Putting my Ph.D. to Work

I think many of us writing our dissertations look forward to those few months after graduation to recover and decompress before we start whatever our next chapter might be. I know I was thinking about stretching out on a sandy beach somewhere drinking something very alcoholic. Daydreams aside, whenever I envisioned life after graduation, I expected some sort of fog to lift and everything would normalize again. Instead, I am busier than ever. The fog lifted, but only to reveal my mostly empty bank account.

With summer coming to a close and classes about to start, I thought now might be a good time to post an update about how I’m using this degree I worked so hard to get. I am one of the fortunate few PhDs to have a job waiting for me after graduation. Many of my friends and colleagues know that I started a postdoctoral fellowship in May to write an administrative history for Stones River National Battlefield. This is a great transitional project that builds upon my doctoral residency and dissertation, while also providing new experience in writing an official administrative history for the National Park Service. While it is a fantastic opportunity, it also means I’ve had to research and write three chapters this summer, which is not easy to do so soon after finishing a dissertation. However, the importance producing such a document for park managers was certainly underscored by debates over the Confederate flag this summer and how we make meaning of Civil War commemorative landscapes like Stones River.

In an interesting turn of events, I became a tour guide for a history walking tour company in Nashville. I first came to this job out of necessity (I needed the money), but have stuck with it because it gives me the chance to interact with the public on a weekly basis. I’m learning a ton about Nashville, how best to engage people with historic urban landscapes, and working for a for-profit history business.

I have taken a break from my work on Cumberland Gap National Historical Park for most of the summer, but I am happy to report that my research is starting to reach new audiences. I had the privilege of presenting a public program at the park to celebrate its Job Corps Center’s 50th anniversary. I have also been talking to CRM contractors about NPS Job Corps history, because they are working on projects that deal with these resources. Now, I am starting to think seriously about journal articles and book proposals, and trying to figure out how to fit these with my already full research and writing schedule.

Each of these new adventures delves into important issues in public history and cultural landscapes. There are too many things to bring together in one post, but I may follow up with some special posts in the next few weeks. Let me know what you’re interested in hearing about!

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