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Making sense of the present

Who We Are, What We Do: Department of History

Student Life

By Janet Harron

If you want to understand the way the world works now—from the rise of activist groups such as Black Lives Matter to the ramifications of Brexit—studying history is a good bet.

Sarah Hannon, a history undergraduate student who plans to pursue graduate studies after she completes her BA, says she realized studying history is not about memorizing names and dates.

“It’s social and cultural, it’s political—it’s critical.”

Unique opportunities

Ms. Hannon is actively involved in her discipline, as she is currently the student representative on the history department’s undergraduate committee, advocating for course content and organization.

“I have taken so many good history courses.” –Sarah Hannon

She also has enjoyed several unique opportunities while studying history at Memorial, among them being a trip to Sweden for a month last year to conduct research in the national archives with Dr. Stephan Curtis. Dr. Curtis and Dr. Sebastien Rossignol are organizing a field school for the 2017 intersession semester that will trace the development of Northern European countries, including Sweden, Northern Germany and Finland.

“I have taken so many good history courses,” said Ms. Hannon. “Sickness and Health in Western Society with Dr. Stephan Curtis, Dr. Neil Kennedy’s lecture and seminars on the trans-Atlantic slave trade, historiography with Dr. Michael Kirkpatrick, any class with Dr. Marica Cassis.”

Ms. Hannon joins forces with assistant professor Justin Fantauzzo in Who We Are, What We Do: History, the latest in a series of teaser videos produced by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and created by multihyphenate writer/videographer/rapper/producer and recent Memorial graduate Timo Sargent.

Ms. Hannon is looking forward to several new courses in the fall, including Aboriginal Peoples and Environment and Gender in Canadian History.

Making sense of the present

Dr. Fantauzzo started teaching at Memorial in the fall of 2015. His research focuses on the First World War and the experience of British and Dominion soldiers in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

“I look at how these men encountered local peoples and culture, what they thought of the places they were visiting and the areas they were fighting in, and how their experiences shaped their views of their own countries,” said Dr. Fantauzzo, who has been interested in history since childhood.

In the winter 2017 semester, he will teach the Modern Middle East, a course he considers vital to understanding the Middle East today.

“It’s a perfect example of how studying history helps you make sense of the present,” said Dr. Fantauzzo, who believes the biggest misconception about history degree holders is that they are pigeonholed into teaching and education.

Assistant professor Justin Fantauzzo
Dr. Justin Fantauzzo

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “History undergraduates have a number of opportunities available to them, from working as research analysts for non-governmental organizations or international organizations such as NATO, to a career in law or finance.”

In addition to high ranks in LSAT scores, history graduates are often hired by financial institutions because of their analytical skills and their ability to process large amounts of information, he says.

For more information, please see the history degree map, visit the department’s website or follow the Memorial History Society on Facebook.

Who We Are, What We Do is a summer series from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences featuring faculty and students discussing their discipline. The next installment of Who We Are, What We Do: Linguistics, launching Aug. 1features Dr. Sara MacKenzie, Dr. Gerard van Herk and student Rebecca Lynn Hobbs.


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