First and foremost, I have grown considerably as a scholar and historian this past year. The fact that I used the word historian to describe myself is a testament to that. I have never felt comfortable when others have used the word to describe me and what I hope to do. I suppose I have never thought I knew enough and I would never live up to my lofty expectations of a historian. I have learned this year to accept that neither I, nor any one else for that matter, will ever know everything. And that’s okay. Realizing there’s always more to learn is just one way I’ve grown as a student this past year. The program has introduced me to concepts and authors I had never read or heard much, if anything, about and I am better prepared to tackle my summer of research and next year of thesis writing for learning from these authors, my teachers, and my fellow graduate students. The past year has been a challenging and stressful year. Probably the most challenging year of schooling I have made it through, assuming I make it through the last few days! I learned a lot about what all goes into to grading and teaching at the college level and it was a fantastic experience to learn from two different faculty members.
Most importantly for my immediate future, I came out of the first year with a topic for a thesis project and it is one I am very excited and anxious to research in-depth. I came to the program fairly certain I would be writing about some aspect of involuntary sterilization programs and 20th century U.S. History. I am leaving for the summer researching abolitionists and whiteness in the middle 1800’s. Quite a change from my expectations and intentions. I am glad I kept an open mind throughout the process, or I doubt I would’ve chosen this topic. Strangely, I am more fascinated by abolitionists and whiteness studies than I ever was about sterilization and eugenics. I also realized for the first time that I like dark periods, people, and subjects in history. I don’t think I’d ever thought about it before but these topics draw me in and I need to know more about them. Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other graduate students, both the first and second years. We have a good group of grad students here and it has been a privilege learning from and working along side these individuals this past year. I look forward to another challenging year in the fall after a summer of research!
Good luck with summer research, David! And with your final year in the program! I look forward to seeing your final thesis available in the library this time next year 🙂