Alumni Profile – Maria John

maria-johnI started my BA at Monash in 2002. After initially taking a number of excellent history classes on subjects already familiar to me—‘The Vietnam War’ with Jane Drakard, ‘World War Two’ with Ian Copland—in my third year, I branched out, taking courses such as, ‘The Uses of the Past’ with Maria Nugent, and ‘Australian Aboriginal History’ with Bain Attwood. These classes in particular, prompted me to ask questions about History that I have never been able let go of. Indeed, despite never thinking that I would take academia any further than my undergraduate degree, I stayed on at Monash to do an Honours thesis in the History Department. After that, I completed a research MA, working closely with my supervisors Bain Attwood and Mark Peel, on a thesis entitled: ‘Responsible Witnessing: Narratives of Tragedy and Failure in Van Diemen’s Land’.

The nurturing environment that I encountered at Monash has played no small part in my own enthusiasm for the study of History. The teaching I was able to do as a graduate student, first, as a tutor for David Garrioch, and then later, when for a semester I took on the teaching of ‘Australian Aboriginal History’, were, without doubt, formative moments in my decision to pursue an academic career. The exceptional supervision long-provided by Bain Attwood continues to be a relationship that I draw support from, and learn from.

In 2009, with much help along the way, I moved to New York to pursue a PhD at Columbia University. I am now working towards a dissertation topic that will allow me to combine my interests across the areas of comparative indigenous history (US and Australia) and public health in the early twentieth century. The breadth of classes I been exposed to here at Columbia has allowed me to push the boundaries of my academic interests, and I have found myself asking new questions of History again.