Alumni

Graduates of the University at Albany History Department have accomplished amazing things. Here are just some of their stories.

Bonnie Byrd

“I returned to graduate school after five years of working professionally in museums. The Public History program allowed me the chance to acquire new skill-sets and appreciations for what public history is and the modes in which it is practiced. Classes allowed a diversity of study depending on personal and professional interests.  I was challenged to negotiate the myriad ways in which scholarship, curation, and administration of public history institutions intersect to present the historic narratives of constituent audiences.  One of my greatest joys was how the department fostered the creation of professional relationships in this academic setting, leaving graduates with a network of support and resources to call back upon.  Without the insights and knowledge I acquired in the program I would not have achieved the position I hold today: the Curator of Collections and Exhibits at a regional historical society.” –Bonnie Byrd

Bonnie Byrd completed an M.A. in Public History in fall 2014.

Jackie Mirandola-Mullen

"The University at Albany History Department allows for tremendous interdisciplinary collaboration. While completing my doctoral degree at UAlbany, I worked with world-class environmental and political historians Kendra Smith-Howard, Chris Pastore, and Carl Bon Tempo to complete my dissertation on coastal conservation initiatives in the postwar United States. When I wanted to include a biologist on my doctoral committee, my advisor encouraged the cross-discipline collaboration. During summers, my advisor supported me in my seasonal work with the National Park Service and valued the field experience that it provided. Such interdisciplinary opportunity extends beyond the classroom in Albany, as well. Because the university is located in Albany, New York State’s capital city, I was able to intern with several environmental policy organizations where I applied my historical research to the present. I currently work at one of those organizations. I’m grateful for the interdisciplinary opportunities and intellectually rigorous environment available to students at the University at Albany." --Jackie Mirandola-Mullen

Jackie Mirandola-Mullen completed her Ph.D. at the University at Albany in May 2015. Her dissertation is titled “Coastal Parks for a Metropolitan Nation: How Postwar Politics and Urban Growth Shaped America’s Shores.”


Susan Goodier

Susan Goodier, PhD, is a lecturer at SUNY Oneonta. She earned her PhD in History from UAlbany in 2007. Dr. Goodier is also a public scholar for the New York Council for the Humanities, book review editor for the New York History journal, and the coordinator for the Upstate New York Women's History Organization (UNYWHO). She is the author of No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement (University of Illinois Press, 2013). Learn more at http://www.press.uillinois.edu. She is currently at work on a coauthored book on the New York State woman suffrage movement (Cornell University Press). We asked Dr. Goodier to discuss her work as a historian and the training she received while at UAlbany.

 

What led you to want to become a professional historian?

When I was an undergraduate, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I explored every course and opportunity available to me. I also took every History course my undergraduate institution offered because I had always been interested in History. When I took the courses, however, I couldn’t find myself in them – in other words, most of the courses were so heavily dominated by the stories of white men that I kept wondering where the women were, where the people of color were, where the real people were. It was then that I decided I would become a historian so that I could include the people left out of those history courses. I continue to work very hard to be inclusive in my teaching, filling in the gaps that remain in many textbooks.

In your book, No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement, you discuss that not all women who opposed suffrage (in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) were against rights for women. What led some women not to want the right to vote?

Up to the nineteenth century, the vote was quintessentially male. We don’t see gender in the same way today, so it is hard for us to understand how deeply gendered the vote was thought to be. The political world was a harsh and dirty world that most people thought women should not inhabit. Anti-suffragists did not want to be men, or masculine, as some felt the vote would render them. There were other, more selfish reasons for not wanting the right to vote. Many women did not want immigrant or black women to vote, and were willing to relinquish the idea of voting themselves. Other women felt that getting the right to vote would invalidate their uniquely feminine methods of influencing the nation-state. Anti-suffragists took their duties to the state very seriously, however, and virtually all New York anti-suffragists registered and voted when suffragists secured the vote in 1917. Some of them deliberately sought to vote out of office those legislators who supported suffrage for women.

If not the right to vote, what rights did female opponents of suffrage hope to secure?

They wanted the right to education, to property, to reform, the right to rewarding work, many of the same rights suffragists wanted. Anti-suffragists did not believe that the vote would get them those rights.

