Friday, February 19, 2010

Grad Assistant Spotlight: Michelle Gutierrez

Each fall, the History Department awards graduate assistantship positions to outstanding students, providing for them full tuition, a modest stipend, and the opportunity to engage in research and other scholarly activities under the supervision of a faculty member. Last week, we highlighted Kelly Anderson, a grad assistant in the Public History Program.

Now allow us to introduce you to Michelle Gutierrez, a grad assistant in the Historical Studies Program.

The Basics:

Undergraduate Institution:
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Undergraduate Major:
Double major in Humanities & Catholic Culture (one major) and History

Miami, Florida

Favorite Movie:

Favorite Historical Period:
Late Middle Ages

Extracurricular Activities in College:
Spring break mission trips to Mexico and Honduras; Liturgy Committee; Totus Tuus Maria Household (Christian sorority)

Little Known Fact About Michelle:
She rented mopeds with a friend in Southern France and almost ran out of gas in the mountains!

The Nitty Gritty:

1. What do you think of your graduate experience so far?

Graduate school so far has definitely challenged me to a new level of academic work. As an undergrad I was always very busy, often taking 18 credits, working and involved in a number of extracurricular activities. So I thought that I'd be bored with only 3 classes in grad school. But I have to say that I have been far from bored! I have more time on my hands than I'm used to, but the workload and the expectations have changed as well. Instead of busy work and memorization of dates and facts, I'm being stretched to look at history from new perspectives and interpret the past on my own.

2. What area of history are you focusing on in your graduate work here at Duquesne?

I'm focusing on European history, primarily the late medieval and early modern eras. I love to study intellectual and social/cultural history. In my seminar class this semester I'm researching parish fraternities (or guilds) in late medieval London along the theme of community. I think the guilds are fascinating because they give us a little glimpse of what ordinary people cared about in another time and place.

3. What are some of the responsibilities you have as an graduate assistant here in the department?

As a grad assistant, I work for Dr. Mayer and Dr. Dwyer. My responsibilities vary from reading George Washington's letters for Dr. Mayer to researching Mexican environmental history for Dr. Dwyer. I also do less exciting work like grading homework, filing or reading through grants. Even though Dr. Dwyer is Rome this semester, he is still keeping me busy, so don't be surprised if you see me working in his office! Probably my favorite part about being a grad assistant is the opportunity to look behind the scenes at the job of a history professor and see what both the research AND the administrative work looks like.

4. What are your plans after the M.A. program?

I'm getting married this summer and after I finish my degree we're planning on moving somewhere warmer (like Florida or Texas!). I want to teach so I'm thinking about a PhD sometime in the future but I'm not sure where or when.

5. How do you like Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, but I actually live in Steubenville, Ohio so that I can be near my fiance who works for our Alma Mater, Franciscan University. Even though I'm two states over, my commute is only about 45 minutes and I really do enjoy the drive(except when its snowing!) I love having an excuse to come into Pittsburgh at least three times a week. Even as an undergrad at Franciscan, I often took advantage of the great cultural events Pittsburgh has to offer, especially the salsa dancing! My fiance and I are foodies and love to try out different restaurants in Pittsburgh too. One of our favorites is Seviche, a Latin tapas restaraunt in downtown Pittsburgh.

6. What advice would you give to incoming graduate students?

I would advise any incoming graduate student to come to Duquesne with an open mind ready to be stretched and challenged in new and exciting ways.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Graduate Assistant Spotlight: Kelly Anderson

Each fall, the History Department awards graduate assistantship positions to outstanding students, providing for them full tuition, a modest stipend, and the opportunity to engage in research and other scholarly activities under the supervision of a faculty member.

We will begin spotlighting our graduate assistants here on our blog, and to start things off, we would like to introduce you to Kelly Anderson, a graduate student in the Public History Program.

The Basics:

Undergraduate Institution:
Grove City College, Grove City, PA

Undergraduate Major:

Titusville, PA

Favorite Movie:
Philadelphia Story

Favorite Historical Period:
Pre-Roman Celtic Britain and Revolutionary War/Colonial America

Extracurricular Activities in College:
Phi Alpha Theta, cheerleading, Gamma Sigma Phi sorority, Grove City Historical Society, Titusville Branch Fellowship Church

Little Known Fact About Kelly:
Her family raises beef cows on what they like to call their "hobby farm."

The Nitty Gritty:

1. What do you think of your graduate experience so far?

My graduate experience has been very exciting so far. Not only is it interesting to learn from a different perspective, but my public history classes have been so fun and thought-provoking. I feel very much at home learning about museum and archival work, and I'm looking forward to putting that knowledge to use in my internships next year.

Learning the specifics about work in this field is something I've been looking forward to since high school, and I'm still as fascinated by this career as I was when I was 16.

