Graduate Student News

Grad studentsGrad students

At Marquette University, graduate students share a professional camaraderie as well as a strong emphasis on academic excellence. Each generation of graduate students introduces unique personalities and varied research interests. This diversity of specialty areas encourages a wider breadth of understanding in each graduate student's academic career at Marquette. Overall, the program is marked by an emphasis on teaching experience, creative research, and collegiality among faculty and students. The Marquette history graduate program looks forward to the contributions of future generations of graduate students and takes great pride in the achievements of its current and past members.

Congratulations to Our Newest Doctorates:

Dr. Kathy Callahan (Dissertation Chair, Dr. Carla Hay): "Women, Crime, and Work: The Case of Longdon, 1783-1815"

Dr. Paul Fergusson (Dissertation Chair, Dr. Thomas Jablonsky) "Leisure Pursuits in Ethnic Milwaukee, 1830-1930"

Dr. Richard Gardiner (Dissertation Chair, Dr. John Krugler): "The Presbyterian Rebellion: An Analysis of the Perception that the American Revolution was a Presbyterian War"

Dr. John McCarthy (Dissertation Chair, Dr. Thomas Jablonsky): "The Reluctant City: Milwaukee’s Fragmented Metropolis, 1920-1960"

Dr. William Prigge (Dissertation Chair, Dr. Alan Ball): "The Bearslayers: National Communism in Latvia, 1945-1959"

Dr. Martin Quirk (Dissertation Chair, Dr. James Marten): "From Pioneers to Wheat Kings: The Development of Regional Image and Identity in Western Kansas, 1890-1929"

Congratulations to our Newest Masters:

Graduate Students Outside Academia:

In addition to their classes, exams and other academic demands, some of our graduate students hold down interesting jobs away from Marquette. We have asked three of them – Ann Ostendorf, Chris Miller and Aaron Stockham to write a brief description about their life outside the classroom.

Ann OstendorfAnn Ostendorf, Caretaker:

Marquette's History Department is constantly forwarding the graduate students information regarding summer work, conferences, writing competitions, internships, and all other kinds of scholarly and financial opportunities. They really take care of their graduate students in this way. So when I received a forwarded message from the department regarding an internship opportunity as caretaker at a local historic farmhouse I was not exactly surprised. Little was I aware at the time of what good fortune had just come my way.

Since being accepted for the position I have engaged in entirely different ways to use my knowledge as a historian for the betterment of others. At the farmhouse I frequently give tours to both adults and children, as well as assist in preservation work, create displays and perform general farm maintenance. While my knowledge of antiques and material culture was slim at best when I first began, I have become familiar with displaying German carpentry tools, recognizing nineteenth century furniture design, and textile preservation. Skills they just don't teach you in college!

My graduate school work here at Marquette has certainly allowed me to contribute much to the historic site as well. I feel confident when giving the visitors a perspective of what daily life might have been like in rural Wisconsin in the 1870s. My extensive readings in social history while at Marquette allow me to describe gender roles on the farm, concepts of ethnic identity, and speculate on the goals of the family of a certain social standing. While I still can't tell by looking if a tea set is of the appropriate time period for display, my skills as a researcher allow me to be able to find the answer to this and other questions when I am called upon to do so. While I may not have learned curatorial work while in the classroom, I have been able to apply the research methods taught by my professors at Marquette in this different context. This experience as historic site caretaker has certainly complemented my scholarly classroom education from Marquette. And thanks to my great professors, I feel confident in bringing some of the most up-to-date historical interpretations to a site that directly serves my local community.

Ann OstendorfChris Miller, Reporter

In October of 2006, I started writing a bi-weekly column for the Milwaukee Shepherd-Express, a local alternative newsweekly. The idea for the column came from colleague and Marquette Ph.D. Alum John McCarthy who saw a similar column in his new (and old) hometown of Pittsburgh. The concept is simple: readers send in questions, and I write short (typically 500-750 words) answers to those questions. The reality is a bit more complex. The demands of space, readability, simplification, and, to be sure, interest, are not the same as those we commonly face in academic writing. We started discussions about the column by trying to establish a tone. I was lucky in that my editors didn't want things to be dumbed down; they assumed their audience to be educated laymen. On the other hand, they aren't interested in the minutinae of historical arguments. As a result, I've had to learn how to reduce those paragraphs of historiographical background into passing sentence-length references. The other new experience for me has been working on a bi-weekly deadline. Generating content on demand rather than as research is completed is an entirely different experience than what most of us face in our academic writing.