How does your research encourage us to rethink the overall suffrage movement?

People too often think only of the winners in a movement like the suffrage movement – it’s the winners who usually get to tell their stories. My goal was to better understand the woman suffrage movement in New York State by focusing on what the suffragists faced in their struggle for the vote, but in a respectful way. Suffragists were up against a long social tradition that encouraged most women to remain, for all practical purposes, confined to the domestic sphere, and which considered women too delicate and fragile to inhabit the rough world of politics. And they faced dynamic women who disagreed with the need to vote. Many suffragists and anti-suffragists knew each other quite well, not just because they were of the same social class generally, but because they were sometimes related to each other or they worked in the same reform organizations.

Are there lessons from the suffrage movement of a century ago to the feminist movement today? To the Civil Rights movement?

Certainly: persistence pays off. It took 72 years for US women to get the right to vote, and they did it under some significant adversity. But they didn’t stop working for their goals, and feminists still have work to do. Women still earn about three quarters of what a man earns today, for example. Suffragists were creative. They changed with the times. When people stopped listening to their arguments, they refined them. They were flexible and adaptable, but they never gave up, even while the US was engaged in World War I. Hundreds of women picketed the White House 1917 as part of their efforts to secure the vote. Whatever it took, suffragists did, yet with honor and integrity. Those same attitudes are necessary today in the various efforts to secure civil and social rights. 

What role did your training in the History PhD program at UAlbany play in preparing you for a career as a historian?

The seminars and reading requirements broadly prepared me for teaching and writing. We also had a seminar on how to teach and learned to develop our own syllabi. One of the requirements was to secure a guest teaching appearance and be filmed doing it. One of my colleagues asked me to teach a class on international suffrage at Sienna, which took me weeks to prepare. The class critique was invaluable. Most graduate programs don’t encourage opportunities like that, but we all learned a lot from that experience.

It was also a challenging program – there is nothing easy about getting a doctorate – which is just as it should be. Also important is that the UAlbany PhD program began the networking process for me. I met people in the program, and people who visited the University to speak, who are still important influences in my scholarship and my teaching.

Probably the person with the strongest role in my education at UAlbany was Prof. Richard Hamm. He consistently encouraged me and advocated as necessary as I moved through the program. He has continued to support me, writing maybe a billion letters for me in my quest for grants, jobs, and other scholarly opportunities. Prof. Iris Berger (now emerita) and Prof. Amy Murrell Taylor were also strong supporters of my work and helped me to articulate my ideas and arguments as I wrote my dissertation. The influence of these people remains invaluable.

Any advice for aspiring historians?

Act like the professional you want to be. Go to every scholarly talk you can, even if you are only remotely interested. There are people to meet there. Volunteer for the board of your local historical society. Join the professional organizations. Go to the presentations and the various events and tours at the conferences. Work to meet people. I know it’s hard without much money, but find a way to do it anyway. Apply for as many grants as you can to support your scholarship. Join a writing group, or create one and keep writing. Take every possible opportunity to network. It absolutely pays off.


Wendy Urban-Mead

Wendy Urban-Mead is Associate Professor of History in the Master of Arts in Teaching Program at Bard College. She received her Master’s degree in History from the University at Albany, and went on to receive her PhD in History from Columbia University. She is the author of The Gender of Piety: Family, Faith, and Colonial Rule in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe (Ohio University Press, 2015), which is “an intimate history of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zimbabwe, or BICC, as related through six individual life histories that extend from the early colonial years through the first decade after independence.” See more at http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/The+Gender+of+Piety.

We asked Prof. Urban-Mead to discuss her work as a historian and the training she received while at UAlbany.

What led you to want to become a professional historian?

I was teaching high school (mostly grades 9 & 10 Global) and needed a Master's degree in order to stay certified. I did not want a master's in education; I wanted an M.A. in history. I wanted to learn more history content, since teaching Global in high school showed me how much more I wanted to know. My intention was to do the M.A. and return to my high school job. But the research I started under Professor Iris Berger (now emerita) proved very fruitful and she encouraged me to get a PhD.  I ended up going on to Columbia to specialize in African History.

What are your fields of study, and what are the present day implications of your work?

