History Program Alumni Resources

Alumni Stories

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Sarah Jensen, Class of '05

  • B.A. in History.
  • M.A. Teaching (Social Studies), Binghamton University.

Learning the tools of Teaching

After graduating from Plattsburgh in 2005 with a degree in history and dual minors in French and theatre, I chose to pursue my life-long dream of acting in New York City. For two years I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and worked on television shows, films, and commercials. During that time I became a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and was able to thoroughly experience the “showbiz” industry. Although living in New York was amazing, I realized that what I really wanted to do was teach. I decided to attend graduate school and in 2008 I earned my master’s degree in teaching social studies from Binghamton University.

Teaching is a life changing career. I currently teach ninth and tenth grade global history at Greene High School, in Greene, New York. Teenagers are an interesting group of people and I love working with them everyday. Along with teaching I also coach various sports. I have coached soccer and basketball and in my second year at Greene I started the first girl’s golf team.

Not only does my career choice allow me to do what I love every day, it has also opened many doors to once in a life-time opportunities for me. One such example is the student trip I chaperoned in July 2011 to South America. There I had the opportunity to explore Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with a great group of students. I am also lucky to chaperone the American Legion’s Girls Leadership Conference each May in Albany, NY. At this conference a select group of bright young girls is given the opportunity to tour the capitol and meet with state representatives. It is great to have these out of the classroom experiences for my students to gain first-hand knowledge about the world we live in.

Plattsburgh’s history department made an enormous impact on my life and my career as an educator. My experience in classes I took at Plattsburgh enables me to stimulate my students with fascinating information that is often left out of social studies text books. Through the research projects required for History 385 and 485, I discovered a great deal about the “other” persecuted groups during the Holocaust. Even after countless incredible classes, the senior project I completed was the most exciting assignment I carried out at Plattsburgh. Dr. Skopp and Dr. Neuhaus were the catalysts behind it; they were very supportive of the topic choice as well as the medium with which I presented my research. After months of research on these persecuted groups and a week spent at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., I presented my findings as a museum display in the Feinburg Library. I am able to bring that information into my classroom and each year many of the students tell me that they had little prior knowledge, if any at all, of the “other” groups that were persecuted by Nazi Germany.

The majority of the classes I teach are based on critical thinking, analysis, and discussion. This style was introduced to me by my history professors at Plattsburgh. I am optimistic that my teaching style and involvement in extracurricular activities will leave a lasting impression on the lives of young people just as my professors made on me.

I cannot say enough great things about Plattsburgh State. I encourage students from my school to consider Plattsburgh when pursuing higher education.

David Nicandri, Class of '70

  • B.A. in History
  • Executive Director, Washington State Historical Society

Photo of David Nicandri A Life in Public History

"After graduation from Plattsburgh I attended the University of Idaho where I secured a Master's Degree in History. Indeed, Idaho had been recommended to me by one of my professors at Plattsburgh, David Glaser, who had secured his doctorate there. Though I toyed with the idea of pursuing an academic career in history, the field of public history was just beginning to emerge as a major option for history graduates. So I started as an intern at the State Capital Museum in Olympia in 1972 and slowly worked my way up through the field, becoming head of the Washington State Historical Society in 1987.

"One aspect of historical administration that I have always appreciated is the large volume of people--students on field trips; scholars doing research; folks visiting museums and historic sites--that you can reach. Presently I am spending a lot of my time on the Lewis and Clark bicentennial.

"In fact, I'm hoping to put the finishing touches on a book about the Corps of Discovery later this year or early next, tentatively entitled: Lewis and Clark on the Snake and Columbia Rivers: An Environmental History.

"I tell people that I became the person I am as a result of my education at Plattsburgh. I benefited from an absolutely outstanding faculty at Plattsburgh come to mind in particular. The intellectual environment was rigorous and provided me with a set of skills and outlooks that have lasted me a lifetime."

Contact David Nicandri

David Schmitz '78

  • B.A. in History
  • Allen Skotheim Chair of History at Whitman College

Photo of David's book, The Triumph of Internationalism A B.A. in History Led to a Distinguished Career

David Schmitz received his B.A. from the SUNY Plattsburgh, his M.A. from the SUNY Stony Brook, and his Ph.D. in American History from Rutgers University in 1985. His areas of expertise are 20th century United States History, American foreign policy, the Vietnam War, and popular culture.

He is the author of six books, The Triumph of Internationalism: Franklin D. Roosevelt and a World in Crisis, 1933-1941 (2007); The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1965-1989 (2006); The Tet Offensive: Politics, War, and Public Opinion (2005); Henry L. Stimson: The First Wise Man (2001); Thank God They're on Our Side: The United States and Right-Wing Dictatorships, 1921-1965 (1999); The United States and Fascist Italy, 1922-1940 (1988); and the editor and contributor to two others, Appeasement in Europe (1990 with Richard Challener); and Architects of the American Century (2000 with T. Christopher Jespersen).