The column so far has generated a steady flow of reader correspondence. I've tried to respond personally to each reader who has contacted me as a way of making it clear that there is a real person on the other side of the email address, and you really CAN get your question answered. On the other hand, I have the full support of my editors in picking and choosing which of the questions are most interesting and appropriate to the overall project. Overall, I've found the experience to be quite rewarding. I have developed new skills and contacts in the historical community, and I have had an opportunity to take historical research outside a strictly academic context—something that appeals to me quite a bit. I know that many friends of mine would never have read about history, but because it is in the Shepherd, it feels more accessible to them. Even my students have enjoyed the fact that they can read their professor in print—something you'd likely never hear them say about that article in the Journal of Your-subfield's Studies.

Ann OstendorfAaron Stockham, Docent

For the past two summers, I have looked forward to stepping away from the frenzied life of a graduate student. Three months without the worries of looming seminar paper deadlines or the constant scrambling to finish reading that next book. Instead, a more leisurely pace dominates as the temperature rises and as professors become more distant, at least in my mind. Luckily, I have also found a place where I can continue to practice being a professional historian in a way that is not ruled by monographs or word processing. As a docent, or interpreter, at one of the Milwaukee County Historical Society’s historic homes, I can finally see history excite a wider audience than my peers in Coughlin Hall. I can narrate the past without the pressures of a classroom or the motivation of a final grade. It is at this historic home during the summers where I can reshape what I know about history and the requirements of a historian. Graduate seminars and long discussions about historiography can only provide pieces of one’s education. I have found that Kilbourntown House, tucked away in Estabrook Park, allows me to complete my knowledge and compliment my training.

As a physical structure, Kilbourntown House is neither as spectacular as the Pabst Mansion nor as famous as the Calatrava. It is a modest, Greek revival building first constructed by carpenter Benjamin Church in 1844. Estabrook Park was not even its original location; it was constructed at the corner of 4th and Court in the Kilbourntown section of old Milwaukee. The rooms are simple and furnished in the style of the mid-nineteenth century. The floors (all the original pine) creak as I walk through and the shutters slap against the siding when the winds blow. These, however, are not the most gratifying stories about the house. Those come when the visitors start to wander inside, some looking to beat the heat and some stopping because it is the first time they have seen the house open.

As the park buzzes with family reunions, soccer games, and bicyclists on the nearby Oak Leaf Trail, Kilbourntown House greets visitors as a respite from the day’s activities. Often, patrons will remark that they never knew the house existed, always just driving past. Once inside, however, I see transformations. No longer are the people solely interested in the air conditioning. Transfixed by the daguerreotypes of Byron Kilbourn, Milwaukee’s second mayor, and the master bedroom’s hand-carved crib, visitors begin to ask questions. They ask what type of wood they see, where the china was made, and what certain kitchen tools do. They also begin to make connections to their own lives; elders will often remark that they, too, had to use a bedpan instead of the outhouse at night to avoid snakes. Children see the porcelain doll and the large combs and ask if they can touch or play. When they learn they are the ones who would have emptied those bedpans, they often groan or shriek. One youngster, about five, even tried to jump on the bed, just to see how "springy" it was. Unfortunately, I told him, the bed would not make a good trampoline—the frame was made of rope, leading to that well-known phrase "sleep tight," and the possibility of him falling right through.

Often, it is these children who are the most enamored with the house. Once they learn ghosts will not haunt the guests, they quickly run to the different rooms, often shouting questions about certain objects or past residents. They tell each other they want to move in, despite the lack of indoor plumbing or electric light. Their parents, both horrified they might break something and delighted their children are excited, fall behind and ask about the paintings, the needlework, and the stoves. All are shocked when they see the mirror which allows them to peer up the stairs into the tiny bedroom, meaning this simple-looking house had two stories and more space than they would have imagined.

As these groups tour the house, I am constantly reminded about the importance of the historian’s task. Too often, especially as a graduate student, I become caught up in the inertia of academia. Our jobs are much more than creating scholarly works that only those in specific fields can (and will) understand. We must also look to show those around us WHY history excites. WHY stories are worth telling. WHY objects are worth treasuring. We must learn to become confident in our explanations of the past, especially those of us who face the daunting task of, someday, standing before an 8am class of our own and giving the past meaning to grumpy, over-caffeinated students. We must learn to become educators not just of each other, but of a larger world that, deep down, I believe, really likes history. While they may not enjoy memorizing names and dates, they do enjoy what history can say about the present, about people, and about motivations. It is these stories that Kilbourntown House tells so poignantly. The past becomes something more than a dusty book or an intimidating archive; it becomes a way of opening people to the human experience. And, as another summer approaches, I cannot wait for that experience again.

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Department of History
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