Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Decision to Become A Gatekeeper

By the fall of 1991, I had talked to Gettysburg faculty and my advisor at Shippensburg about pursuing a Ph.D. in history. What clinched the decision for me was an article I read entitled “Gatekeepers.” In short the article said that those who earned Ph.Ds gain the opportunity to shape how we view important issues in society. It noted the shortage of minorities with Ph.Ds, how that affected academia and publishing, and encouraged them to pursue the degree and become a gatekeeper. After reading that article I reflected back on my history courses as a high school student and undergrad and I was appalled at what I never learned and I wanted to do something to change the teaching of history and include what I considered important. I wanted to become a gatekeeper and share the joy and passion I found in studying social and cultural history. I was like a sponge reading all kinds of really history books on the Gettysburg College Lacrosse bus to away games in Roanoke and Lexington, Virginia. The time I had as a young single guy back then to read what I wanted to read, attend lectures on campus, and coach talented college lacrosse players who wanted to be coached is unforgettable. That year Gettysburg also ran a colloquium on Latin American Studies and my new faculty friend and mentor Emilio Betances included me on the invitation list to the events and receptions. The experience changed my historical interest to include Latin America. For example, I learned Spanish, did a dissertation on Guatemala, published a book on Guatemala, and I’ve taught courses on Latin American history for the past ten years as a prof. All that happened in part because my experiences at Gettysburg College.

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