Thursday, October 24, 2019
I Am Committed to Becoming a Historian :: Statement Purpose College Admissions
I Am Committed to Becoming a Historian As a Ph.D. student in U.S. history, I would like to continue to explore the intersections of culture and economics in U.S. history, especially as they relate to working-class life and consumption. Although I am now committed to becoming a historian, my academic background has been quite varied. Disillusioned with the often reductionist truths of physical science, I transferred from the School of Engineering to State College after my first year. As an undergraduate, I not only majored in history, but also concentrated in mathematics, especially as it related to economics. For a year, I acted as an economic research assistant, and, following that, I worked on a joint project with the Federal Reserve Bank and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) doing empirical research in labor economics. During the summer after my junior year, I received a research grant from Columbia, the Edwin Robbins Prize, for my senior thesis: "New York Organized Labor and Prohibition Resistance: The 'No Beer, No Work' Movement of 1919." A forgotten moment in labor history, it was a fascinating intersection of culture, gender, and class, examining the untidy boundary between "economic" and "social" life. Some local trade-unionists co-opted a catchy slogan, "No Beer, No Work," with the intent of fomenting a national general strike, attempting to save the saloon, galvanize class consciousness, and lead workers into a labor party. The strike more than failed; it never occurred. However, teasing out the relationships between the primary documents excited me like nothing I had ever done before. Though I continued to work at the Federal Reserve the following year, I knew the historian's methods, and not the economist's, were what I wanted to pursue in my graduate work. This year I received a Fulbright Scholarship to research working-class history at the University of Toronto. Presently, my research centers on the rise of Canadian nationalism in Toronto within U.S.-dominated unions after WWII. I examine how anti-Communist discourses restricted and/or enabled nationalist movements within the union hierarchy, and how that affected transnational power relations and local economic/political action. My abstract is under consideration for a conference on transnationalism, Crossing Borders, to take place in February at the University of Toronto. I also plan to present a paper, based on my senior thesis, on working-class resistance to Prohibition at the "New Frontiers in Graduate History" conference at York University in March.