June 2018 – Confucius said, “Study the past if you would define the future.”
Three students who pursued PhDs in history and culture from Drew University’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies followed this course in their own careers, and found success by examining history through deep and rigorous research, hands-on, real-world experiences and interdisciplinary study.
David Reagles G’18 is now an assistant professor at Bethany Lutheran College in Minnesota, Hettie Williams G’17 is an assistant professor at Monmouth University and Kelly Morgan, who’s still pursuing her PhD, is an assistant curator at the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
The real-world experiences are core to earning the degree, with students learning the ins and outs of teaching from professors, working as interns at a cultural institutions and traveling to archives and conferences via Drew research grants, according to Edward Baring, convenor of the history and culture program and an associate professor.
“The interdisciplinary character of Drew’s history and culture program was crucial for my career,” said Reagles, who studied modern Britain and the history of the book. “This is what sets Drew apart: its insistence that disciplines should not be fragmented in the questions they pursue, but constantly building upon and borrowing from one another for a richer and deeper intellectual growth.”
Coursework in intellectual history was key to Williams becoming a professor.
“The Foundations Seminar was particularly helpful to me in my training as a historian because it introduced me to the major thinkers, debates and subfields in intellectual history within the context of a single course,” Williams said.
A class on documentary photography with Professor Kimberly Rhodes and subsequent internship created a new career path for Morgan.
Morgan entered the program with an eye toward teaching. But then she landed a curatorial internship at the New York Historical Society, where she helped produce an exhibit and wrote blog posts.
She enjoyed the experience so much that she eventually decided to work in museums instead of schools. As Morgan put it, “Contextualizing history for public consumption on a grand scale is something I think is so valuable and important, and Drew fostered my ability to grow in this way.”
“The path to a PhD is an intensely personal one,” said Baring. “Our students find subjects and themes they are fascinated by and work under the close mentorship of a small number of faculty members to uncover histories that resonate with them and others in the present.”