I am a professional scholar with a PhD in the liberal arts from Tufts University and a bachelor’s from Hillsdale College. Growing up, I struggled to perform well at written assignments. The entire process frustrated me, and I never made any significant progress at improving my writing abilities. My fortunes began to change, however, when I met an under-appreciated, masterful Hillsdale historian, Dr. David Stewart. He assigned colossally difficult texts and badgered me with query after question as I painstakingly improved my understanding of them. By the time I graduated, I had become an astute observer of pretty much everything—and the best observers make the finest authors. At Tufts I met the man who would become my dear friend and mentor, Dr. Felipe Fernández-Armesto. He showed me something I never imagined possible: how to navigate the writing process, from beginning to end. Under his guidance, I became for the first time a passable wordsmith with true skill and a unique voice worthy of being shared with the world. Because of Dave and Felipe, I am the scholar I am today. I hope to repay some of the debt I owe to them by passing on their teachings to the next generation.
Historian by Trade.
My professional specialization is Global History, which means I concentrate on the interconnectedness of human societies across time and space. In my dissertation, I evaluated China's influence on the culture of eighteenth-century Spain. The two countries were trading partners, and Spaniards regularly purchased Chinese porcelain, silk, ivory, paintings, clothing, and other luxury goods. Spaniards also wrote about China in their periodicals and books, and they created major artworks based upon their perceptions of Chinese culture. In fact, China had much the same place in the world then that the United States has now.
I grew up in Leelanau County before the digital age. I spent my youth in a bucolic paradise, frolicking amidst steeply rolling hills, cathedral-like rows of maple trees, and carpets of trillium and Dutchman's breeches.
As with all PhD-level professionals of a young age, I have devoted almost my entire life to school. My story goes back to 2003 when—after graduating as valedictorian of my St. Francis High School class—I matriculated at Hillsdale College. Highlights of my four years there included spending a month with the Honors Program touring Turkey, joining the one-of-a-kind musical society known as Mu Alpha, and successfully debuting a pair of senior theses.
I submitted ten applications to grad school and received three full-ride offers: at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Louisiana State University, and Tufts. These were highly competitive, PhD-track programs, and the financial packages included stipends to cover the cost of living. I chose Tufts because I wanted the opportunity to study with Felipe, whose work I greatly admired. I knew that I wanted to be like him and even changed my major from Spanish History to Global History in order to satisfy the entry requirements. Studying under him, and having him as a friend and mentor, has been the most humbling honor of my life. He transformed me from a weekend bookworm into a professional author capable of producing articles, theses, conference papers, dissertations, and books.
In 2007, I moved to Boston, where Tufts is located. The change of scenery posed a challenge, for I had never lived in an urban environment; it took me many years to acclimate. During that time, I served as a teaching assistant under six different professors—and I taught sections, graded papers, and advised students in no fewer than ten subject areas. I worked with an Africanist; an Americanist; a specialist in technology and medicine; a Sinologist; a globalist; and not least, a medievalist. I am passionately proud of the work I did for those professors and of the resilience and adaptability that I demonstrated in successfully teaching about such diversified subject material. My experience was atypical and in many ways far more challenging than what most graduate students face.
My dissertation required overseas research, and in 2014, I secured a grant from the Spanish government to study Sino-Hispanic relations. The work I conducted in Spain was variegated and required a more sophisticated approach than is commonly employed by other historians. Among other tasks, I documented artifacts at museums, evaluated cultural sites and architectural masterpieces, and explored artistic motifs.
When I wasn't bustling away at the dissertation, I worked to establish myself in the scholarly community and to make myself known to my peers and colleagues at other institutions. I created a public persona by attending and presenting papers at numerous conferences across the United States and in Spain. I won the admiration of my fellow scholars and boast the unusual feat of having gained referees at five major universities.
I also participated in what scholars call "academic service." I co-founded the New England Regional World History Association (NERWHA) and for several years acted as a voting member of its executive council. I built a trailblazing website for NERWHA's parent, the World History Association, which wanted grad students to be able to network with each other online—and, in a secure forum, to have the option of offering constructive criticism on one another's written work. It was a unique project and probably the first of its kind, in any discipline. Finally, I served as a senior editor of the Tufts Historical Review, an officially sponsored publication that bears Tufts' seal.
I did these things while contending with a brutal spinal injury, from which I am presently recovering. Today, in addition to my work as a reading and writing tutor, I am a flute instructor at St. Francis High School and Immaculate Conception Elementary School. I volunteer—and sometimes get paid—to livestream the masses at St. Francis Church. My roan Siberian husky, Mr. Spock, keeps me busy; he loves car rides, walks, and trips to the dog park. (The black-and-white malamute in my homepage photo is Nana, who sadly has passed on.) In my spare time, I occupy myself with several hobbies, most notably the replanting of trees on a recently logged portion of the family estate.
Who were the Dioskouroi?
The Dioskouroi, also known as the Gemini, were twin half-brothers: Pollux, who was divine, and Castor, who was mortal. Castor was killed during a raid—the two were rustling cattle and got caught in the act—but Pollux loved his brother so much that he gave up half of his divinity to bring Castor back from the underworld. Thenceforward, they lived on alternate days of the year. For Castor, this was far preferable to living permanently in the depths of the earth, where the dead endured a gray, dismal afterlife. They lacked strength, wit, purpose, and pretty much everything that made existence worth having. To be fair, it wasn't Hell—they did not live in torment—but it wasn't a place you would want to visit. Pollux, by agreeing to spend half of his time in that horrible place, had made a soul-rending sacrifice.
The Greeks were the first to deify the Twins, but later the Romans adopted them as deities of their own. They believed the Dioskouroi would appear at crucial moments, when battles turned one way or the other. Properly honoring them, therefore, ensured victory. The medallion I use for my logo depicts the Dioskouroi riding off to combat.
I lost my kid brother, Michael, seven years ago, so the story of the Twins has special meaning to me. Michael had an incredible gift and was the finest writer I've ever known. He had more skill at the age of 23 than I do now at 36!