Alumni Profiles – History Department

See what some of our former & current students have to say about their student experience:

             Maria John

Maria John

I 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.

Bill Snaddon

Bill Snaddon

History was of more appeal than Accounting. I was four years through my Arts and Commerce degree when I realised this. Of course there were many other reasons why I chose History.Studying Arts, in the beginning, provided a point of difference. The Arts was a postscript to the Commerce.It took the encouraging words of certain professors before Arts, in the form of a History Major, became the focus. One class that comes to mind is ‘Twentieth Century America: Race, Rights, and Power’, taught by Professor Mark Peel.Studying in America for a year also influenced my shift toward the Humanities.If possible, pick classes by professor, not by program.

If the chance arises, get an OS-HELP loan, scrounge, and study overseas for at least a semester. For me, studying in America helped to clarify what I wanted to do. In 2007 I completed my undergraduate Commerce and Arts Degree. The following year I undertook an Honours Degree in History, writing a thesis about homelessness – ‘The Power of Perception: Debating Homelessness in Australia 1970–2008’. The thesis was supervised by Professor Peel; without whom I would not have considered further study.I’m not entirely sure why I chose to write about homelessness. I do know, however, that time spent living in America has made me want to understand how poverty is born and perpetuated in wealthy countries.

Australia seemed a natural place to start. Alongside the Honours thesis I completed a worthwhile class called ‘Reading and Writing Australian History’, taught by Associate Professor Christina Twomey and Dr Sarah Pinto.Since graduating in 2008, I have been fortunate to find several jobs. I wrote a report for a non-profit housing provider on Melbourne’s unsafe rooming houses. I travelled to New York to work as a research assistant for a sociology professor. The professor and I co-wrote a paper that considered how the economic crisis is affecting America’s public education system. I have also spent a few months working in Tanzania.

For the past year I have been working in social policy at a Melbourne philanthropic foundation.So, why study History? It’s the professors, the tutors, the lecturers – the ones who hearten you to do what you want to do. They make it meaningful. At Monash, your path will likely cross with some of these people. History, through my eyes, offers a colourful contrast to an everyday present; in each hue History illuminates today. It can also provide shade against an unwritten tomorrow. History, in a sense, is the artist.

Emma Gleadhill

Emma Gleadhill

Why Study History?

Everybody sees the world through different eyes; scientific, mathematical, musical, artistic, literary, the list goes on. In the process of trying to understand myself I have come to recognise that my vision is historical. For me, looking into the past is the best way of comprehending the changing and contradictory world in which we live.History enables us to recognize the cycles and shifts that occur in cultural and social identity, in perspective, religion, attitudes, knowledge, and in sense of place. But the most important aspect of history for me is that it encourages us to question and interrogate our current perceptions and attitudes through its examination of continuity and change.

My Time in the Department:

My time in the department of History, International Studies and Philosophy has been very positive and rewarding. My knowledge base has been expanded immensely by the array of subjects I have been able to study. The lecturers and tutors were always supportive and encouraging of discussion and you were never made to feel inadequate for asking questions. For anyone who is considering doing an honours year, I strongly encourage it. The stimulating and dynamic discussion encouraged in your honours subjects will take your understanding of history to another level. This one year has given me a self-confidence that was lacking before; it has given me research skills that aid in all disciplines – even in the chemistry subjects I am currently undertaking! -; and it has opened so many unexpected doors.

Current Aims and Aspirations:

Currently I am completing my first year of a two year Master of Cultural Materials Conservation at The University of Melbourne. Specializations in this course include; the conservation treatment of paintings, works on paper, frames, objects and architectural conservation. In this course I learn about the physical sources of history and how to conserve them for future generations. My historical background encourages me to question how the conservation methods I am employing are modifying the historical meaning of heritage. It also encourages me to question what actually gets conserved and whose history it is that survives.