Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Graduate Assistant Spotlight: Andrew Spate

Every fall semester, we welcome a new cohort of graduate students into our Public History and Historical Studies programs. Among that cohort are several students who receive assistantships, which provide full tuition remission, a modest stipend, and the opportunity to work closely with faculty and staff within the Department of History.

First-year graduate assistant Andrew Spate

This year, we welcome Andrew Spate among those students with assistantships. Andrew is a first-year Historical Studies graduate student focusing on American history. His assistantship requires him to work with Dr. Holly Mayer and Dr. John Mitcham, providing research assistance and other duties as assigned.

We asked Andrew to tell us a little bit about himself:

1. Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

I graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College, in Buckhannon, WV.

2. What did you major in?

I was a dual major with History and Secondary Education.

3. Where is your hometown?

My hometown is Belle Vernon, Pa.  It is about 30 miles South of Pittsburgh.

4. What's your favorite movie?

My favorite movie is Remember the Titans.

5. What's your favorite historical period?

I enjoy the antebellum period, in particularly the Confederate movement within the United States.

6. Did you have any extracurricular activities in college?

During undergraduate, I played football for 3 years, was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order as well as Phi Alpha Theta, and active member of the campus community.

7. Tell us a little known fact about yourself.

I was a 2015 Gilder Lehrman History Scholar, and was awarded a trip to New York to meet and discuss with scholars such as Martha Hodes, David Blight, and Kenneth Jackson.

8. What area of history are you focusing on in your graduate program at Duquesne University?

I will be focusing on American History, in the Antebellum Era.

9. What are some of the responsibilities you'll have as a graduate assistant in our department? What faculty are you assisting?

Some of my responsibilities include proctoring, research, and indexing.

10. How do you like Pittsburgh so far?

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I always liked it, but moving into "the city" has been a unique experience. I love proximity to so many different activities and things to do, as well as the research opportunities provided by having many different institutions in the same area and also a strong library system like the Carnegie helps as well.

11. What are your plans (or your dreams) for after you finish your M.A. degree?

That is a good question...  I would love to pursue my Ph.D in History, yet would be open to other positions as well.  Being an education major as well, I would be open to going and teaching high school and community college classes as a start while I work on my Ph.D, but in reality I am very open minded and would just love the opportunity to do anything that I feel is contributing to society in a way that is pleasing.

12.What is one of the things you're most excited to experience here at Duquesne and/or in Pittsburgh?

The thing I am looking forward to the most, is the chance to engage within the culture of Pittsburgh. Being in a small college town, there were limited opportunities outside of the college, and personally being about 45 minutes from Pittsburgh required ample planning for making the most out of any trip into the city.  With my new location, I am looking forward to doing the little things in Pittsburgh that I normally wouldn't have the opportunity to such as trying new restaurants, going to the different events in the city, and just exploring everything this wonderful city has to offer.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Graduate Assistant Spotlight: Daniel Chmill

Every fall semester, we welcome a new cohort of graduate students into our Public History and Historical Studies programs. Among that cohort are several students who receive assistantships, which provide full tuition remission, a modest stipend, and the opportunity to work closely with faculty and staff within the Department of History.

First-year graduate assistant Daniel Chmill

This year, we welcome Daniel Chmill among those students with assistantships. Dan is a first-year Historical Studies graduate student focusing on American history. Dan's assistantship requires him to work within the main Department of History office, where he provides administrative support to faculty and staff, as well as to students and visitors.

We asked Dan to tell us a little bit about himself:

1. Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

Penn State

2. What did you major in?


3. Where is your hometown?

I'm born and raised here in Pittsburgh. I was born in a little house right on the Allegheny River, but I've lived in the same house in Aspinwall, about 6 miles out of town, for 20+ years now.

4. What's your favorite movie?

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. I love it for how perfectly the movie is shot, and the macabre nature of almost any Hitchcock movie.

5. What's your favorite historical period?

I don't know if it's a "period," but I've always been fascinated with the American Presidents. Presidents' Day is one of my favorite holidays (like everyone else, right?).

