top of page
Nicholas at Greillickville beach park, circa 2013

My Mission

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 even after more than a decade of expensive and laborious private schooling, I still hadn't made any significant progress at improving my writing abilities.  My fortunes began to change, however, when I encountered an under-appreciated, masterful Hillsdale historian, Dr. David Stewart.  He assigned colossally difficult texts and badgered me with query after question, via the Socratic Method, as I painstakingly improved my understanding of them.  By the time I graduated, I had become astute – and the keenest observers, I later learned, have the potential to become the most brilliant authors.  At Tufts, I met the man who would become my lifelong friend and mentor, Dr. Felipe Fernández-Armesto.  He opened my eyes to something I never thought 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.

Desk Globe
Historian by Trade

My professional specialization is Global History, which means that 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 era.  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 – having graduated as valedictorian at St. Francis High School – I matriculated at Hillsdale College.  Highlights of my time there included traveling with the Honors Program to Turkey, joining the one-of-a-kind musical honorary known as Mu Alpha, and debuting a pair of senior theses.

I submitted ten applications to grad school and received three full-ride offers.  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 enjoying his camaraderie as an old friend and dear 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, and 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 them 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 travel to Spain to study Sino-Hispanic relations.  Among other tasks, I documented artifacts at museums, pored over original manuscripts at the national library, and evaluated cultural sites and architectural masterpieces.

While 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 in the U.S. and abroad.

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, where grad students could network with each other online – and, in a secure forum, offer 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 and founding member of the Tufts Historical Review, an officially-sponsored publication that bears Tufts' seal.

I did these things while contending with a brutal injury, a dislocated rib that went misdiagnosed for many years, from which I am presently recovering.  Today, in addition to my work as a reading and writing tutor, I am seeking employment as an adjunct at local Michigan colleges and striving to attain new publishing credits for my curriculum vitae.  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.


The Greeks were the first to deify the Twins, but later the Romans adopted them as deities of their own.  They believed that 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 use the Dioskouroi as my personal logo in honor of my relationship with my brother, Michael.

Michael "Demosthenes" Russell and Nicole Chiaravalli, circa 2012
bottom of page