Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now? - Section 2 Page

 

Photo of David Baillargeon in front of a mining site. David Baillargeon graduated from UCSB in 2018. After graduating, he secured a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. In the spring of 2021, Dr. Baillargeon began teaching European History as a tenure track Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Below, Dr. Baillargeon shares his advice for current graduate students, as well as some fond memories of his time at UCSB!

1. Tell us a little about your time in graduate school. What was your research focus? When did you graduate?

I began graduate study at UCSB in 2011 and finished in 2018. I started the program with a master’s degree from University College London, and although I had worked on issues related to anti-slavery and abolition in Britain century while at UCL, I entered the program at UCSB really only knowing that I wanted to study the British Empire in some capacity. Ultimately, I ended up working on the history of British colonialism in Burma. Although it took a while for me to get there, my dissertation project focused on the Bawdwin silver-lead-zinc mines in the Northern Shan States of Burma. The project looks at how this mining enterprise, which was one of the world’s largest during the late colonial period, developed and operated over time, despite the fact that most agents associated with the mines – whether financiers, management, or labor – came from far beyond Britain or Burma. The project – which is now the subject of my first book manuscript - exists at the intersection between histories of colonialism, capitalism, and historical geography, and reveals how utilizing a place-based approach can reveal fresh insights about the nature of empire in the modern period.

2. Why did you decide to pursue your PhD? Why did you choose UCSB?

I finished my undergraduate degree in history from the University of Vermont in 2006 and knew fairly early that I wanted to attend graduate school. However, because I was not entirely prepared when I graduated, I did take a couple years off before receiving my MA in London, and then took another two years off prior to the PhD. I ended up attending UCSB for a few reasons. First, and because I was living in frigid Vermont when I was making my decision to attend graduate school (and I’m pretty sure it was winter at the time), the idea of moving to Santa Barbara seemed appealing, particularly since the other programs I was accepted to were in cold weather locations. Most importantly, though, was the fact that I knew I would be working with a fantastic advisor. While at UCSB, I worked with Professor Erika Rappaport, who is a leading scholar in the history of Britain and the British Empire, and who based on emails and conversations early in the process, I knew would be a great fit for my research interests and an incredible mentor. And honestly, it was one of the best decisions I ever made!

3. Any favorite memories of particular events, professors, friends?

I have many fantastic memories from my time at UCSB. Whether in the many wonderful (and funny) conversations had on the third floor of HSSB, the shared love and/or dread experienced as TAs or in reading seminars with my fellow graduate students, or in all the fun adventures that we had off campus while I was there, my time at UCSB was an enjoyable one. A few moments do stand out, though. For starters, I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to take classes with both Pekka Hämäläinen and James Brooks, the former of whom left UCSB after my first year in the graduate program. For the class with Professor Brooks, which focused on “borderlands” history and was split evenly between history and anthropology/archeology graduate students (and co-taught by Elizabeth DePalma Digeser and Stuart Tyson Smith), we visited Santa Fe and stayed at the School for Advanced Research, which was an incredible experience. I also remember going to many fantastic talks as part of Nelson Lichtenstein’s Center for Work, Labor, and Democracy, which had a significant impact on my scholarly development. Most importantly, I did also meet my wife while at UCSB (who was also a graduate student in the history department), so UCSB and Santa Barbara will always hold a special place in my heart. But as you might expect, there are too many memories to list!

4. Could you tell us a little about your career path? What is your current position? How did you end up in it?

When I finished at UCSB, I was very fortunate to secure a position as an ERC Research Associate and Research Fellow on the European Research Council-funded Cultures of Occupation in Twentieth Century Asia (COTCA) project at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. As part of the position, which was a three-year postdoctoral research fellowship, I ran my own research project on the spatial history of British Malaya, with an emphasis on the history of the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s. Among the many “outcomes” of the project (publications, etc.), I created digital map and website about the spatiality of the Malayan Emergency (https://cotca.org/case-studies/the-malayan-emergency-1948-1960/), which was a great learning experience. Even more fortunately, and right before the pandemic started, I was offered and accepted a position as a tenure track Assistant Professor of European History at the University of Texas at Arlington. I started at UTA in the Spring of 2021, and that’s where I’m currently located.

5. What skills do you think your experience in graduate school provided you with, and how do you use these skills in your current career?

I learned many skills while at UCSB. While I had written many history papers and argumentative essays prior to my time there, I wouldn’t say that any of my work was especially original or research-intensive (or good) before I arrived at UCSB, and so really all of the skills I learned about being a “historian” – i.e., how to write a historiography paper, how to conduct research, how to write grant applications, how to put together a CV, how to teach, etc. - were acquired during my time there. However, I would say that the most important skills I learned at UCSB were some of the “smaller” things. Whether it was learning how to manage my time, how to think about audience in my writing (from seminar papers to fellowship/job applications to dissertations), or in how to be diplomatic and actually helpful in grading student assignments (thanks, writing program!), I learned all kinds of skills – both small and large - that have really helped me advance in my career, and that have served me well in all kinds of situations that aren’t strictly limited to research outputs.