My desire for graduate work in History was to learn about the role of Christianity in southern African history. The anti-apartheid movement was then in full swing and I was fascinated at what seemed to be a central role for Christian influence on both sides of the struggle. This required learning a lot about British imperial history, African history, and Victorian-era social, gender, and religious history. These are the areas that I studied in graduate school. One of the things I do in my work now at Bard College is to infuse African history one way or the other into all of my global history seminars, and to bring African history into any professional development workshops I do with in-service high school teachers.

Can you tell us about your new book, Gender of Piety: Family, Faith, and Colonial Rule in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe? What does it argue? What sort of research did you undertake to carry it out?  

This book is a study of the encounter between the Brethren in Christ Church (an American Anabaptist-Piestist denomination) and the people from Zimbabwe's western-most province, Matabeleland, over an 80-year period. I wanted to know how conversion to this faith affected family dynamics over several generations. I learned that the Church's message of piety was gendered in such a way that men and women found different modes of contact with it. (To find out what those different modes were, you will need to read the book!) I did research in archives in Zimbabwe (the National Archives of Zimbabwe as well as the church's records at their Zimbabwe headquarters), in Oxford (UK) at Rhodes House, and at the Church's headquarters in Pennsylvania. Crucially, I also conducted a long-running series of interviews with both African members of the church and former & current missionaries (between 1997 and 2013). I did the interviews in person in Zimbabwe, in the UK (where many Zimbabweans live in diaspora), in the US, and over the phone. Some follow-up actually happened not only via email but even through Facebook. This is amazing to consider, since the research started when all I had was a cassette recorder. 

What role did your training in the History PhD program at UAlbany play in preparing you for a career as a historian?

Iris Berger trained me to become an Africanist historian. This was all new to me. She has been a mentor to me, professionally, ever since I first became her M.A. student and Teaching Assistant, all the way through my time at Columbia when I did my PhD, when I did my post-grad-school job search, and ever since then as well. My studies with John Monfasani were influential; my exposure to his teaching was a model of historical studies seated at a secular university that took religious experience seriously.  I also formed a strong connection with Peter Krosby, who co-advised my M.A. thesis at Albany. He had faith in me as someone who could become a real scholar long before I did, myself.

Any advice for aspiring historians?

Be interested, talk to people: learn from them, and don't approach your professional contacts competitively or from a scarcity-based mindset. (Instead, be generous with others and yourself). Keep finding things that interest you and support your authentic sense of curiosity and joy in learning. This work is far too hard to do sustainably over many years if it's only drudgery.

 

 

Molly Guptill

Molly Guptill author of the New York Times bestselling book, When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II earned her M.A. and B.A. from the University at Albany's History Department. We asked her to discuss her work and reflect on her education at UAlbany.

 

What do you do?

Since graduating from law school in 2005, I have worked as a law clerk in the federal courts. Currently, I am at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Most days are spent researching and writing. I am exposed to a wide range of subject matters (civil and criminal), and the work is interesting and challenging. But, I also love history, and enjoy discovering forgotten stories and bringing them to light in books and articles. My first book, The Myth of Ephraim Tutt, was published in 2012 and tells the little-known story of one of the most elaborate literary hoaxes in American history. 

 How did you decide to write on the history of books sent to and read by U.S. servicemen during World War II?

When I was researching The Myth of Ephraim Tutt, I was digging through the archives of the publisher Charles Scribner’s Sons at Princeton University and discovered hundreds of letters from Americans who were serving in World War II. Many of these letters thanked Scribner’s for printing Armed Services Edition paperbacks and described what a difference these books made in their lives. I could not get these letters out of my mind. I began to research the role of books in World War II and was surprised to learn that they were considered one of the most important “weapons” soldiers could carry with them. The Armed Services Editions (“ASEs”) were incredibly unique books—they were sized to fit the hip or breast pocket of a standard issue military uniform, were printed in titles--from comics to Plato--that would be especially appealing to an audience of young men. By the end of the program, over 123 million ASEs were distributed. As one soldier said, they were “as popular as pin-up girls.” 

What sources did you use to write the work?