Over the course of his career, Dr. Schmitz has received numerous awards for his teaching and scholarship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Foundation, and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Association.

Dustin Relation, Class of '07

  • B.A./M.S.T. in History Education
  • Altona Educator

My First Class in History Made Me Change My Major

"When my college search began SUNY Plattsburgh never crossed my mind as a possibility as it seemed too 'close to home!' As a local resident I felt the need, as many students do, to 'get away,' only to find that it was not for me. After returning home and enrolling at SUNY Plattsburgh, I began my studies in Political Science with the intention of attending law school after graduation. However, after taking HIS 102 I realized that history and the field of teaching would always be my true passion.

"This class exposed me to a whole new way of looking at historical events, something I will never forget. As a result I changed my major to History Education, participating in our education department's new combined B.A./M.S.T. program. The benefits of this program are monumental, and the skills learned through the history courses I have taken are indispensable. From discussing the natives of Haida Gwaii, to researching the Volkswagen Beetle, my history professors have greatly increased my passion for history. Most importantly, through a summer independent study I have developed an oral history project revolving around a former school in my community, Altona Central (with the help of fellow student and community member Maria Forkey).

"As I have said my background in history has greatly enhanced my research skills as well as my ability to question arguments and so called 'facts.' Currently I am working on the completion of my Master's in Student Teaching here at Plattsburgh, while substitute teaching, working part time, and continuing my research on Altona. I have recently developed a website for my Education Technology course, and was able to place a large part of the Altona collection online for those former students who no longer live in the area to visit. I hope to continue this project well into my teaching career, as well as expand on it as much as possible. However, Altona is no longer my only research interest, I have also begun to look into the pros and cons of rural schools and small communities, especially in terms of the educational benefits and setbacks.

"Thank-you does not seem like enough to say to the professors that have given me so much. The way the combined program is structured allows for a great amount of work in your concentration as well as educational topics. Students are exposed to their content as well as the proper teaching strategies, making seamless connections between content and teaching. In high school I found history interesting, but somewhat lacking. After taking courses at SUNY Plattsburgh I have realized that history can be much more interesting, especially if you take a more popular culture/social look. I feel that this "new look" will not only interest high school students, but will hopefully help them become more prepared for their future exams and careers. I certainly cannot wait to get into the classroom and try out all of my new ideas!"

Nick Favicchio, Class of '04

  • B.A. in History

Photo of Nick Faviccio singing at a concert A Somewhat Different Path

"It's hard to say just how my time at Plattsburgh and my degree in history has helped me to where I am today. I've heard it said all too often that a B.A. in History and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee. Florence King - and I apologize for quoting Florence King - said a B.A. in the humanities qualifies you to do crossword puzzles in ink.

"These sorts of statements miss the point. A degree in history is not a magic key to a steady 9 to 5, 401k and the path of least resistance. A degree in history is a step towards questioning, towards citizenship on high, towards something more than textured fabric walls, a kitsch Garfield mug and cooler gossip. For me, it has been a major step towards the road less traveled. I'll admit I've become very fond of the dramatic, but in all sincerity - hyperbole aside - a degree in history has been a stepping stone towards a much richer life.

"After graduation from Plattsburgh, Nate Delbel (also an '04 graduate) and I hiked the Appalachian Trail together for two months. Following this trip I took a job in my home town of Rhinebeck, New York, with the solar electric design and installation company Hudson Valley Clean Energy as a photovoltaics installer. After a little less than a year I left the Hudson Valley for Maine to work as a trail crew leader for the Maine Conservation Corps, building upon my experiences working on the Adirondack Mountain Club's trail crew during my summers at Plattsburgh.

"Coming back home from Maine I was disappointed with work prospects in and around Rhinebeck so I took off across the country, first to San Diego and then up Highway 1 to San Francisco and Oakland where I stayed with friends and worked as a street canvasser for Environment California. From The Bay Area I continued north to Seattle where I again found work in photovoltaics for the Seattle based Household Power. Recently I've left Seattle and currently reside in a 1971 Superior Coach school bus with my lovely ladyfriend Julia Richfield outside of Olympia, Washington. This coming fall I will be attending The Evergreen State College to pursue a Master's in Teaching and am currently pursuing work as a substitute teacher. At the time of this writing, I am nearly finished with my first novel, Little Song.