6. What can students do throughout their time in graduate school to best prepare for the job market and get the most out of the PhD experience?

This is a tough one. Obviously, everyone knows how dire the job market situation is these days, but I do think there are some things you can do to help improve your prospects if you’re hoping to land a tenure track job. First, apply to everything! Although you might be lucky and not necessarily need funding every step of the way, it’s good to apply to fellowships as early and often as possible, as smaller fellowships can often make you look more competitive for larger fellowships, all of which will make you a better candidate on the job market. Similarly, when applying to jobs, if you think you might have an opportunity for a position but you’re really not sure you will be a great fit, apply anyways! Not only do you never know what a department is looking for in their search, but sometimes even those same departments don’t know what they’re looking for until they start receiving applications, so don’t be afraid to apply. It’s obviously always good to do your research to determine/guess what the hiring committee might be looking for, but there are many factors in a search that are often impossible to know from simply poking around online (upcoming retirements, new research centers on campus, other areas they’re hoping to hire in the future, etc.). So, my recommendation is that even if you’re not sure it’s a perfect fit, apply anyways.

7. If you could share any piece of advice with graduate students who are about to enter the job market, what would it be?

Honestly, I never thought I’d live in the UK again after I finished the PhD, but going to Nottingham and having that time and space to research and publish was a game changer for me. So, above all else, I’d recommend keeping an open mind and being as flexible as possible!

8. What was your favorite spot on UCSB’s campus?

I very much miss going for long walks on the bluffs over by family housing with my dog Finch. But if that doesn’t count, then I’d go with the racquetball courts at the Rec Center.

 

Photo of Dr. Henry Maar. Henry Maar graduated from UCSB in 2015. From 2016-2017, Dr. Maar was the Agnese N. Haury Fellow at New York University. Since then, Dr. Maar has held several adjunct professor positions in the History Departments at UC Santa Barbara, California State University, Northridge (CSUN), and has taught summer sessions at Shanghai Jiao Tang University. His first book, Freeze! The Grassroots Movement to Halt the Arms Race and End the Cold War, is forthcoming through Cornell University Press and will be published in January 2022. You can keep up with Dr. Maar through his website at www.henrymaar.com, or follow @HMaar on Twitter. 

1. Tell us a little about your time in graduate school. What was your research focus? When did you graduate?

I started at UCSB in the 2008-2009 school year and completed my PhD in December 2015. I entered the program interested in a few things: labor activism (Wobblies/IWW), antiwar and peace activism, but I also was interested in American foreign policy and the Cold War more broadly. In my first year I did a paper for 292B on the Haymarket Affair, but I also did a research paper in one of Salim’s seminars on the Nuclear Freeze movement. Long story short, I became fascinated by nexus between peace activism/domestic politics and the way these dynamics played into American foreign policy. That first-year seminar paper was the basis for my dissertation and is now the subject of my forthcoming book, Freeze! The Grassroots Movement to Halt the Arms Race and End the Cold War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2022).

2. Why did you decide to pursue your PhD? Why did you choose UCSB?

I started grad school at Cal State Northridge about a year or so after I finished my BA. I wanted an MA in History and to use that as a springboard to teach fulltime at a community college. I came to find out closer to finishing that many, many others had that same idea, so the job market for community college professors with just an MA was extremely tight. I think two things really pushed me to pursue the PhD: peer pressure (several friends from my Masters program were applying to PhD programs) and the confidence of CSUN Professor Tom Maddux who assured me my writing and scholarship was on that next level and encouraged me to go on for the PhD. UCSB was on my shortlist. I was very much attracted to UCSB as I liked the idea of working with both Salim Yaqub and the Center for Cold War Studies (CCWS) and Nelson Lichtenstein and the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy. I saw myself as having a foot in both diplomatic history and a foot in social history, and I wanted a school where I could blend the two. UCSB had that and was also a large enough department where I found my research interests expand into the history of Science/Technology and Popular Culture/Film history. 

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with UCSB’s Center for Cold War Studies (or COWHIG)? Any favorite memories of particular events, professors, friends?