I used a variety of sources to research When Books Went to War. Princeton University houses the archives for the Council on Books in Wartime, an organization of publishers that designed and oversaw the production of the ASEs. I also consulted the Victory Book Campaign records at the New York Public Library. In addition, I consulted the American Library Association’s records in Illinois and individual authors’ papers, such as Betty Smith’s and Katherine Anne Porter’s. An important source was a collection of letters from thousands of soldiers in response to a blurb published in Stars and Stripes by the Council, asking servicemen to share their opinions about the ASEs. Servicemen wrote to praise the books, request certain authors or titles they wanted to see in future editions, and tell publishers how much these little books meant to them.

Your first book is a biographical study of Arthur Train, the author of a literary hoax who invented the character Ephraim Tutt, who was purported to be a legal theorist. How did you come to write on this text?

I discovered the topic of Ephraim Tutt while I was at UAlbany. Professor Richard Hamm was my thesis advisor, and while I was excited to write a thesis, I was not sure what topic I wanted to write about. He loaned me a copy of Yankee Lawyer: The Autobiography of Ephraim Tutt, and I took the book at face value, believing it was an actual autobiography.  Tutt was the epitome of the mythical country lawyer—he took any case that came along, made impassioned courtroom arguments for sympathetic clients, and won the respect of his peers and community. He represented a popular (and unrealistic) image of the legal profession. I was convinced he was a real person.  However, Tutt’s “autobiography” was, in fact, a literary hoax by Arthur Train, who had written fictional stories about the Ephraim Tutt character for over 20 years before the “autobiography” was published.  This hoax was one of the most elaborate in the history of this literary tradition.

 You were trained as a historian at UAlbany. How did your training contribute to your success as a historian?

  I owe such a debt of gratitude to the UAlbany History Department faculty, especially Professor Hamm. Once I discovered his legal history courses, I was hooked.  I think I took every undergraduate and graduate course he offered, and he was my thesis advisor. His classes never failed to be interesting and engaging. It was through these classes that I learned to examine history critically. Even today, I continue to learn from him. He has read, edited, and commented on both of the books I have written. I basically majored in Professor Hamm’s classes and minored in [now Emeritus] Professor Richard Kendall’s, but I also took courses with several other professors. For instance, I took one of Professor Gerald Zahavi’s oral history classes, which proved incredibly useful years later when interviewing people for my books. And I remember a very enjoyable graduate-level course on Russian history taught by Professor Nadieszda Kizenko. During my time at UAlbany, my passion to study history developed and I learned important research and writing skills. I credit the History Department for helping me become a successful writer today.

[This interview has been edited and condensed.]

 

Gregory Rosenthal

How UAlbany's Public History Program Shaped My Career

    In 2006-2007 I was a graduate in UAlbany's Public History program. My experience at UAlbany has a profound and lasting influence on my career. In 2005, I graduated from Bates College with a B.A. in Music. Following that, I moved back home to Schenectady, New York, and found myself, like many college grads, wondering what to do with my life. Long walks through the Mohawk and Schoharie  Valleys opened my eyes to the ecological transformations and material cultural legacies scattered throughout the landscape: there, an old stone wall that once marked divisions of property; there, a pond where once was a river, the legacy of a sawmill now vanished. I decided that the Public History program could teach me the skills I needed to better understand and ultimately interpret these landscapes. I wanted to join together public history and environmental history, and I was able to explore these fruitful intersections at UAlbany.

    While enrolled at UAlbany, I completed a Public History internship in museum education at the Adirondack Museum, and I wrote a Masters thesis, "Electric City Pond: Schenectady and the Adirondacks," exploring a century (1850-1950) of relationships between Schenectady-based scientists and philosophers and the Adirondack Mountains that they loved. I was able to bring my dual interests to the public and environmental history together. After graduation, I worked for two years as Education Coordinator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York. At the Thomas Cole site, I helped to rewrite the site's interpretive house tour and revamp the docent program. I oversaw the recruitment and retention of volunteers and college interns, and I helped jumpstart two brand-new intersections of art history and environmental history, and new K-12 school programs.

