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When D J Kinney defended his PhD dissertation in the fall of 2018, he decided not to seek an academic job straight away. Instead, he set out to share his passion for the Cold War era with a broader audience. “I love telling stories and making podcasts about the Cold War was a natural extension for me.” Thus, The Cold War Vault was born.

Kinney had been fascinated by the Cold War from a young age onward. In one of the earliest podcast episodes, he narrates how he was drawn to the topic. ‘The Last of the Cold War Kids’ delves into his entanglement with the film ‘Threads’ (1984) as a youngster and relates his elation at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Most of the material for his series is based on his ongoing engagement with the Cold War era. Only rarely does Kinney draw on his PhD dissertation, ‘Nuclear Spaces: Simulations of Nuclear Warfare In Film, by the Numbers, and on the Atomic Battlefield.’

It took Kinney three months to get ready for his first audio recording. “Since I wanted to make successful podcasts, I realized that I needed professional equipment, a dedicated workspace, and a reliable distributor. It was very important for me to start the way I wanted to continue. You should not do most of the learning on the job.” For this project, Kinney combined the skills he had acquired from undergraduate film-making courses at University of Florida with the knowledge he had gained from the PhD program in history at FSU.

Dr. Katherine Mooney is the James P. Jones Associate Professor of History. She received her BA in American Studies from Amherst College in 2004, her MA and PhD from Yale University in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Dr. Mooney joined FSU in 2014.

When did you start thinking about graduate school?

I considered it after I finished undergrad at Amherst College in Massachusetts in 2004. My BA was in American Studies with a history and literature concentration as well as some sociology. It was very interdisciplinary. I realized that the jobs that interested me probably required some kind of graduate degree. I didn’t want to start immediately though because I was unsure about what I wanted to do or why.

For two years, I worked in the writing support program at Amherst. I enjoyed it. The job prepared me for aspects of teaching, like helping students with their writing. As it was a 9-to-5 job, I had enough space to think about what I wanted and did not want to do in the long term. Knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as thinking about what you want to do, because it will help you set your boundaries.

I started talking to people about going to graduate school as I didn’t know much about it. Some professors told me that it would be easier to get a job with a history degree than with an American Studies degree. Since I had read so much history already, this advice made sense to me.

How did you get interested in music?

I started with piano and then guitar and when I was 11, I switched to tuba. I always loved music. In my high school, I joined the marching band. I became a section leader in my senior year. I went to a large high school with a big marching band, so the transition to playing with the FSU Marching Chiefs was not that hard.

What did it take to become a MC?

I came to FSU to be part of the MC. In my junior year at high school, I signed up for the MC’s newsletter to know about their events. I wanted to be part of a university that had a strong band tradition. As a freshman, I attended two weeks of band camp before the semester started. Everybody who wants to join has to. About 600 to 650 students audition to join the MC every year; usually about 400 are selected. During my time with the MC, we have been 24 tubas every year. I came in as a Music major, but you don’t have to be. I switched to History pretty quickly.

What’s it like to be part of the MC?

Dr. Maximilian Scholz is an assistant professor specializing in the social and religious history of early modern Europe. He received his BA, MA, MPhil, and PhD from Yale University (2016). His dissertation was titled “Exile and the Recasting of the Reformation: Frankfurt am Main, 1554-1618.” He joined the FSU Department of History in 2017.

How would you describe your general experience of grad school?

Graduate school was both lovely and stressful. The first few years of my program were mostly lovely and rarely stressful. But as the dissertation work began, the stress level increased, and loveliness decreased. The friends I made over the first few years sustained me through the dissertation process and made the entire graduate school experience worthwhile.

What was the process of choosing a dissertation topic like?

Earlier this year, Dr. Sam Holley-Kline received the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program’s postdoctoral mentor award. Dr. Holley-Kline, whose area of expertise is the history of modern Mexico, is a Dean's Postdoctoral Scholar in FSU’s History Department. Michelle Evangelista (FSU 2023 International Affairs), one of his UROP student researchers, nominated Dr. Holley-Kline for the mentoring award.

UROP introduces undergraduate students to doing research. Open to all first- and second-year undergraduate and transfer students, the year-long program culminates in student-led presentations at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Throughout the UROP experience, students meet with their mentors and UROP leaders regularly for support, feedback, and guidance.

UROP is comprised of three components: the Colloquium, the assistantship, and the presentation. The Colloquium is there to teach UROP students the tools of successful research. The assistantship is where UROP students select and research their project. Here students work with their mentors by conducting archival and library research, compiling data, writing abstracts, and fact-checking sources. The presentation allows UROP students to showcase their findings from their research.

