Over the past year, I have definitely developed my skills as a historian and a graduate student. When I came into the program, I had a bachelor’s degree in history, but it quickly became clear to me that I had no real training in the work of professional historian. I learned a lot in my historical methods class—from basics like what a historiography is to the important fact that it is not only okay, but even admirable to conclude different things from the same primary source as other scholars before you. Since I want to go into public history after this program, my coursework in that area was very helpful as well. While I may not agree with every new age technique for getting people “into” history and museums, I have learned a great deal about approaching the past in new and accessible ways for the public. As a first year graduate student, last semester taught me how to get the most out of a lot of reading material in a short amount of time.
This semester, starting to think about and work on my thesis has been very exciting. I found a topic that I’m really interested in, which is great since I will be spending so much time on it over the next year! I have always loved all kinds of history and could never pick one period or subject as my favorite, but as I have gotten deeper into my thesis work I have become less patient with assignments that do not further my historical goals. I surprise even myself with the amount of enthusiasm with which I come to a book on my subject after reading something not as applicable. Writing over the last two semesters has jump-started my academic writing skills again after over a year out of college writing nothing but public relations pamphlets, test questions, and cover letters. I have also been exposed to the digital world and can now successfully navigate blogs, Google Drive, and even technology like Dreamweaver, Omeka, and Neatline (on a very basic level). I feel like I can actually call myself a historian after the training I have received so far, and I look forward to diving head first into my thesis over the summer and next year and then hopefully finding a job where I can put my skills to good use. I am glad I took time off after college—I definitely needed the break. I think this program will give me the boost I need to launch a public history career, which is especially good given the fact that after a year in grad school I am confirmed in my desire to stop with my MA (although who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind in future!)
It’s been great becoming a real part of a department, as well. As a double major in undergrad, I never got to know more than a relatively small number of professors in both of my departments, and I never felt like I really functioned as a part of either, aside from coming to class, etc. Grad school does have its perks, especially the people I’ve been able to meet and work with over the last year. I can’t wait to keep growing as a historian and help smooth the path of the new crop of first years taking our place in the fall. In the meantime, I’m off to look at some monuments!
Will my thesis prove to be “Glory Crowned?” Let’s hope!