"How does a degree in history from Plattsburgh fit into all this? My coursework in the American environmental movement and deep ecology instilled a profound passion and desire to see and to give to the great American landscape. Everything I have done and everything I have seen has been richer, more focused, via what I learned during my tenure at Plattsburgh. From driving through the impossible landscapes of the southwest to playing music on the streets of St Louis and Taos, from the rooftops of Port Townsend to the pygmy horses of the Grayson Highlands, without understanding what came before what we see in the present is a shell, a ghost without a past, a meager imitation of the vastness and myriad forms that are with us every second of every day. If it were not for my time at Plattsburgh, in particular with history faculty, I would not have the eyes, would not have had the understanding and the courage to go forth, to question, and try something new. I am deeply grateful for my time spent at Plattsburgh."

Blake Harrison, Class of '92

  • B.A. in History, Minor in Geography
  • Professor of History and Geography

Black and white photo of Blake Harrison Photo of Blake's book, The View from Vermont I Discovered That History Is More Than Just Memorizing Facts

"I signed up for a history class with Dr. Skopp in the spring of 1989, and on the very first day of class I knew I had found a major. It was truly a light-bulb moment in my life: ('Wow! So that's what it means to study history.') Caught in a high-school history mentality, I had no idea up until that point that history was about more than the memorization of unchanging facts. What I learned on that first day was that history was about inquiry, analysis, debate, and critical thinking. It was about asking questions, finding answers, and then asking more questions. What I learned since that first day of history class in 1989 is that skills such as these apply to much more than the study of history.

"After graduating in 1992 with a major in history and a minor in geography (and after a number of years working an assortment of jobs), I entered graduate school in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There I studied a combination of Cultural/Historical Geography and Environmental History. Since getting a Ph.D. in 2003, I have taught history and geography courses at a number of institutions including Montana State University, Yale University, Southern Connecticut State University, and Quinnipiac University.

"I am very proud to say that I am a graduate of the history department at SUNY Plattsburgh. There I got the attention and respect that I needed to make the most of my time in college, and there I got the kind of training I needed to eventually move on to a Ph.D. program. Many thanks to all those who I worked with, and best of luck to all the new faces--student and teacher alike--who now make up the history department."

Contact Blake Harrison

Tommy McGowen, Class of '06

  • B.A in History, Minor in Psychology
  • Graduate Study at St. Lawrence University in Teaching

Photo of Tommy McGowen at the Grand Canyon The Professors Helped Me Develop Strong Communication Skills

"I am proud to say I received my History degree from SUNY Plattsburgh. Growing up in the Plattsburgh area, I never anticipated I would stay for college. Originally, I could not decide which career path I would enjoy most. After taking several courses with SUNY Plattsburgh's history department, I became hooked.

"The faculty offers more than a lecture and office hours. They also connect with students and present a welcoming invitation into research. The many papers and projects I completed have helped me to develop stronger communication skills, and a greater sense of confidence. The capstone of the program, a semester long research project, left me feeling accomplished and proud of my academic success. Several History classes also directed me towards choosing my minor in psychology. 

"Since receiving my B.A in history, I have been in graduate school at St. Lawrence University pursuing my Masters in teaching. My initial certification will be K-12 as a Social Studies teacher. My research development at SUNY Plattsburgh has been a great asset for the Masters program. With only two semesters left I am beginning to look at several doctoral programs in New York State. I can confidently say, I am not intimidated by the work required for this degree because of the History program at SUNY Plattsburgh."

Jaclyne Demarse-Marcil, Class of '06

  • B.A. in History and Latin American (dual major)

My History Classes Helped Me Excel in My Internship

"Historians don't often have the opportunity to create primary sources. Usually, creating your own sources is frowned upon for various academic reasons--but that's exactly what my history major prepared me for: a State Department internship in which I was participating in the researching, writing and editing primary sources. The ability to analyze documents, research topics and present information was something I felt confident that I could do, as a result of my work in history classes.

"Since graduating in May 06 with a B.A in History and Latin American studies, I've continued to seek positions and opportunities that allow me to be involved in the development of public policy and public betterment. At the beginning of September I started a year of volunteer service with AmeriCorps in Chapel Hill, NC where I am working with the UNC Chapel Hill LiteracyCorps, to help evolve the English as a Second or Other Language Programs (ESOL) in Orange County. While it's not directly 'doing' history, my history background is helpful because so much of the adult ESOL curriculum is about preparing migrants to complete citizenship requirements and pass the citizenship test. My background in Latin American studies is also helpful because of the concentration of Latino migrants in this community--I can approach lesson development and program assessment from a culturally aware background and can recommend programs and lessons that recognize various cultural traditions and cultural values that are different from those in the US. In this way, I'm using both of my majors in one setting.

"I hope to start graduate school next fall, and I will be pursuing a graduate degree in global public policy and international relations. From there, who knows?--I'd like to do a little of everything--some think tank work, maybe return to the government, possibly teach at the college level."