    In 2009 I enrolled as a doctoral student in history at SUNY Stony Brook. In May 2015 I will graduate with my Ph.D. My dissertation, "Hawaiians Who Left Hawa'i: Work, Body, and Environmental in the Pacific World, 1786-1876," is a history of Native Hawaiian migrant labor in the nineteenth-century trans-Pacific economy. I have published peer-reviewed journal articles in World History Bulletin and Environmental History, presented over twenty conference papers, and I have won prestigious awards and fellowships from the Bancroft Library, the Huntington Library, the American Historical Association, the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, and the American Council of Learned Societies. I teach courses in history and environmental humanities at SUNY Stony Brook and at the School of the Environment at Middlebury College. In Fall 2015, I will join the faculty of Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Public History.

    As head of Roanoke College's public history program, my journey comes full circle. My time at UAlbany not only prepared me for my first career as a museum educator but also for this latest career as a professor of public history. As I prepare to teach my fall courses, I will look back over materials from graduate school to note the best practices that made UAlbany's public history program one of the best in the country. I am grateful to the professors who guided my path and helped me to get to where I am today.

 

Julie Southwell, Class of 2005

Senior Field Organizer, Amnesty International

Julie Southwell, originally of Watertown, NY, received her BA in History with minors in Judaic Studies and Political Science. While at UAlbany, Julie also held internships with the NY State Assembly and the Schenectady Historical Society. She also spent a wintersession studying in London and a semester at the London Metropolitan University.

Following her graduation (in just three years), Julie went to London's School for Oriental and African Studies, where she received a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies. While in England, she developed an interest in working with non-profit organizations For three years, she worked with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, which helps athlete train for marathons and raise funds for medical research. She then went to work for Women's Action for New Directions or WAND, an organization that came out of the 1980s movement to bring about nuclear disarmament. Today, it is progressive national nonprofit organization that seeks to empower women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism and redirect excessive military resources toward unmet human and environmental needs.

For the past three years, Julie has worked as a Senior Field Organizer for Amnesty International, raising awareness of Amnesty's campaign on behalf of human rights both domestically and abroad. She spends 25% of her time on the road, touring New York and New Jersey in order speak to community chapters, high schools, and universities.

Julie recently came back to UAlbany in her new position with Amnesty International. She met with students and community members, and spoke of Amnesty's new focus on domestic issues, such as the recent racial disturbances in Ferguson, MO that were sparked by the shooting of Michael Brown.

When asked what of her History degree at UAlbany helped her in her present career, Julie pointed both to practical skills--such as the intensive writing instruction she received--as well as to the background in regional conflicts that she learned while taking classes in Holocaust Studies and Middle Eastern History.

 

Mitchell J. Maniccia, BA ‘14

 

I decided to be a History Major simply because I’ve always wanted to maintain a sense of perspective. Getting to know the past fosters an appreciation for the here and now, and a vision of the future. Studying history allowed me to look back at all of the accomplishments, and all of the mistakes, in order to truly understand how far we’ve come as a community, a state, or a nation. However, my history degree from UAlbany has done more than grant me perspective, it has propelled me into the workforce after graduation and has placed me on the fast track to a wonderful career.
My history degree reinforced my work ethic strengthened my interpersonal skills. While earning my degree, I loved conversing with my peers and professors about the topics that were being explored in class. This allowed me to be more confident about sharing my educated opinions with others. Since a history major’s time mostly involves researching and writing, I was able to attain a higher level of diligence, determination, and self-assessment, all while developing a sense of uniqueness. All of these traits are necessary to succeed in any workplace, which in my opinion, makes a history major a highly coveted addition for employers.
Upon graduating from UAlbany in May 2014, I began an internship at the Seward House Museum in Auburn, NY. As an intern, I was required to use my knowledge of American history to develop a comprehensive resource kit for local schools. At the end of my internship in September of 2014, I was offered the opportunity to stay on as a staff member to become the museum’s Research Assistant. I’m now in charge of facilitating research requests by utilizing resources from the museum and other institutions like libraries and historical societies. I work closely with the chamber of commerce and the tourism committee of Cayuga County, in order to promote the Seward House Museum. The attention that the museum receives fosters a love for history among the community, something that has made my work worthwhile. Were it not for my history degree, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish so much, nor would I have met all of the wonderful people who helped me get to where I am today.