I was born just south of the Mason-Dixon line in the great Southern port of Baltimore and grew up in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City. I was a bad student in the New Jersey public school system where they told us that history was about the rote memorization of the names of dead people, dates and trivial factoids. Luckily, I had a few success in other subjects like journalism and, especially music. I played--and still occasionally play--electric bass and guitar. (I also used to play tuba, but the last time I put a tuba to my face it sounded like I was strangling a diseased goat.) Those few successes gave me a sense that I could achieve some success academically and my mixed scholastic record convinced Hartwick College in (very) rural New York State to take a second look at my high school transcript and accept me.
At this small liberal arts college, I met professors who were full-time practitioners and teachers of history who cared about the study of the past, and about their students. They showed me that history is a process of interpreting the past based on evidence, not a practice of filling in little circles on a multiple-choice test. I double-majored in history and philosophy and four years later with a BA in hand, I knew that I wanted to teach at a similar school and change my students' lives the way that my own life was changed at Hartwick.
I enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin and in 2003 I earned my Ph.D. in the history of Latin America with a minor field in modern Africa and teaching experience in U.S. history. Texas' excellence in the field of graduate-level Latin American history--consistently ranked #1 in this area by U.S. News and World Reports--gave me a broad and enriching education in this field. Despite the understandable emphasis on research and publishing at Texas, the goal that ultimately sustained me through this challenging program was my dream of someday teaching at a small liberal arts college.
In 2006, that dream came true. After a few years of teaching alongside wonderful colleagues at other fine institutions, Maryville College ran a national search for a historian and I got the job. To this day I understand how blessed I am to be working here and I am thankful that I've been able to work in a career that I love at a place that emphasizes the core values that made me passionate about learning in the first place.