News and Features

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.

Dr. James Palmer is a late medievalist who works on primarily thirteenth- through fifteenth-century Italy. He received his BA from Michigan State University (MSU) in 2000, MA from Duke University in 2002, and completed his PhD at Washington University in St. Louis in 2015. His dissertation topic was “Gold, Grain, and Grace: Piety and Community in Late Medieval Rome.” Dr. Palmer joined the FSU History Department in 2015.

How did you know you wanted to go to graduate school and become a historian?

I decided I wanted to become a historian pretty early in my undergraduate years, and I first went to grad school straight out of undergrad, but I was not a person with any real understanding of what grad school or academia was really about. I didn’t feel that I had a solid purpose, and I was passively continuing rather than actively pursuing my studies. I quit after becoming ABD at Duke University where I was studying at the time.

Emma Davis, a rising senior, just put together her first solo digital exhibit. Entitled ‘War Girls: California’s Army Nurses in the First World War,’ it is the product of Emma’s internship with the National Cemetery Association (NCA). From September 2020 to April this year, Emma held a Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) internship that allowed her to take classes at FSU while interning with the NCA in Washington, D.C.

Back in December 2020, we spoke to Emma about the first months of her fellowship, how she decided what to work on, and what her research had yielded so far (What's it like to be a VSFS intern?). In this interview, Emma takes us backstage and talks about the process of creating the actual online exhibition.

“It was a lot more work than I had thought,” Emma explained. “It was hard to streamline the story for the exhibit and I encountered technical problems.” Initially, Emma had planned to showcase 10 nurses from California, about whom she had discovered a lot of material. “But then, when I began to tell their stories, it became too cluttered. It was overwhelming. So, I decided to focus on five instead.”

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,


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.