6. Did you have any extracurricular activities in college?

I have become an avid photographer since I graduated [from undergrad] in 2011. Pittsburgh gives you a myriad of beautiful places to capture, so just heading out for the night is rewarding. I'm also a big outdoorsman, so bringing my camera along lets me have the best of both worlds.

photo by Dan Chmill

photo by Dan Chmill

7. Tell us a little known fact about yourself.

I used to have EXTREMELY long hair in high school (see below senior photo). I donated 18 inches to Locks of Love, and the hairdresser still had, "5 or 6 inches I can style...".

Dan Chmill's senior high school portrait

8. What area of history are you focusing on in your graduate program at Duquesne University?

Right now, I am planning on studying the Antebellum period in the United States. I have always been intrigued in not exactly the Civil War, but the aspects of American life that led to the war being an inevitability.

9. What are some of the responsibilities you'll have as a graduate assistant in our department? What faculty are you assisting?

As a graduate assistant, I will be mainly in the office up on the 6th floor of College Hall, helping Laura Donaldson, the administrative assistant, with anything and everything her busy self needs. I'll be there for a couple hours, 4 days a week, so I'm sure I'll see and meet plenty of the department's faculty and students.

10. How do you like Pittsburgh so far?

Being from Pittsburgh, I'll say that I have loved the rejuvenation of the city in the very short time. Pittsburgh has cool places to go to, whether it's the Cultural District, Lawrenceville, the Strip, or even parts of the North Side (I mean just parts). 10 years ago, there really weren't these great places for young people. It's been great to explore new parts of a city I've lived in all my life.

11. What are your plans (or your dreams) for after you finish your M.A. degree?

 My dream, after the work is put in day and night (for a while), is to be a professor and teach. The freedom and care and love professors in higher ed. have for their work and their students is tough to match. I love to teach. Even if it's a little known fact to a friend, giving them that new bit of information is rewarding.

12.What is one of the things you're most excited to experience here at Duquesne and/or in Pittsburgh?

Though I've lived here all my life, I have never been in or around Duquesne. I am looking forward to becoming more involved in the university. I think the graduate assistantship will greatly help with that. Coming from a big school like Penn State, I felt lost in the shuffle, but I think that at Duquesne, I can connect with faculty and staff in a completely new and beneficial way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. John C. Mitcham

We're really lucky here in the Department of History to have some extremely interesting and outstanding scholars among us. Dr. John C. Mitcham is no exception. Dr. Mitcham joined the Department full-time this semester after holding a Lecturer position at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Take a few minutes to get to know him and welcome him to Duquesne.

Dr. John C. Mitcham

1. What is your favorite historical era or moment?  

Probably the turn of the century (1890s-1910s).  New technologies, new social trends, Suffragettes and Modernism, top hats and monocles, you name it.  Fascinating.

2. If you weren't an assistant professor of history, what would you be doing for a career/job?

I have a music background, and I’d love to be a keyboardist for a commercially successful 80’s cover band.  Come to think of it, I’d much rather do that than be a History professor . . .

Dr. Mitcham and his family: wife Nichole and daughter Eleanor

3. What is your favorite piece or event of Pittsburgh history? 

I’m brand new to Pittsburgh, and still learning my local ‘lore.  But I think it would have to be the events of the French-Indian War (Seven Years War, as we European Historians call it).  Fort Pitt was one of the first locations I visited upon relocating here.

4. What one book would you recommend every student of history read?

Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre.  Not everyone will agree with it, but it should make them THINK about the practice of History. 

Dr. Mitcham in front of the HMS Victory in Portsmouth, UK, last year, where he gave a lecture.

5. The classic dinner question: what historical figures (up to 5) would you like to have dinner with? And, equally important, what's on the menu?

Franz Joseph, Nicholas II, Wilhelm II, Edward Grey, and Raymond Poincare.  We would have pizza, but a very small one, and I would let my dinner guests fight over the last piece. 

