A brief autobiographical sketch
Not only am I proud to be an associate professor of history at Maryville College, I am also the Director of Maryville College Works, the founding Coordinator of the Great Smokies Experience, and I am currently serving as President of the Southeast World History Association (through December 2019).
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 confess that I was not a stellar student in my public school where they told us that history was about the rote memorization of the names of dead people, dates and trivial factoids. Luckily, I did pretty well in other subjects like journalism and, especially music. I played--and still 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 these bright spots on 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 that 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 history with a major field of Latin America, and a minor field in modern Africa. Texas' excellence in the field of graduate-level Latin American history--consistently ranked #1 in this area by U.S. News and World Report--gave me a broad and enriching education in this field. Texas also afforded me opportunities to learn about other fields of history. I was fortunate enough to take an ecological history course with Alfred Crosby, one of the founders of the subject. As a teaching assistant and supplemental instructor, I gained significant teaching experience in U.S. history as well. Despite the understandable emphasis on highly focused research and publishing at Texas, I was still able to broaden my horizons there because the goal that 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.