Paul Tammany, Class of '05

  • B.A. in Adolescence History Education 7-12

 I've Learned That I Have the Ability to Succeed

"I have been out of college for a little bit over a year and a half and I realize how far I have come due to the history major at SUNY Plattsburgh and the history faculty that I worked with to attain this major. One of the best contributions I got from this program and the faculty was a sense of 'self.' I learned to have confidence in my own abilities and have faith in myself to know that I can succeed in whatever task I focus upon.

"From my first history class I was taught the 'tools of the historical trade.' Through my many history classes, I was taught how to write for a purpose and how to converse fluently my thoughts and ideas. I was able to learn how to analyze what is being expressed and to question what is being provided so I can better understand what I need to know to fulfill the many tasks that life presents. The skills I learned in the history program helped me succeed in the many classes I had to take at SUNY Plattsburgh.

"The history faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh was a source of support and knowledge that I found as a constant during my four years SUNY Plattsburgh. I have good memories of walking the halls of C.V. Hall (where the offices for the history faculty are located) and conversing with the numerous faculty members who were there.

"I found the history department's open door policies to be a comfort and never felt intimidated to talk to both my current and past professors. The offices and faculty were always welcoming and I found myself feeling at ease not only talking about history and current events but also whatever was on my mind. I found the history faculty were always helpful in bouncing ideas off of for future papers and were helpful in providing ideas and resources to help a student nurture their thought process or navigate new thought processes. I found the history department to be a place of awe-inspiring good nature and warmth. I found the history faculty worked well together and if one professor was not in his office another professor would try and help you the best he or she could with a paper or project.

"Through my own hard work and the help and guidance of the incredible faculty in the SUNY Plattsburgh History Department I was able to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Plattsburgh and easily enter into a fine masters program to further my education. Through the past year I have continued my success in my higher learning as well as in my life outside of a college setting. I know that who I am as well as my success both during and after Plattsburgh is partially to due to the history program at SUNY Plattsburgh as well as the faculty in the history department that guided my learning and provided me with the tools I needed to succeed."

Sarah Jensen, Class of '05

  • B.A. in History
  • Actor

Photo of Sarah Jensen History and the Footlights

"Graduation came and went and I set aside my history aspirations to pursue an acting career. Since the move to Manhattan in May, I have worked as an extra on the soap opera, "One Life to Live," and won my first film speaking role in August, in the feature film "Undone." I am a member of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Arts, and by getting two speaking lines in "Undone," I became a member of the Screen Actors Guild. I have also worked behind the scenes as a production assistant on a new reality show pilot, "Surprise" for the Bravo network.

"How did the SUNY Plattsburgh History Department help get me to where I am today? That is a very good question! My goal with my history degree was, and is, to get my masters in teaching and become a high school social studies teacher and an athletics coach. But as my acting career uses my history degree in various ways. I have great confidence in speaking in front of people, thanks to the presentations I gave in my classes. At the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I have to write numerous papers, that I am comfortable writing because of my research and writing education. I research a great deal on the Internet, and I write documents, including letters, and mission statements. I also help in the creative process of website production. Though I am not currently continuing my studies in history, or using my knowledge of history everyday, the important life/communication skills that my history professors taught me are being used every day.

"Show Biz" is a difficult career to break into. I am competing with a million people everyday, so if this career choice doesn't work out, I will be just as happy with teaching and hopefully making a difference in others' lives, like my professors did at Plattsburgh."

Trish Melton, Class of '03

  • B.A. in History, Minors in Archaeology and Political Science

Photo of Trish Melton and friend in Iraq I Didn't Learn Just What to Think, But Instead How to Think - And That's Made All the Difference

"As a history major at SUNY Plattsburgh, I was often asked the same question over and over again 'What are you going to do with a history degree?' And I would always smile and then try to actually figure out what I wanted out of life just like every other college student. Being a history major doesn't necessarily mean one has to teach it - I knew that I myself didn't want to teach. But at SUNY Plattsburgh, I was able to acquire and develop so many important skills - researching, problem solving, analyzing and synthesizing information - that most don't even realize comes with a history degree.

"Sure, I learned a lot of history lessons over the years - from East Asian history U.S migration, but I didn't learn just what to think, but instead how to think - and that's made all the difference. I graduated with a major in history and double-minors in archaeology and political science. And now, I'm getting the opportunity to use what I learned at SUNY Plattsburgh and actually live and work where history is in the making.

"In the three years since I graduated as a history major at SUNY Plattsburgh, my life has been turned completely upside down and gone in the most opposite direction I ever thought possible. When I graduated, I was like every other college graduate- bright eyed and ready to take on the future. Little did I know what that was going to entail.