6. During what historical time period would you like to have lived?

I sometimes daydream about sailing the Spanish Main during the Seventeenth Century.  But then I remember that I like air conditioning.  So I’ll stick with the present.

7. Which historical leader had the coolest costume/attire?

Louis XIV.  

Martin Van Buren would be a close second, though.

Louis XIV
Martin Van Buren

8. What is the most significant historical moment you have known/experienced in your lifetime?  

This will make my older colleagues cringe, but I’m young to remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall. However, I was in my second week of college when 9/11 occurred, and vividly remember my professor announcing it in class. 

9. What are you most excited about experiencing here at Duquesne and/or in Pittsburgh?

I’m really looking forward to getting to know History majors/Graduate students, and teaching classes in my area of specialization (British Empire).  I’m also hoping that by the time I retire, I’ll be able to get to campus without accidentally crossing one of the bridges. 

Dr. Mitcham and his daughter Eleanor at the Pittsburgh Zoo

10. Do you have a favorite historical quote or reference?

Two of them, from the world’s greatest philosophers:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” (Aristotle)

“I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.”  (Joe Walsh of the Eagles)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Get a Head Start on Your Career Planning

It may only be the second week of classes, but it's never too early to start thinking about your career. Duquesne's Career Services Center already has events lined up for this semester to help you get a head start on your career planning. Grab your smart phone, open up your calendar app, and make sure you enter in all of these great events!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Welcome to the 2015-2016 Academic Year!

Welcome to the new academic year, Everyone! 

We hope you had a great summer and are ready to experience everything this year has to offer. To start out, please join us for our very first First Fridays event: a welcome back party!  ALL students are welcome to attend, regardless of level or major status. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

GUEST BLOG POST: Marguerite Madden & This Summer's Study Abroad Course

For anyone who has gone abroad--for vacation, for school, for research--the experience can be life-changing. The immersion in a different culture, the interesting people, and the opportunity to be a part of something out of the ordinary day-to-day can help shape a person in ways he or she never imagined. 

Duquesne has multiple opportunities for students to go abroad, whether it's for an entire semester or just a week or two during Spring Break or the summer. And this summer, the Department of History, with the help of the Office of International Programs, coordinated its first European summer study abroad opportunity and sent a group of students, faculty, and staff to England, France, and Belgium to commemorate and study some of the World War I events that took place 100 years ago. A huge thank you to Kimberly Szczypinski, Assistant to the Department Head for International Education, and part-time Department of History faculty member Carolyn Trimarchi, for their incredible planning and hard work to make this course a reality for our students, as well as Dr. Roberta Aronson, Executive Director of International Programs, for her endless support.

Our guest blogger, Marguerite Madden, who will be a sophomore Integrated Marketing Communications and Economics double major in Fall 2015, shares with us her memorable experience of this course and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thank you, Marguerite, for taking time out of your summer plans to tell us about your time abroad! 

Students, faculty, and staff who participated in the summer study abroad course, WWI Centenary: A Just War or Just a War? Guest blogger Marguerite Madden is on the far left, wearing a white sweater and gold sandals. Course leaders Kimberly Szczypinski (orange shirt) and Carolyn Trimarchi (black wind breaker and teal socks) are in the front row.

"Just a few weeks ago, I returned home from a trip of a lifetime with friendships and memories that I will hold onto for years to come. Fortunately for me, I have been lucky to travel abroad to other countries starting at the young age of 6 months. I have family who live overseas, and that has always served as a good excuse for my parents and me to go to Europe once every several years. Having just finished my freshman year at Duquesne, however, I had never had the opportunity before this year to study abroad. From the moment I kissed my mom and dad goodbye at the airport, my experience in Europe this time around was completely different from any trip I have taken before.

'...[W]e were able to take full advantage
of our time abroad
and gain an education
that was much more beneficial
than if we were to simply learn it
in a classroom at Duquesne.'

