Hope Shannon '13GS: Choose Simmons

February 16, 2017

Hope Shannon

We chatted with Hope about her MA in History and how Simmons prepared her for PhD work.

Where are you doing your doctoral work?

I'm a PhD student in the dual United States History and Public History program at Loyola University Chicago.

Which graduate program did you complete at Simmons? What were your areas of focus?

I graduated from Simmons with an MA in History. My areas of interest were post-WWII urban history, memory and commemoration, humanities advocacy and public history.

What attracted you to the history program at Simmons?

I was interested in both United States history and public history and didn't want to have to choose one or the other when deciding on a master’s program. I chose Simmons because they offer an introductory graduate public history courses in addition to U.S. history classes, their classes sounded more interesting to me than the ones I saw in other university course catalogues, and because their faculty members are well-known in their respective fields and liked by their students.

How did Simmons prepare you for your studies?

I chose to pursue an MA because I was interested in a PhD but didn't want to commit to a PhD program until I knew if a graduate-level history education was right for me. The classes I took at Simmons affirmed my interest in U.S. and public history and my experience at Simmons led me to apply to PhD programs in U.S. history and public history, which is how I ended up at Loyola University Chicago.

In your experience, what was the best feature of the program?

It's hard to choose just one, but probably the faculty. They get to know their students and their interests and then work with you to make sure you're getting what you need from the program. A close second is the variety of courses offered by the history department. Professors offered classes in which we studied history in novel ways, or at least they seemed to me when compared with other programs I looked at. For example, I took a course titled "Film and Historical Representation," another about representations of race in various media forms, and a third that was cross-listed with the Gender/Cultural Studies program. 

What was your favorite class at Simmons? Why?

All of the classes I took were phenomenal, but there were a couple that stood out to me because they were closest to my personal interests. Film and Historical Representation, taught by Dr. Trevor Coates when I took it, was one of the first classes I took in my MA and it completely reoriented the way I think about historical sources and how we interpret them. The monuments and memorials class and the introduction to public history class, taught by Dr. Nicole Eaton and Donna Curtin, respectively, were the first courses I took that dealt with public perceptions of history. My experience in these classes is what pushed me to look for a PhD program that had both public history and U.S. history components. The introductory historiography class, which I took with Dr. Laura Prieto, was also memorable. It's a mandatory class, but Dr. Prieto taught it in such a powerful way. You really take ownership over what you're doing as a historian in this class. It was in this class that I first felt like an actual historian.

Are there any faculty/staff members that especially impacted you in your time at Simmons?

I interacted with most of the faculty while I was there, but if I have to choose just one I'd say Laura Prieto. All of the professors I took classes with were great, but I got to know Laura the best. She supported my decision to go on to a PhD program and, along with Trevor Coates and a professor from my undergraduate university, wrote me a recommendation and talked to me about various school and career options. I also spent a semester working as her research assistant, gaining a lot of experience in the archives in the process.

What advice would you give to a prospective student who is undecided about applying to Simmons?

Choose Simmons. The faculty is devoted to student learning and goes above and beyond to make sure you can choose a path that fits your interests. The small size of the program is one of the program's strengths. You get to know all of them. I felt very at home when I was there.