Logan MacMillan, a history major, graduated from Florida State University in December 2020. Two months later, he left for France to pursue intensive language studies. Studying abroad has changed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many study abroad programs are working to provide the cultural immersion and experiences students seek. MacMillan took the time to tell us about his stay abroad in spring and summer 2021.

MacMillan became interested in studying French in high school and continued his language studies at FSU. What initially began as a way of fulfilling the foreign language requirement turned quickly into a passion for the language. MacMillan went to Paris to study abroad with FSU, and this experience made him want to continue with French in earnest. He earned a minor in French and decided to participate in one of the Alliance Française language programs in France as a “capstone” to his FSU education in the French language.

MacMillan has been living and studying French in Lyon, France, a city not far from the border to Switzerland since February. He attended a general French language course each weekday and had additional grammar and writing classes. “The course material is hard, but the classes are easy. I am taking an intensive course which requires me to work completely in French. This makes the class more difficult. Yet because I have been interacting with local people and immersed myself fully in life in France, communicating in French has become so much easier.”

Dr. Matthew Mewhinney is an assistant professor of Japanese Language at the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. He received his BA and MA from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2006 and 2009, respectively. He completed his PhD degree in Japanese Language from University of California, Berkeley in 2018. Dr. Mewhinney joined FSU in 2019.

What is your primary research interest?

I’m very interested in questions of literary craft, what artists throughout history have done with words. My current research focus is on the culture of the literati, a group of elite poet-painters. I look at their artistic production and how that tradition rises and falls from eighteenth- to twentieth-century Japan. One of my goals as a scholar is to break down the boundaries between different genres and to get to the heart of the literary experience.

What was your experience in graduate school?

A PhD takes a long time. I entered the doctoral program in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at UC Berkeley in 2012 and graduated in 2018. It was a program not in history, not in literature, not in comparative literature but in language and cultural study. I was broadly interested in East Asian cultures, film, but mainly literature.

For Dr. Meghan Martinez, becoming the newest faculty member of the Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE) is the fulfilment of a dream years in the making. As a graduate student, Martinez worked as a grading assistant for Dr. Maxine Jones’s CARE courses over the span of six summers. She described her immediate affection for CARE adding, “I would fill any position that they needed someone for because I just loved working in the program.” This summer, Martinez has essentially come “full circle” as she teaches 200 incoming CARE students in a position she describes as an “honor” and a “dream come true.”

Founded in 1968 as Horizons Unlimited, CARE serves traditionally underrepresented undergraduate students who have faced economic and/or educational hardships. The goal of the program is to recruit, prepare and support first-generation college students as they embark on a journey of academic growth and success at Florida State University.

Dr. Suzanne Sinke serves as the History Department’s Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. She is a historian of migration and gender studies in the U.S. context. She received her MA from Kent State University in 1983, and her PhD from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 1993. She joined FSU in 2002.

How did you know you wanted to do a PhD and become a historian?

I was singularly committed to becoming a teacher of history from childhood. The question was only at which level, and I started my undergraduate studies planning to be a high school teacher.

Once I completed an MA, I took a year to think about whether I really wanted to go on given poor job prospects and challenges of living on minimal stipends - I was averse to taking out loans. A last-minute adjunct job at a local college convinced me that I really loved college teaching, so I explored graduate programs in much greater depth and found one that offered what I wanted. Once I joined the PhD program at the University of Minnesota, I loved the intellectual challenge and developed a group of graduate student friends.

How did you arrive at your dissertation topic? How much did it change over the course of your graduate career?

As someone interested in migration and gender, I picked questions I could answer using the database my advisor had developed for my MA degree. Then I decided to expand on that general topic with qualitative sources for my dissertation, though my Dutch focus remained the same.

I have never had any desire whatsoever to be a department head. Yet after fifteen years at the University of North Georgia, that’s where I find myself. Perhaps it was inevitable. There is some truth to the old saying that the department head (DH) you want is the person who does not want the job. Technically, I am the Associate Department Head (ADH), but UNG has five campuses. I supervise two campuses, where I assume all duties of department head except for budgeting. We serve five-year terms and can be re-elected. Most often, the ADH goes on to serve as the DH. It is effectively a ten-year commitment. And so I find myself a reluctant leader, but one committed to leaving the department in a better place than it was when I moved in to the DH’s office. Maybe you, like me, find yourself in the position of a new and perhaps reluctant leader. For what it’s worth, here are some of the things I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in my first three years in leadership.