"The purpose of our trip was to commemorate and study some of the World War I events that took place 100 years ago. As we traveled through England, Belgium, and France, we were exposed to parts of history that are seldom seen and often under appreciated. Without sounding cliché, there were so many wonderful aspects of our trip that it was hard to choose one to write this post about. When I was trying to think of a similarity that each one of my favorite moments had in common, I found myself always going back to the friendships among the students and professors that were formed on the trip. Whether it was touring Westminster as a group before any of us recovered from the severe jet lag, or participating in the Last Post ceremony in Ypres, Belgium, each and every cultural and educational experience we shared was a different bonding experience that tied our whole group closer together.

Students Jill Purcell, Andrew Donnelly, and Marguerite Madden lay the wreath at the Menin Gate memorial during the Last Post Ceremony in Ypres, Belgium.

Animals In War Memorial, near Hyde Park, London. Shane Myers – shown here taking a photo of the Memorial - is one of our students. The monument commemorates animal service and suffering in many conflicts.
"While some of us were interested in the beauty of the architecture and landscapes, others were interested in the historical aspects of the trip. Regardless of our various interests, however, we were all joined together as we paid our respects and gave our remembrance to the lives lost of soldiers from many backgrounds and nationalities.

"On one of our tour days in Belgium, our guide took us to the Langemark German Military Cemetery. Established in 1915, this grave site is the only World War I German cemetery that exists in Belgium. As our guide told us details about the various parts of the cemetery, he called our attention to a piece of land that was no bigger than a tennis court. To everyone’s shock, the single piece of land held the bodies of 24,917 German soldiers. For the majority of our group, the horror of the Great War was felt more in this small plot of land than at any other point in our travels. Together, our group was able to reflect on the great tragedies that were a result of the war and the sorrows the war brought upon the soldiers and their loved ones.

Langemark German Military Cemetary

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, near Ypres, Belgium - nearly 12,000 burials and its memorial monument commemorating the approximately 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and New Zealand who died in the Ypres Salient after 16 August 1917 and whose graves are not known. It is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world, for any war.

The Smell of War exhibition by smell artist Peter De Cupere to commemorate the first en masse use of poison gas as a weapon of war during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.

"Not all of our bonding experiences throughout the trip dealt with the tragedies of World War I, however. There were many other adventures that brought our group together such as touring the Palace of Versailles, seeing the famous play War Horse at New London Theatre, and my personal favorite, eating the regional food from all three countries we visited.

View taken from the Ypres (Belgium) rebuilt medieval Cloth Hall Bell Tower over Ypres town and the WWI Ypres Salient. Ypres was completely destroyed in World War I, and the current “medieval” town was rebuilt in the 1920s as closely as possible to the way it was before WWI. The Cloth Hall now serves as the “In Flanders Fields Museum.”

No trip to Paris is complete without a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower.
"Having the privilege to travel overseas and experience the different cultures of countries is never an opportunity that should go unappreciated. With the help of our professors, we were able to take full advantage of our time abroad and gain an education that was much more beneficial than if we were to simply learn it in a classroom at Duquesne. In spite of our different majors, ages, and backgrounds, each and every one of us formed new friendships that we’ll carry with us when we return to Duquesne in a few short months. When I study abroad in the future, I can only hope that my next trip will be as educational and memorable as this one." 

~Marguerite Madden

Friday, May 1, 2015

Guest Blog Post: Graduate Student Carrie Hadley at the NCPH!

L to R:  Public History graduate students Abby Kirstein, Carrie Hadley, Lauren Van Zandt, Elyse Grasser at the 2015 National Council on Public History Annual Conference, Nashville, TN

Our students do some pretty amazing things during their time with us, and we want to feature them here on our blog. Most recently, we introduced you to Lauren Van Zandt, a second-year Public History graduate student who presented some of her research at a national conference.

Now we'd like to introduce you to Carrie Hadley. Carrie is also a second-year Public History graduate student who will be graduating next week. (Congratulations, Carrie!) 