"I was quite proud of myself when I was hired by KBR-Halliburton to work overseas in Iraq. Sure, it didn't have much to do with a history degree, but all of those skills I had learned when I was reading those books and articles, preparing project presentations and writing paper after paper helped shape me into an educated prepared adult. I spent a year in Kuwait City, Kuwait doing payroll, working 84 hours a week most of the time.

"Amazingly, there was still time to see the country and the culture. It was the kind of experience you just can't get out of a book or from a class. What I learned there helped me to understand the history that is being made over there in the Middle East as we speak.

"Since working over there, I became a wife and a mother and just as I was happily settling down into those roles, disaster struck.

"Hurricane Katrina has been called the worst national disaster this country has ever seen. I don't think any words of mine can express just how much of a disaster it truly was and still is as the aftermath still continues a year later."

Contact Trish Melton

Stacey Pratt '98

  • B.A. in History
  • Graduate Study at the University of Michigan 's Program in American Culture

Photo of Stacey Pratt A Strong Foundation in History

"Not so long ago, I ran into Dr. Lindgren in Plattsburgh. I was pleasantly surprised to see him and, as we talked, I realized just how important SUNY Plattsburgh has been in my life. Although I had not spoken with Dr. Lindgren in about three years--when he served on my field exam committee--our conversation seemed like it picked up from where we left off the week before. Perhaps that's the greatest part of Plattsburgh 's History Department.

"When I graduated in 1998 and began my graduate studies in the University of Michigan 's Program in American Culture, I knew that I had a wonderful support system in place. For one thing, I knew that the Professors who had helped me so much during my time at SUNY Plattsburgh would welcome e-mails with questions and vacation visits to say hi. More importantly, I knew that the skills I'd learned under their instruction would see me through anything that came my way.

"Thus, although the size of the University of Michigan campus certainly intimidated me, the work did not. I entered my first semester of classes concerned about what I did and did not know, and left them convinced that I knew how to ask questions, how to express myself clearly, and how to live that decidedly academic life of research and writing. As my studies progressed, I was able to add new experiences to the mix: interning at the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, where I worked on the Dymaxion House exhibit; presenting a paper at the GLASA conference in Muncie, Indiana; working at the graduate library reference desk; publishing an entry on vacations for the Encyclopedia of the American Family; and teaching college writing, where I realized that, no matter what else happened, I wanted to be a teacher like those I so admired at Plattsburgh.

"SUNY Plattsburgh helped me to achieve all of these things by giving me the best foundation possible. Now, as I am revising my dissertation, I feel that foundation constantly. Everything from the intensive rethinking I am doing (simply because, at SUNY Plattsburgh, I learned that revision requires seeing and considering the materials again) to the list of endnotes started at Plattsburgh. My teaching style, too, was learned from the professors: I've even quoted some of them in statements of teaching philosophy.

"As I sit here today, teaching at a high school in Vermont, applying for jobs at colleges, and rewriting my dissertation, I know that I have a lot for which I am grateful. The SUNY Plattsburgh History Department ranks high on that list."

Marie Mitchell, Class of '04

  • B.A. in History and English (dual major)
  • M.S.T. in Adolescence English 7-12

The Friendships I've Made Here Are Rewarding

"Being a history major complements my studies in English literature beautifully. I am able to look at the world through two lenses of the same color, and see, in slightly different tones, a whole spectrum of interpretation. Unquestionably, the study of history here at SUNY Plattsburgh has been a study in sensitivity, in the realization that history is not always one lonely, illuminating discovery, but a rich interweaving of many.

Marie Mitchell (left)
& Katie Morris (right)

"I think that this is in large part due to the fantastic caliber of faculty that we are privileged to have here. The diverse, though equally tremendous members of the department have dedicated their lives to their profession and it is the most that I, as a student, could ever ask for. Besides being scholars themselves, they encourage the same in their students, allowing endless time to talk through assignments and general questions about life. I feel welcomed and completely at ease with people who would otherwise be very intimidating- if their personalities were only represented by their scholarly attributes. I owe them for encouraging me, for allowing me to question myself and my world, for modeling the standards of critical thinking that I am trying to reach.

"The interpretive, analytical thought process is at times exasperating, but out of momentary frustration comes exceeding rewards. The more efforts I make to expand my mind, the easier it becomes to grasp concepts that were once completely foreign.

"As a history major I struggle with stimulating questions, both intellectually and emotionally. Sitting in the history classroom is an unparalleled experience at Plattsburgh. Every class that I have taken has fostered an open, thought provoking atmosphere. It has taught me to write with passion and with a confident voice.

"Studying history here has ultimately increased my thoughtfulness, my sense of place, and my patience. I have grown as a person unto myself and as a member of the human community. I have also developed close personal friendships with people like myself who have a love of this discipline, who are grappling with and ask thoughtful questions, and who are experiencing the same struggles and successes. This is even more important to me than any other place my history degree will take me in the future."