When I began at UCSB, CCWS was still being co-directed by Salim Yaqub and Toshi Hasegawa, though Salim would soon become the sole director. I was the administrative assistant for CCWS for two years and helped put on the 2011 joint conference with LSE and GWU. That was a very exciting—and stressful!—experience as it was also the first time Salim was running the conference as the director of CCWS. Personally, I learned a lot about how to organize a conference and all the needs that have to be met to ensure things run smoothly. I was so busy that weekend running errands—picking up coffee, escorting guests to/from campus, and various other administrative tasks—that I wasn’t even around for the group photo! I still have very fond memories of all the guests from that conference and the process of selecting participants (both professors and graduate student presenters) and I’m still very good friends with many of the (then) graduate students. For instance, Jorge Rivera Marin (Cornell) and I have been planning to do a Hunter Thompson/Gonzo-style podcast about history and politics (and probably basketball and whatever else we want to talk about!). We recorded a few shows, but everything got delayed with the Covid pandemic. I expect we’ll probably start recording again soon, maybe as early as this summer if I can get down to San Diego. Many of my closest friends from UCSB were part of CCWS—Abraham Mendoza, Eric Fenrich, Ken Hough, Roger Pryor, Paul Baltimore, Paul Hirsch, and (later) Chichi Peng. I helped Ken with the 2014 CCWS conference and got to know many of those participants well. I also have fond memories of “Toshi Fest” and it was great to hear all these stories about “COWHIG”!

4. Could you tell us a little about your career path? What is your current position? How did you end up in it?

After finishing my PhD in 2015, I secured a postdoc at the Center for the United States and the Cold War at Tamiment Library, NYU. That opportunity really shaped my book—there were collections at NYU that I thought were mostly tangential to my story, but it turned out they were crucial to understanding peace activism from the end of the Vietnam War to the early 1980s. I ended up publishing an essay in Peace & Change (a journal for peace scholars) based on these documents called “The Lost Years: The American Peace Movement from Vietnam to Nuclear Freeze.” A revised version of that essay is now the opening chapter of my book, and I don’t know if I would have gone out of my way to look at that collection if I wasn’t already at NYU. Since then, I’ve been the instructor of record for a host of different classes. I’ve gotten to know a few newer graduate students at UCSB since I taught 17A a few times. I’ve also taught two early US history classes for CSUN, and I’ve taught modern US and modern world history for Shanghai Jiao Tang University both in person and online due to the pandemic. I’m still looking for a fulltime teaching opportunity or potentially an opening in the field of arms control—some place I can put all this knowledge of nuclear weapons to use!

5. What skills do you think your experience in graduate school provided you with, and how do you utilize these skills in your current career?

I think graduate school teaches you a lot of things. Budgeting and time management are huge things. You have to know how much a research trip is going to cost you and how much time you’ll need to get through however many boxes and folders are in a collection. You’ll also have to learn what the various rules and procedures are for an archive and adjust accordingly. For example, I knew I could spend lots of time at the Reagan Library and look at whatever collections were open (or at least not 99% redacted!). That was a day trip from UCSB, but you could also take photos of documents or have as many photo copies as you wanted. I ended up doing quite a bit of research at the Chicago Archdiocese which had very different rules—no cameras, limited photo copies. Their preference was you take notes on your laptop. Thankfully the War and Peace Records of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin isn’t a massive collection, but still took multiple trips to Chicago. Writing your dissertation (or even seminar paper) also takes a lot of skill we don’t stop to think about. You’re editing your prose, you’re building time management skills (how long will it take me to finish writing this chapter starting from scratch?), you’re building organizing skills (what collections fit in this chapter, where are they located? Did I organize the photos or notes from the last research trip into some sort of coherent fashion?). So there are a lot of skills I think we as historians—and as graduate students or recent graduates—have that I don’t think we recognize as skills because it’s just what we do. Project management is a huge skill you develop, whether that’s through research and writing or how you’re going to teach a class like Western Civilization I or something similar that you may not have a full background in. Learning how to find information and what’s reliable—a skill derived from researching a dissertation—is extremely useful when you’re trying to build a class from scratch, especially one outside your small area of expertise. Being able to lead a discussion is also a very useful skill you pick up as a teaching assistant in graduate school, learning to form thought-provoking questions or questions that stir people and get them to talk is a helpful skill in and out of the classroom.  

6. What can students do throughout their time in graduate school to best prepare for the job market and get the most out of the PhD experience?

The academic job market is atrocious and brutal. Skim H-Net and the AHA career center and allow the misery to set in! Or be optimistic and try and keep a foot outside of the traditional PhD-professor track. If there was something I wish I had done differently in grad school it’s getting an internship with an archive to gain hands-on experience managing an archive as there are opportunities for archivists (though these are also very competitive—it’s really a buyer’s market for history). I also probably should have looked for an internship or volunteer role with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in SB just to have experience working with a nonprofit. Or I could have thrown a ton of money into Bitcoin and/or Dogecoin and been a millionaire right now! All that is to say that hindsight is 20/20, and what sounds like a great idea to me now probably wasn’t on my radar or probably seemed like it would take away from finishing that “damn dissertation”!

