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Department of History : Fellows Comments

Fellow's Comments

The entire experience was extremely valuable. It provided tools for teaching both graduates and undergraduates the importance of military history and the role of the military in American society. In so doing it helps bridge the dangerous gap between those involved in defending the country and the many of whom are uninformed about that task and its very real burdens. The multiplier effect of better informing a group who can then communicate their ideas to a large body of students around the country and the world is very effective.
The Seminar Staff did an outstanding job of assembling the program, which was broad based and informative. They also adapted to the need to modify events because of weather and other factors. Members of the history department gave of their own time to include unscheduled events, like the tour of Fort Putnam. Perhaps the most lasting effect will be the relationships with colleagues, both among the faculty and the fellows.
The Summer Seminar compares favorably with other institutions, such as Harvard’s Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, and is of great value to the participants and their institutions. Thanks very much for providing me the opportunity to participate.
-C. Thomas Long, Assistant Professorial Lecturer in History, The George Washington University, Class of 2009
Overall I was very impressed with the organization. I was also very impressed by the quality of the staff at the History Department at West Point. All did well/very well in their presentations.
Through this Summer Seminar, US Military Academy has generously provided us an insight into its extremely rich intellectual treasury. I do feel very fortunate to have been in this Seminar this Summer and I thank once again the organizers and donors for making this possible and for executing it with such a high level of professionalism.
The lectures were of a high quality and very interesting in this section of the seminar. . . . I really learned some great techniques that I can use to teach military history.
In general, what impressed me the most over the course of the entire program was the intellectual honesty, openness, and willingness to debate/discuss issues that, in another forum, would perhaps have been more difficult to achieve.
I arrived at West Point with somewhat preconceived notions of what I would be hearing and seeing regarding the US Army, the use of history, and contemporary operations. . . . I am leaving with completely different (and much more favourable) impressions, at least of the “sharp edge.” The seminar program is certainly a worthwhile exercise, which I will be advertising broadly among both my colleagues and students, and I very much look forward to collaborating with other fellows in future and following the careers of both fellows and USMA participants with great interest.
-Martin Hubley, PhD candidate, University of Ottawa, Class of 2009
This whole experience has been terrific. The classes have been interesting, the readings have been good, the group dinners have been fun and the staff rides (although exhausting) have been excellent. I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to have participated in this year’s seminar. . . .
Thanks to the officers for their willingness to talk frankly with us as a group and individually, and for sharing their knowledge. I look forward to building on these relationships in the future. I think we all benefit from each other’s input and expertise.
While I very much enjoyed the lectures, the staff rides – especially to the Civil War sites – were invaluable. I had been to all those places any number of times, but you made me see the battles and the battlefields a whole new way. Is there any way to do more along these lines? There’s really nothing like being on the field to get a better understanding of operations, tactics, and decision-making under pressure. I’m trying to figure out how to do a “staff ride” in a classroom far away from any real battlefield in a class that can go to 150 students. You’ve really thrown down the gauntlet for me.
-Jennifer Weber, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Class of 2009
Thanks again for an amazing three weeks summer seminar. I was thrilled about all I learned and I benefited a lot for my own research. The second part had almost a common topic to deal with: counter-insurgency and civil-military relations. . . . I very much liked the fact that I could transfer knowledge from one presentation to the other and so I got a very good grip on this subject and will from now on profit much more from our Generalship Seminars in Oxford. Again the course material provided was excellent and I will use this in my future courses.
The Military Academy is a brilliant place and I envy the cadets who have such distinguished instructors in military history.
-Gabriella Frei, PhD candidate, Oxford University, Class of 2009
The USMA West Point Fellowship was excellent!!! The best experience I have had since graduate school. . . First class, well-organized, great lectures, amazing staff rides, Thanks!!!
-Erik Carlson, Associate Professor of History, Florida Gulf Coast University, Class of 2009
I applied for the seminar in order to get a condensed grad-school type experience in the field of military history, and I got that. I feel like I now have theoretical frameworks and historiographical resources that I can apply to many different courses and to my own work. The USMA and outside presenters were almost uniformly good and got me thinking about pedagogy as well as content. It was also great to be able to concentrate for three whole weeks on learning new things. Since I spend a great deal of time at my liberal arts college on teaching, I don’t often have that chance to focus on my own professional development. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
The interaction with the other fellows—many or most of whom knew much more military history than I did—was also fantastic. Working with a community of scholars is always stimulating, and I got some great ideas from my fellow fellows. The group was also a lot of fun, and it was great to have the “social” opportunities we did to get to know one another (even the two five-hour bus rides to Gettysburg). I know I will keep in touch with these people and draw on their expertise.