Katie Morris, Class of '04

  • B.A. in History
  • M.S.T. in Adolescence Social Studies 7-12

Inspiring Classes Gave Me the Confidence to Become a Teacher

"The History Program here at SUNY Plattsburgh helped me to focus my college agenda and guided me in the direction of my future academic career. The faculty here have not only inspired me but also have welcomed me into the program. Being readily available, they helped with scheduling and recommending what classes would be most useful and stimulating.

"The wide spectrum of various classes that I have taken aided in my knowledge of the past. The program offers many opportunities to enrich your mind with exciting classes and subjects. Overall, the history program has taught me how to be a better writer, speaker and thinker. It has taught me to reflect on every day life in a historical context, and to appreciate life to different degrees. Essentially, this program has given me confidence to feel prepared to progress into a field of teaching history. It has given me the background I need to help others find their paths to the past."

Tim Sarrantonio, Class of '04

  • B.A. in History

Photo of Tim Sarrantonio Studying the Past Changed My Outlook on Life

"There is something mystical about touching letters written by someone over seventy years ago. It is almost like reaching back in time and having a conversation with someone who lived their own life in another time and another place, creating a story through actions and written word. It can almost be seen as a reincarnation in a way, where you're talking to someone from the past. This is what studying history at SUNY Plattsburgh is like. There is nothing like it, especially when compared to my other classes. While the academic program at Plattsburgh is great overall, there is something about being able to connect with the past that makes the history program so alluring. I remember when I was in high school and I had a conversation about choosing a major: history or political science? Then I remembered the quote, 'Those who forget the past are damned to repeat it.'

"This is what I live by, where history isn't dusty books talking about events that occurred long ago and have no relevance to today. The past weighs upon the present like a load of bricks and an intense history discipline is the only way to decipher and understand it. It is also amazing how my other skills have developed because of the faculty who teach in the history program at Plattsburgh. I can write consistently and articulately, communicate on an even greater level than before, and think more critically than I have been at any other time at my life. Several of the courses I have taken in my pursuit of a history degree have changed my outlook on life, which is not a light thing to say. I am not only proud to be a history major at Plattsburgh but also seek to educate those about the amazing potential of historical study."

Chris Davies, Class of '03

  • B.A. in History and English Literature (dual major)
  • Graduate Studies in Modern Irish History

Photo of Chris Davies at the University of Oxford, Balliol College Supportive Faculty Helped Me Reach My Goals

"In 2003 I received my B.A. from SUNY Plattsburgh where I majored in both History and English Literature. As a student of Irish History, I researched the Limerick General Strike of 1919 for my senior project and developed a paper which analyzed the role of nationalism in the event, contradicting most of the existing historical interpretations. I went on to study at Yale University in 2004, where I recently received my M.A. in European History, and am currently a student in the Ph.D. program at the University of Oxford, where I study Modern Irish History at Balliol College.

"While enrolled at SUNY Plattsburgh I was quite impressed with the History program as a whole, curriculum as well as faculty. Modern Irish History is a field which is often underrepresented in history programs throughout the United States. Yet, despite this narrow specification, I was pleasantly surprised when SUNY Plattsburgh matched me with an Irish historian in the department to supervise my senior project. Similarly, in addition to advanced courses in European and American History, the SUNY Plattsburgh history program offers a wide variety of interesting courses in fields such as Canadian, Latin American, Irish, and Asian history as well as specialized topical courses on subjects such as Fascism, Colonialism, and Genocide.

"The structure of the History program at Plattsburgh is also a strength, as the department provides an ample foundation for further academic study while allowing the flexibility to pursue interdisciplinary interests that may dictate the future trajectory of its student's career paths. The introductory core requirement provides a detailed framework for historical research and both the junior and senior projects offer students opportunities to hone their analytical skills and focus their historical interests. At the same time, the program offers the flexibility to explore other interests which are often interconnected. For instance, while at Plattsburgh I was able to devote time to English Literature as well as history, undertaking an independent study project which helped me fulfill my English Literature requirements by combining Irish literature and Irish history in a comprehensive research project that involved both disciplines.

"Perhaps the greatest asset of the program, however, is the attentiveness of the faculty in shepherding their students through the academic process while encouraging them to explore the depths of their historical interests. Upon entering my senior year I hadn't intended on applying to graduate programs until several faculty members in the department suggested I further my academic pursuits. It is their guidance, encouragement and teaching abilities that have allowed me to excel in my academic endeavors beyond SUNY Plattsburgh and reach my goals as a historian. The attention paid to their students and dedication to their work is undeniably a testament to the quality of the History program at SUNY Plattsburgh."