2. What area of history are you focusing on in your graduate career here at Duquesne University?

My main area of focus here at Duquesne is to learn as much as possible about material culture and the nuts and bolts of public history. I want a broad base of knowledge that I can apply to a variety of museum positions and public history in general. This will serve, I hope, to give me a competitive edge in the job market and be a real asset to the museum I would like to one day work for. If possible, I would really enjoy doing a directed reading focused on jewelry - it's my favorite aspect of material culture!

3. What are some of the responsibilities you have as a graduate assistant here in the department? Can you tell us what you do for your faculty advisors?

As a graduate assistant, I do a variety of things for Dr. Browne and Dr. Blatz. Researching topics of interest in African American history is my main task for Dr. Browne, and I've been able to proctor an exam for one of his classes as well. Working for Dr. Blatz has entailed doing an inventory of 19th century council minutes and ordinance books at the City-County Building downtown. They have a number of old volumes from the early days of the city's incorporation, along with material from surrounding boroughs. Since last semester, I have inventoried their collection, and I'm now researching how unique these records are, along with putting together a finding aid. It would be great to someday make this material available to researchers.

4. How do you like Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh has been a great city to live in. My apartment is up on Mount Washington, and the view of the city as I drive home at night never gets old. There's also been so many opportunities for my friends and I to explore the city, which has been so much fun. City life has been quite a change from living on a farm, but I have enjoyed the experience so far.

5. What are your plans after you finish your M.A.?

When I finish my degree, my goal is to find a job in museum collections in Pittsburgh or the surrounding area. Western Pennsylvania has always been my home, and I hope to stay around here for some time. And from the Frick to the many Carnegie institutions and so many more museums, this area has a lot to offer. I'm looking forward to putting all this school work to use!

6. What advice would you give to incoming graduate students?

To incoming graduate students, I would say that they should get involved in some type of public history work as soon as they can.

Whether it's through internships, volunteering, or a job, it's a great way to build up your resume, gain experience, and get focused on what you want to do (and don't want to do!) with your career after graduation. I've been very glad to have the chance to work on the City-County archives, and have learned a lot from the experience. I would also tell them that they should, without a doubt, get up early on a Saturday morning to have breakfast at DeLuca's in the Strip District - they don't lie when they say they serve the city's best breakfast!.

Monday, February 1, 2010

History Department Spotlight on Dr. Joseph Rishel

The History Department is full of interesting and diverse lovers of History. We are so proud of those who teach in this Department and given that we have the privilege of knowing them so well, we think you should, too.  This time, we have chosen to spotlight Dr. Joseph F. Rishel.  Dr. Rishel shares a special love for the city, as well as for Duquesne, as he is a graduate, and that's why he's featured in our Department Spotlight.  

1.  What is your favorite historical era or moment?
The 1950s, because they were so exciting and, for the most part, so optimistic. They truly were central to the American Century.

2.  If you weren't teaching history, what would you be doing? 
Being in complete charge of a philanthropic foundation with an endowment of a billion dollars, or perhaps more.

3.  What is your favorite piece or event of Pittsburgh history?
Cold War Pittsburgh including the communist scare, with characters such as Judge Musmanno, Matt Cvetic etc.

4.  What one book would you recommend to every student of history? 
I don't really have a single book that I would recommend. There are so many good ones out there.

5.  The classic dinner question - what historical figures (up to 5) would you have to dinner? and just as important - what is the main course?
St. Thomas More, St Elizabeth Ann Seton, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill. For dinner: pheasant under glass, because I've always heard of it but I never had it, but I can't imagine the first two on my list enjoying it so hedonistically. 

6.  Does history really repeat itself?
This is an adaptation of the famous quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." It is from George Santayana who wrote it in 1905. Santayana was a poet and philosopher. I doubt that very many historians would say such a thing because no two conditions at different times in history are the same. Still, human nature remains the same and to that extent, and in a very limited way, it can be broadly true.

7.  What historical location and during what time period would you have liked to lived? 
It would be very interesting to go back in time to any number of places and dates, for example, Pittsburgh in 1860, when Lincoln visited the city and spoke. But seeing life as it existed in a Medieval town, or the Roman Forum, the Acropolis in Athens--both at the height of their glory--would be thrilling. But given their state of medical technology, my visit had better be a short one.

8.  Who/what leader had the coolest historical costume? 
Louis XIV of France especially as he was painted by Rigaud. His outfit is so incredible.

9.  What is the most significant historical moment you have known in your lifetime?
There are two signifcant historical moments, both shocking: the assassination of President Kennedy, and the events of September 11, 2001.

10. Do you have a favorite historical quote or reference?  
This is one I often use. I thought it was from Rochefoucauld, a 17th century French author. But in responding to this question, I can't find it in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. That said, here's one of the famous quotes he may have never uttered nor written. "Things are never as good as or as bad as they seem."  

So true, Dr. Rishel.  Do you have a question for Dr. Rishel?  Email him and get to know Dr. Rishel further by checking out his Department Page.