Earlier this month, Carrie had the extraordinary opportunity of presenting her scholarly research at the National Council on Public History's annual conference, where the attendees are primarily professionals in the field of Public History (e.g. curators, archivists, museum professionals, etc.).

We asked Carrie to tell us a little bit about how she ended up getting to go to the conference, as well as her experience while there.

Abby Kirstein and Carrie Hadley in Boot Country

The National Council on Public History is an association for anyone interested in presenting history to the public. In my humble, Public History Master’s student opinion, membership to NCPH is an absolute must for anyone looking to get into the field. A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the NCPH’s annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. And not just attend—I was chosen to present research during the poster session! It was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to go to next year’s conference!

A group of other Public History Graduate Students—Abby Kirstein, Lauren Van Zandt, who also presented during the poster presentation, and Elyse Grasser— and I made the 9-hour drive down to Nashville from Pittsburgh. Our Public History-filled weekend started with a visit to Mammoth Cave NationalPark—we had been driving for a while, saw signs for it, and thought, “why not?!” It was a great way to break up the trip, and as any public historian knows, one can never go wrong with a pit stop at a National Park!

Carrie at Mammoth Cave National Park

Having presented at the Phi Alpha Theta conference last year at Slippery Rock University, this was my first multi-day conference, so I was not sure what to expect. I was a little intimidated walking into the conference hotel for the first time, but that quickly disappeared as I began interacting with friendly professionals and grad students. It was so nice to interact with people from all over the country—and some from all over the world!—with similar interests and goals. As someone who is about to graduate and looking for ways to get into the field, this was the perfect place for me to be!

Tennessee State Capitol

The Parthenon (No, not the one in Athens!)

Over the four days of the conference, I attended numerous panels of professionals and grad students discussing issues and work that was being performed in Public History today. These included discussions on a study of how people use “selfies” and social media in Holocaust concentration camp sites, how to interpret race at historic sites, and how to get a job in the Public History field. I received invaluable advice on how to improve my resume from a professional with the American Association of State and Local History, and took a class with two editors from The Papers of the Revolutionary Era Pinckney Statesmen project on historical documentary editing. There were great networking events, too, like “Speed Networking.” Here, instead of potential love interests, we had five 15 minute discussions with professionals in the field. One of the people I met with was a historian for the U.S. Senate—a job I never knew existed! It was a fun way to meet young professionals just starting out and veterans who had been in the field for years in a relaxed setting with lots of coffee.

2nd Avenue shopping and restaurants

My presentation at the poster session was very rewarding as well.  I presented a project that had started as my term paper for Dr. Julia Sienkewicz’s American Painting and Sculpture class in the fall semester of 2013, and with the encouragement of Dr. S. and Dr. Alima Bucciantini, I decided to submit it for presentation at the conference—and was accepted! My presentation was on the painting Baptism of Pocahontas (1840), a painting that hangs in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building, and the Public History issues that exist with its interpretation. During the presentation, I received incredible feedback, advice, encouragement, and support from a variety of professionals in the field, including employees of the Smithsonian’s National American History Museum and Library of Congress, and a few Native American scholars.  

Carrie's poster

In our downtime, we had a great time visiting Nashville! We stopped at the Tennessee State Museum (naturally), visited a whiskey distillery (obviously), and took in a couple of live shows at a few bars in Nashville’s famous music district. The city was really walkable with delicious local restaurants, lively bars, and a nice shopping district. The city has a fascinating history too—therefore, what else is a public historian to do but take a Civil War walking tour?

The Downtown Presbyterian Church, which was used as a hospital during the Civil War

Overall, I had an amazing time at the National Council on Public History’s annual conference. I can’t encourage present and future Duquesne Public History students enough to join the NCPH and attend the annual conference! Since I was presenting, the Duquesne History Department graciously funded my trip, and I received incredible amounts of support from the Department faculty. The connections I made, the advice I received, and the conversations I had at NCPH were invaluable to me, and I know they will help me develop as a Public Historian.

Carrie Hadley and Abby Kirsten enjoy some delicious milkshakes in Nashville.