James Fennessey, Class of '99

  • B.A. in History and English (dual major)

Photo of James Fennessey at the ocean "I received my B.A. from SUNY Plattsburgh in 1999, where I majored in both History and English and completed a senior project in which I analyzed the history of Irish representation and how these depictions connect to contemporary images of Irish Republicans in Hollywood film.

"After working for a year as a Teacher's Assistant at Beekmantown School in upstate New York, I moved to San Francisco, where I pursued an M.A. in Cinema Studies at San Francisco State University (S.F.S.U.) and completed a thesis entitled THE SCORPION: The Hollywood Irish Republican and the Structure of Whiteness, a more in-depth study of the project I began at SUNY Plattsburgh. I have presented my research at various conferences and will have a paper entitled "'I suspect Old Moses knows just about everything': Voice-Over Narration and Race in The Hudsucker Proxy" published in a forthcoming issue of Ohio University's Black Praxis. I am currently working as a Library Assistant at S.F.S.U. and applying to Ph.D. programs for the fall of 2004."

Matt Bamberger, Class of '03

  • B.A. in History
  • M.S.T. in Adolescence Social Studies 7-12
  • Global and Local Educator

Photo of Matt Bamberger on a hiking in the woods past a stream Studying History Helped Me to Mature Mentally and Globally

"Since graduation in the spring of 2003 my SUNY Plattsburgh degree has carried me to Alaska and back. For two months I worked in Kodiak, Alaska testing the waters of cross-cultural social work. Since this past summer in Kodiak, I have been working in the Saranac School district substitute teaching in their social studies department.

"My experience in the SUNY Plattsburgh History Department extended from the classroom and across the Atlantic to the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. During my four years in the History Program, I matured mentally and globally, gaining a broader perspective of the world we live in and the factors that influence our lives.

"The critical reading and writing skills taught by each professor enhanced my ability to be an objective thinker and to use a historical perspective to interpret key events in the past and present. The climax of this growth culminated in my senior project titled "Packaging Nature: Gore Mountain Ski Development and Recreational Uses of the Adirondack Park." This capstone paper tested the skills that I acquired during the previous three years and developed out of my own original research to explore the interpretation of recreational use of land in the Adirondack Park and the consequences of this use. Gore Mountain Ski Area located in North Creek, New York serves as the center of my work and is the focus for development problems that have plagued the park in the past and will continue to harm it in the future.

"After four years of school and not being quite sure who I was before I started, I can now say that my experience at SUNY Plattsburgh, more specifically in the History department, made me more mature, more global, and more critical of the world we live in. Now, as I embark on the road toward graduate school, in secondary education, I plan to use my experience as a student in the history department as a firm foundation for starting a career as a teacher and mentor."

Contact Matt Bamberger

Neil Buffett, Class of '01

  • B.A. in History, Minor in Political Science
  • Advanced Study at Graduate School

The History Program Has Been Inspirational

"I graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2001 with a B.A. in History and a minor in Political Science. I found that studying at SUNY Plattsburgh prepared me personally and intellectually for the rigors of my future graduate work.

"In December of 2002, I graduated with my M.A. in American History from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. While studying in Albany, I was afforded the opportunity to present my research at George Washington University and University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

"Currently, I am working towards my Ph.D. in 20th Century U.S History at Stony Brook University on Long Island, studying with environmental historian Christopher Sellers. My research focuses on urban/suburban history, post World War II race relations, the environment, and environmentalism. My dissertation will highlight high school student activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"Working with Dr. James Lindgren of SUNY Plattsburgh's History Dept. on my Senior Project, greatly influenced me in my pursuit of a Ph.D. in history. Other members of the diverse faculty also influenced me and helped me to grow as an individual and as an historian.

"The open atmosphere of the History Dept. fostered a great many intellectual and personal friendships which began during my years of study. Those relationships and what I have learned from them have been an inspiration for me in the five years since I left SUNY Plattsburgh."

Contact Neil Buffett

James Parillo, Class of '94

  • B.A. in History
  • Executive Director of Historical Society of Saratoga Springs

My Internship Prepared Me for My Career in History

"When I declared history as my major, the first question I was usually asked was, 'Where do you hope to teach?' When I replied that I wanted to work in a museum, the responses received ranged from frowns to looks of bewilderment. Here I am nearly 10 years later, and my B.A. in History from SUNY Plattsburgh has enabled me to pursue this career.

"The experience I gained from class work, my internship at the Clinton County Historical Association, and using the resources of the Special Collections of Feinberg Library all contributed to building a foundation for this occupation.

