I always planned to teach. When I was ten, I was going to teach fifth grade — then middle school — then high school. So I fell into the idea of teaching college as a matter of course, and settled on teaching history, rather than English or math, so naturally that I don’t even remember the process. But teaching college isn’t just teaching. To be a college professor, you have to research too, and I hadn’t been expecting all my life to be a researcher. Did I even like research? I did a thesis, and found — yes, I did.
In 1997, directly after graduating from Williams, I began graduate school at the University of Virginia. I had written my BA thesis on Trinidad in the early nineteenth century, and I applied to graduate school planning to specialize in eighteenth and nineteenth century British and French imperialism in the Caribbean. I’m still with it. I’m currently turning my Ph.D. dissertation into a book, and two other major projects are scratching at the back of my mind to be worked on after that, and they all investigate aspects of British-but-used-to-be-French islands in the nineteenth-century Caribbean. That level of consistency is not required in academia, or even that common, but apparently I tend to stick to an idea once I’ve got it.
One of the best things about history research is the travel. After three years of coursework at Virginia, the dissertation required eight months in the colonial archives in London, and four months in Trinidad, plus a quick trip to Dominica, to be followed by three years of writing. The archives offered another test–did I like the part of research that involved six days a week looking at old pieces of paper? Turned out I did. Assembling a story from fragments, as the same person showed up suing a friend in the newspaper, honored by the government, and writing letters to the colonial office, was surprisingly fun.
Since 2004, I have been an Assistant Professor of History at the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, a position that combines the ethos of a liberal arts college (such as Williams) with the room to grow offered by a university. I teach world history from prehistory to the present, and offer thematic courses on slavery and empire and the questions, people, and ideas that sprung from those two phenomena of the modern world.