7. If you could share any piece of advice with graduate students who are about to enter the job market, what would it be?

Try not to get depressed with the academic job market and keep yourself open to new ideas.

8. What was your favorite spot on UCSB’s campus?

I think it’s easy to say “Lagoon”—but I always liked the far end of campus where the physical science buildings are. They were closer to the ocean, there was always a nice breeze, and the buildings were newer. Of course, I rarely had any reason to be over that way!

Photo of Kathryn StatlerKathryn Statler is a professor of History at the University of San Diego. She is one of the founding members of the CCWS (initially named COWHIG—the Cold War History Working Group) and graduated from UCSB in 1999. In 2007 she published her book, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam. Below, Dr. Statler shares her advice for current graduate students, as well as some fond memories of her time at UCSB!

1. Tell us a little about your time in graduate school. What was your research focus? When did you graduate?

My focus in graduate school was on how the Franco-American alliance affected both U.S. and French policy in Vietnam during the 1950s. I became fascinated with how the United States replaced France in Vietnam as the major western power after the 1954 Geneva Conference. The United States systematically took over military, political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, and educational affairs, slowly but inexorably reducing the French presence in Vietnam. Ultimately, I published a book, Replacing France: The Origins of American Intervention in Vietnam, on the subject. I graduated in 1999.

2. Why did you decide to pursue your PhD? Why did you choose UCSB?

I knew I wanted to pursue an M.A. my senior year of college but was not sure about the Ph.D. I also took a class with the then brand new Assistant Professor in U.S. Foreign Relations, Fredrik Logevall, and was so impressed I wanted to work with him. So, I entered the combined MA/Ph.D. program, figuring I could stop after receiving the MA.  My first day as a teaching assistant my second year of graduate school sealed the deal.  I remember walking out of the class and being 100% sure that was what I wanted to do with my life.  I still feel the same way.

3. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with UCSB’s Center for Cold War Studies (or COWHIG)? Any favorite memories of particular events, professors, friends?

I was one of the founding members of COWHIG, the brainchild of Fredrik Logevall and Toshi Hasegawa.  I loved all the student presentations, guest speakers, and conferences that COWHIG hosted.  One of my favorite memories was watching Andy Johns and Ken Osgood work overtime to organize the annual graduate student conference. My other favorite memory is when Kimber Quinney graciously agreed to read my research paper for me in front of COWHIG faculty and grad students (I was the UCSB teaching assistant for the UCDC program that quarter, so no zoom in the 1990s).  She then had to field questions from the audience on my research. I owe you Kim.

4. Could you tell us a little about your career path? What is your current position? How did you end up in it?

I had the most fortuitous career path of any graduate student in the history of the world, so my experience is a definite outlier. I went straight from undergrad to graduate student at UCSB, and then straight from grad student to Assistant Professor at USD where I am now a full professor.  I prepared, of course, but honestly, I attribute this path primarily to good luck.

5. What skills do you think your experience in graduate school provided you with, and how do you utilize these skills in your current career?

Well, grad school taught me to digest, synthesize, and prioritize immense amounts of information, and then to be able to explain it in a way that makes sense to others.  I use that skill every second of every day.

6. What can students do throughout their time in graduate school to best prepare for the job market and get the most out of the PhD experience?

As far as preparing for the job market, three things: 1. Publish an article.  Even if you are not ready to present your brilliant research to the world, you need to publish it anyway; 2. Polish your teaching. You should have a couple of lectures in the bag and you should have multiple syllabi ready to go that address the courses being offered at the universities you are applying to; 3. Do your research on the institutions. Most departments these days are looking for people who actually want to be there. You should research the faculty and their research (not exhaustively but do your homework) and the culture of the institution and then speak to how you are the perfect fit.

For me, I got the most out of my Ph.D. experience by working with my fellow grad students and the professors to build a sense of community. We created shared knowledge but we also created a group of people genuinely interested in each other’s successes and failures.   

7. If you could share any piece of advice with graduate students who are about to enter the job market, what would it be?

Someone has to get the job, it might as well be you. What I mean is that if you can make it into the top 20 finalists, your odds are now 1 in 20, and if you make it to the top 3, well, funny things happen.  The other two candidates accept job offers elsewhere, or decline the job offer.  Who knows?  Not trying in the first place is the worst thing you can do.

8. What was your favorite spot on UCSB’s campus?

Well, my favorite spot near UCSB was Sands Beach. Right as I went through the gate leading to the beach I would always pause to appreciate the fact that I got to go to school at UCSB.  On campus, I would probably have to say the conference room on the 6th floor of HSSB, the views are awesome, and even though I was terrified pretty much every time I was in that room presenting my research to faculty and other graduate students, the views are still awesome.