Most people see graduate school as a way to launch a career, but I went about the process backwards. After attending Brown University as an undergraduate, I volunteered for a couple of years at the Rhode Island Historical Society Library. In 1994, they offered me a dream job as manuscripts curator. However, it came with a requirement: I would need to pursue a graduate degree while working full time, and the tuition would need to come out of my rather modest paycheck. I decided to enroll in the history program at Rhode Island College for exactly two reasons: it was cheap, and I figured the coursework should be pretty easy.
I was half-right: the tuition was really cheap. However, my dreams of an easy Masters degree were dashed about ten minutes into my first class, Historiography with Dr. Dufour. For one punishing but rewarding semester, he challenged us to think critically, and assigned dense, theoretical readings that made me re-think my basic assumptions about the practice of history. Over the next three years, as I knocked off one course per semester, the other members of RIC's history faculty kept up the demanding pace. Special thanks are due to the late Dr. Kellner, and to my other professors Brown, Cvornyek, Lemons, and Schuster, all of whom I've remained in contact with, more or less, since graduating twelve years ago. Dr. Lemons guided me through a very complicated master's thesis project, and substantially improved my writing skills in the process. If I've used the dreaded passive voice anywhere in this blurb, I hope he will forgive me. I found all the faculty to be devoted to the craft of teaching, much more than you would normally find in a big research university such as my undergraduate school. I was also impressed with the overall quality of my fellow grad students--some of them future academics, others on the path to becoming superb high-school teachers, and at least one just taking courses for the sheer joy of it.
I received my M.A. in 1999, and have remained in the history world ever since, finishing at the Rhode Island Historical Society with a short stint as library director, then working in Harvard's library system for three years. Since 2007, I've been the director of the Americana department at Swann Auction Galleries in Manhattan, where I sell books and manuscripts relating to American history. Through all of this, I've frequently called upon the lessons I learned at Rhode Island College, where I received a much better education than I had bargained for.