"Immediately following graduation I began museum work with the National Park Service. Following that I served as Executive Director of the Fort at No. 4 Living History Museum in Charlestown, New Hampshire. I am currently the Executive Director of the Historical Society of Saratoga Springs. History is also my hobby as I am an avid re-enactor of the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. I love to study and learn about the past, and live it."

Sarah Swedberg, Class of '92

  • B.A. in History
  • Professor of American and Women's History

My Study of History Encouraged a Life of Inquiry

"I received my Ph.D. in 1999 from Northeastern University with fields in American and World history. My research focuses on family and women's history in the Early American Republic. Most recently I have been working on women's private writing about their emotions and the connections between this writing and the published sentimental fiction of the day. In 1999 I accepted a tenure track job at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado, where I have been teaching ever since. I teach courses in early North America, women's history, slavery, and Latin American history."

"The Early American Republic fascinates me because very little was settled; ideas such as women's citizenship and abolition were talked about (although often dismissed). I became involved in studying this era during the senior seminar with Altina Waller. The senior seminar turned obsession and I continued my research in that area for another semester, concluding with an honor's thesis. My professors actively encouraged this life of inquiry, provided me with guidance, asked interesting questions, and taught me also to ask interesting questions of both primary and secondary sources."

Tommy Szarka, Class of '98

  • B.A. in History
  • Author

SUNY Plattsburgh Helped Broaden My Horizons and Gave Me the Freedom to Grow

"Since graduating from Plattsburgh in 1998, I have worked for the Watertown Daily Times as a sportswriter and also as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Clarkson University.

"Over the last year, before returning to Clarkson for a second tenure in the sports information office, I lived in Boston where I was able to use that city's many educational resource centers, including the Boston Public Library and Boston College's library. I spent many, many hours in the libraries conducting research for new projects while I searched for a literary agent and publisher for my first book, McGuire the Pitcher, which was completed in March 2001. Fortunately, both of those searches were fairly short.

"I must say that the history department at SUNY Plattsburgh was an integral part of my development as a writer. I feel that all of the professors aided me quite significantly. Despite his hopes that I would broaden my horizons, Dr. Skopp allowed me to research and write papers on baseball frequently and I appreciate his patience and leniency in this matter. Dr. Voss acted in an advisory role during my senior project and helped provide me with a focal point in the endeavor.

"The entire department's allowance for writing freedom in non-traditional subject matter certainly made my time at Plattsburgh much more enjoyable and made all of the projects and homework a labor of love rather than just being arduous and toilsome. The freedom provided by the SUNY Plattsburgh History department helped me nurture my creative side and has certainly contributed to my early success as a writer."

Photo of Tommy's book jacket for McGwire the Pitcher PublishAmerica Presents Abner's Curse by Tommy Szarka (Press Release)

Frederick, MD April 12, 2007 -- PublishAmerica is proud to present Abner's Curse: A Diary of Essays from a Baseball Itinerant by Tommy Szarka of Potsdam, New York.

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." Rogers Hornsby

In the days before travel was simple, before directions were more than a mouse-click away, and depression ran rampant, Hornsby spoke for every baseball fan with this famous quote. Fortunately, the world has changed.

After hundreds of hours of preparation prior to each baseball season, the author travels across the country on various jaunts, and during the 2006 season he decided to share the majesty of the game and its players along with its accompanying sights, sounds, fans, ballparks, promotions and the surrounding world. Infusing baseball with incidents from the author's past, pop culture, humor and social commentary, Abner's Curse allows readers to live vicariously through a nomadic baseball fan and his sojourns to ballparks from Portland, Maine, to Phoenix, Arizona.

Excerpt from jacket of Tommy Szarka's book, McGwire the Pitcher: Baseball's Alternate History (PublishAmerica, 2002):

"Back in the spring of 1981, a then 17-year-old high school senior had to make one of the biggest decisions of his life. No, it wasn't about whom he was going to take to the prom or whether or not to try beer. Mark McGwire was given the weighty decision of whether he would start a professional baseball career as a pitcher with the Montreal Expos, or accept a baseball scholarship at the University of Southern California. He chose the latter and the rest, as they say, is history. Or is it? Every chapter in McGwire the Pitcher: Baseball's Alternate History examines some of the biggest decisions in baseball history, some tragic and some trivial, to see what might have happened, if, at a critical moment, the choice was altered. The casual wonders of baseball fans are answered in the historical fiction vignettes of McGwire the Pitcher."

Are you a Plattsburgh Alumnus?

The SUNY Plattsburgh History Department is very interested in hearing from our Plattsburgh alumni. Please contact us and tell us of your movements and achievements. Please call, write a letter, or send an e-mail to:

Gary Kroll
History Department
SUNY Plattsburgh
101 Broad St.
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
Phone: (518) 564-2738
E-mail: gary.kroll@plattsburgh.edu