History Alums and Graduate Students Making Waves—Their Own Way

Submitted by Emma R Hinchliffe on
Department of History PhD’s Jessie Kindig and Shruti Patel

Using the PhD for great things. 

Today, the potential and exciting pathways that can be opened with a PhD in history are often overlooked because it feels like society is more focused than ever on encouraging students to think about degrees outside of the humanities. In this climate, the Department of History is especially delighted to highlight the successes of our recent PhD recipients and current graduate students who are collectively engaged in exciting and innovative work and research that proves history matters—and that it can also lead to a great career!

Shruti Patel (PhD 2017) and Jessie Kindig (PhD 2014) have taken different roads since graduation. Patel, a historian of modern South Asia, followed the more traditional trajectory into academia. In 2018, she accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of History at Gonzaga University.This fellowship is the result of a new collaboration between UW and Gonzaga designed to place recent PhDs in a liberal arts environment and give them a sense of what a long-term career in this setting would entail. We recently learned that Patel has been offered and has accepted a tenure-track position at Salisbury University in Maryland. Patel came to the UW with the goal of pursuing a career in academia. The thing she's most excited about in her new position is the chance to think about my research alongside a new set of colleagues. 

Kindig, whose principle research focuses on the construction of U.S. empire in the twentieth century, went into the world of publishing. She is an editor at Verso Books, “the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world.” Like many graduate students, Kindig had intended to embark on a career in academia after graduation. After completing her PhD, she took a visiting assistant professor position at Indiana University. It was during her time at Indiana that she began thinking about pursuing a non-academic path. She took a job as a literary agent at Roam Agency in New York City before landing at Verso in 2017.

Kindig talks about her current job and how the PhD has helped her to excel in it: 

“Verso is an independent publisher whose mission is to contribute in building an intellectual and activist reading public. We publish everything from popular manifestos, graphic novels, and narrative journalism—meant for a broad audience—to academic monographs and high theory. I’m an editor, which has several components: First, I acquire books for our list, which means evaluating proposals that come in, searching out new writers, authors, scholars, and activists whose work I admire, commissioning projects, and helping my colleagues plan series and collections of books we think should be published. Second, I help authors and potential authors develop book ideas and manuscripts….Third, I help shepherd the book through the production process and as it’s published, marketed, and sold. And fourth, I’m involved with all my colleagues in discussing the direction of the house in both business and intellectual/political terms.

She goes on to say, “My degree has been invaluable as I begin to acquire a list of new work in history, gender and sexuality, American Studies, and ethnic studies—because of the broad knowledge of multiple fields and network of friends and colleagues that I cultivated while earning it...It has also given me a facility with theory and academic language (and the ability to recognize less useful variants of each) that has served me well here.”

There was more good news for two of our latest graduates. Kevin McKenna (PhD 2017) began teaching at Lewis and Clark College, a liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon, before joining the Overlake School, an independent college prep day school back here in Washington, where he is currently teaching world history and civics. Huong Nguyen, who recently defended her PhD under the supervision of Professor Christoph Giebel, accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Haverford College.

There is also much to celebrate among our current graduate students, who continue to win prestigious fellowships for their innovative and influential research.

Michael D. Aguirre was awarded a fellowship at the Center for Engaged Scholarship, allowing him to continue work on his dissertation, which looks at the borderland of Imperial County, California, and Mexicali, Baja California, as a site to explore class, citizenship, and labor activism during the years 1964-79, a period that saw a shift from Keynesianism to neo-liberalism in the global political economy. The fellowship is designed to support graduate student research into topics that promote a more “democratic, more egalitarian, and more environmentally sustainable society.” 

Xiaoshun Zeng, who is currently completing his dissertation, “Diagnosing Minorities: Ethnic Hygiene and Nation State Building in the Early Peoples Republic of China, 1949-64,” was awarded a two-quarter term in the Simpson Center Society of Scholars for next year.

Patrick Lozar has been awarded a highly prestigious fellowship from the Ford Foundation to support work on his dissertation, “Behind and beyond the Line: Indigenous Communities, International Borders, and Native Identities on the Columbia Plateau, 1850s-1920s.”

Congratulations to all our alumni and current graduate students for their past, present, and future successes.