Altogether, the summer seminar was a wonderful experience…
- Rebecca Matzke, Assistant Professor of History, Ripon College, Ripon, WI, Class of 2008
I have referred countless times to the materials I received from the Seminar. Not only that, the experiences and the content have expanded my knowledge base and broadened my confidence. Since I am not military, the experience gives me credibility I did not have before.
I am a member of a privileged group. This group not only provides professional support but friendship. Several of my group attended and presented papers at the SMH annual meeting the year following our seminar. We were recognized and included as part of a larger group once we arrived, as a direct result of our attendance at the seminar.
- Debra Sheffer, Associate Professor of History, Park University, Class of 2007
To put it short, it was one of the most defining experiences of my professional life. I was just at the beginning of my teaching career when I had the chance to attend the Seminar, and I learned so many things I am using ever since in my work with students, in teaching military history, and also in understanding some of its aspects I hadn’t noticed before. I was glad then, but now in retrospect I am even more that I could be there.
And, also, since I specialize in U.S. military history, I had the great chance to personally visit many interesting places (West Point itself included) and to (at least shortly) study in the Academy library, which also helped my scholarship.
If I am to pick one [lasting effect], it would probably be new (and much better) understanding of how to teach military history (in terms of methods, approach to the teaching, etc.)
- Jiří Hutečka, Assistant Professor, University of Defence, Brno, Czech Republic, Class of 2005
It helped me integrate U.S. history into my general military history course. It probably also helped establish my name as a young military historian and thus may have led to teaching positions since, e.g., at Norwich University (2006-7).
Participation in the seminar came at a crucial point in defining my doctoral dissertation and the contacts made at West Point have helped me throughout my career as a researcher and author.
- Ingo Trauschweizer, Max Weber Fellow, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, Class of 2004
The Summer Seminar was the seminal educational experience of my doctoral studies. It better contextualized the western military experience and prepared me better to critically examine military history through the lens of military theory and western cultural currents. Moreover, its seminar- style instruction prepared me for just the type of teaching methodologies offered at [the Command and General Staff College (CGSC)].
I was hired by CGSC in January 2006. I firmly believe that the professional/personal contacts made with fellow seminar participants and the West Point Department of History faculty helped me earn my current position.
- Christopher Stowe, Associate Professor, Department of Military History, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Lee, VA., Class of 2003
The biggest impact it had was on the way I teach our American Military History course. I was already interested in military history and had done research on the admission of women into West Point, so I didn’t need to be “sold” on the benefits of studying military history or the idea that the Army and West Point are institutions that promote serious learning. I did, however, need some new ideas regarding the teaching of military history and the best books on key subjects, and the seminar was great for that.
- Lance Janda, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Government at Cameron University, Class of 2002
I have hired four of the members of our 2001 group of Fellows as Adjunct Professors to teach the course in Strategy and Policy I am responsible for, and another from your 2000 group. One from the 2001 group and the one from the 2000 group have subsequently been hired as full-time members of the Resident Naval War College Strategy and Policy faculty. Additionally, seven of those in my 2001 group have additionally been hired as Adjunct Lecturers for that same program. As for teaching and scholarship, two of the lecturers you had for our Fellows group have assisted me in course I teach on World War II in the Atlantic and Europe and two others have done the same for my course I teach on World War II in the Pacific Theater.
- Douglas Smith, Head of the Strategy and Policy Division of the College of Distance Education and Deputy Associate Dean of Academics for Electives and Directed Research at the United States Naval War College, Class of 2001
For civilians who are military historians, the Summer Seminar is like a fantasy camp. Spending a month at West Point learning from its faculty and meeting other military historians is an experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. I can tell you that I am still very close with several people who I met during the Summer Seminar and each year when I meet them and others at the Society for Military History conference, it’s like old home week. I cannot say enough good things about the program.
- Alexander M. Bielakowski, P.h.D., Associate Professor of Military History, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Class of 2000