marked the beginning of her long journey of research on the history of women’s prisons in the United States. Working closely alongside Dr. Renfro, Christina set out to gain a better understanding of the daily lives and conditions of the women housed at the Lowell Correctional Institution, raising questions about “…instances of mistreatment that have occurred throughout [the facility’s] history that have been forgotten or buried,” as well as the unique challenges presented to incarcerated women of color and queer women. In recent years, the Lowell Correctional Institution has come under fire from a number of news networks for abuse and administrative misconduct, and through the research for her Honors in the Major project (HITM), Christina aims to “shed light” on the facility’s deplorable conditions and “bring awareness to the historical roots of those abuses,” showing how they have evolved over time.

We’ve all missed out on something due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. A family vacation, a summer job, but what about the chance to study at Harvard over the summer? Jake was supposed to spend a couple weeks this past Summer poring over the archives of the Harvard Business School to do research for his History Honors in the Major (HITM) project. His thesis originally investigated how WWII helped small businesses such as Polaroid and Lehman Brothers become economic powerhouses. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak however, Harvard shut down and Jake had to shift his topic. Much of the research he was planning to do was with documents that had not yet been digitized, making it impossible to do the research from afar. However, his new topic is similarly interesting and pertains to his area of academic focus

It is with much fondness that I remember our departed colleague Ed Wynot.  I first met Ed when he was on the search committee that hired me in 1995.  From the very start of my time at FSU he was a welcoming and friendly presence. Given the closeness of our fields, we shared many of the same students.  I quickly discovered that he was a popular and very good teacher.  Ed loved the classroom, and he spread that enthusiasm to his students.  Whenever I passed him in the hall on his way to teach his large World History section, he would tell me with a humorous gleam in his eyes that he was “off to harangue the masses.”  Many of those “harangued” students would later take his upper-level East European History class just to have another class with him. Even years later when I encounter Ed’s former students, they always reflect on what a great lecturer and teacher he was for them.  Sometimes Ed surprised me by leaving an article related to my work in my mailbox. It was like a secret research pixie had left me a present.  I am saddened by his passing, but I always smile when I remember Ed Wynot as my friend and colleague.      

A tribute by Dr. Jonathan Grant

I joined the Peace Corps back in 2018. I departed for Nepal in January 2019 with the intention of spending 27 months teaching English in a little village named Aruchaur in the midwestern part of the country. It was a bit of a shock adjusting to a life without Wi-Fi, washing machines, or hot water, but I was doing reasonably well until the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, the entire Peace Corps was suspended globally, and I was sent home in March 2020. I often catch myself asking what the chances were that a once-in-a-century global pandemic would strike right in the middle of my service abroad, but what can you do.