#AASLHMMA2016 “The Spirit of Rebirth”

Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend my first conference at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) joint annual meeting with the Michigan Museums Association (MMA).  Before my trip and during I learned a few tips that I found helpful to anyone attending a conference.

  1. Look for Scholarships

I was able to attend  the annual meeting due to a scholarship for full-time students.  It is a little known scholarship and not many students take advantage of it.  As a full-time student, in exchange for volunteering eight hours, you are able to attend the rest of the conference for free, leaving only lodging, transportation, food and any extras to pay for. There were also other scholarships available to others through both the AASLH and the MMA


  1. Have Business Cards

A big part of the AASLH annual meeting is making connections, and the best way to make and keep those connections is through business cards.  Some find it a personal goal to collect more than last year.  If you don’t have a business card from a job, you can easily make one (Vistaprint has them really cheap).

  1. Bring a Notebook

At AASLH there were three sets of sessions Thursday and Friday and two sets on Saturday. I was able to attend many of these sessions, all of which had their own style ranging from presentations to roundtable sessions. No matter what type of session I attended I was glad to have a notebook.  Many of the sessions are led by professionals in the field, and what they have to say are things you might want to remember later.

  1. Do the Extras (if possible)

I understand that sometimes money and time are a problem. But if the conference you are attending as some extra activities I would highly encourage you to attend.  The AASLH holds their annual meeting in a different town each year.  Many of the extra activities are a way to explore the host city and their history.  It is also a really great way to make connections.  I think I made most of my connections at the night events. Plus, I got to see some really cool museums in Detroit


  1. Dress to Impress

First impressions count and as a graduate student, you may be looking for a job from the people you are meeting, or may work under them in the future.  You want to make a good impression; this does not mean you have to be dressed up in formal attire.  I would say business casual; boys’ full suits are not necessary (ties are a plus).  You also don’t need to be dressed up the whole time, there may be times throughout the conference that being casually dress is more suited.


Riley Hubbard, public history concentration, rhubbard@villanova.edu

Abolition and Gun Control?

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the weekend America was struck with what has been claimed as its deadliest mass shooting.  With almost 50 people killed and another 50 injured at the night club Pulse in Orlando, Florida.

In a recently published article by Rebecca Onion on slate.com, Onion sits down with Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.  Here the two women sit-down and talk about parallels between the abolitionist movement in the mid 19th century and the current gun control movement. What can be learned from the abolitionists to assist those looking for gun control reform?

Sinha, a professor of history at UMass Amherst, describes the national thought on slavery leading up to the Civil War, as being apart of American culture, that some thought even though slavery was wrong, it was enshrined in the Constitution. Sinha continues to say there are people today that see gun laws and gun control the same way.  Professor Sinha disagrees with this idea arguing that the reason for the Second Amendment was to protect against the British Army in a country with no standing army.

What does Manisha Sinha believe people today can learn from abolitionists? We need political action for stricter gun control rather than “hand-wringing.”  She also concludes by saying “gun control doesn’t have to be the defining part [of the Democratic Party platform], but it has to be defining part.”  According to the PewResearch Center, a majority of the population agrees with Sinha on stricter gun laws. Sinha points to Lincoln’s and the Republican Party platform of non extension as a successful reference.   What do you think is needed to bring an end to the violence?

Click here to read Rebecca’s full interview with Professor Sinha.

A Modern Take on Politics and the Civil War

With the presidential election fast approaching, how knowledgable really are college students in politics?  A few Texas Tech students took to the streets of their campus to ask a few “simple” questions. Who is the Vice President? Who won the Civil War? Who did we gain our independence from and when? And a few non-political questions about Snookie, and Brad Pitt married to and who is his ex-wife?

These first set of questions only one person could answer each question correctly. The most disturbing was not the question about Vice-President Biden but the Civil War. Many of the people asked did not even know who fought in the Civil War let a lone who won it. One girl even asked if they meant the civil war in 1965.  Also not knowing who we gained our independence from weren’t the Revolutionary War and the Civil War taught in grade school? And retaught almost every year after that through high school?

The short video shows where college students priorities are.  When asked the popular culture questions every person answered every question right. There is something about the college culture where students can answer questions on famous people’s marriages but not about the history and running of our nation.  A push for more of a political involvement and knowledge needs to change. However, will a change happen? I don’t think so, college students are focused on the small world around them and activities that don’t require too much thought.  But what does it say about retention rate of information they students can not remember things they were taught all throughout grade school?


By: Riley Hubbard

A Career Outside of Academia

Yesterday afternoon Kevin Switaj, PhD (’99) visited to give his insight on a career outside of academia with a degree in history.  Dr. Switaj received his MA from Villanova in 1999 before getting his PhD from Indiana University.  However, instead of entering the world of academia and finding a teaching job, Dr. Switaj searched for a job outside of academia, once in the workforce he found that much of what he learned in his schooling could be used in other fields. He broke his talk into three parts; the skills we all have learned, fields a history degree can apply to and how to market yourself.


Communication – A historian must communicate well through their writing. As with Dr. Switaj’s current job, as director of proposal development, he must also communicate well within the guidelines set for him. With proposals it must be clear why their company is the best choice and should be picked.

Strategic development and innovation – History is living and breathing and historians work to apply new ideas in history, at the corporate level this is also true. Also historians need to be able to look at the big picture and have a critical eye, being able to think of the picture is needed in the corporate world as well.

Collaboration – No matter what field, you always want to make sure the work is the best quality.  Peer reviews and analytical skills are needed for both the history field and other fields as well.

Soft Skills – It is important to be well-organized, have good time management and also the ability to have multiple tasks going at once.  As a graduate student you must learn all of these in able to thrive.

Also being well read is an advantage, it gives you a good frame of reference.

Fields to work in:

Training – Teaching and analytical. Many graduate students have done some teaching through assistantships making them good candidates for training positions.

Content Creation – Using the knowledge of writing, also the ideal entry level candidates and able to learn fast.

Proposal development – Using the writing skills in a different way, when writing proposals, a strict set of guidelines need to be followed. Need to be able to work within guidelines.

Analyst – Having a historical background knowledge helps to see the big picture, not just government jobs.

Marketing yourself:

Resume/ CV – Your resume or CV should be very strong, tailor your resume to the position, make sure you list your skills, take credit for what you have done but do not lie, if you do you will be caught and lose all creditability.

Networking – Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, join alumni groups online, also don’t let connections you have made wither away. You never know where they may lead.

Pepare for the interview – Know the company you are playing for, an hours worth of research can do along way,  know what they do, who they are and what their mission is.  Ask questions, by asking you are showing a level of interest and engagement.

Be Yourself – It is best to be if yourself and will it will show if you don’t. It is natural to be nervous and they expect that.

Dr. Switaj ended by saying it doesn’t hurt to learn about business at least a little. Coursera gives online courses for free, Linkedin also publishes articles on business, and the Bloomberg News post news on the business world.  His personal favorite is a book called The Personal MBA  he uses the book a reference point if he needs a quick review on something.

Overall Dr. Switaj’s talk was very helpful in how to prepare for a life outside of academia as well as telling us what uses our current life in academia will be after.  He also says that a PhD is not necessary, a masters degree is sufficient enough.

“It is a horrible irony that at the very moment the world has become more complex we’re encouraging our young people to be highly specialized in one task… The liberal arts are still relevant because students to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances.” Former Kenyon College President Georgia Nugent