It’s tradition in the History department to offer an Open House every semester: from 10 a.m. until the close of business hours at 4 p.m., the department offers pizza, coffee, and conversation with wonderfully eager faculty members. It’s an open panel for questions about courses and majors, but just like last semester, I spent more than an hour there this week purely to schmooze with some of the most brilliant minds in my field.
Really, though, these men and women are brilliant – they’re wise and well-published and insanely well-read. They’re also extraordinarily witty (and trust me, it takes a special type of person to joke successfully about 18th-century Russia) and surprisingly plugged in to pop culture.
I learned about some courses I’m interested in taking – HIST498, “I Am Become Death: A Social History of Early Nuclear Weapons,” anyone? – but just as importantly, I laughed a lot. Among plenty of things that might only be funny to history majors, we joked about Spongebob, how strange garbage is (there’s apparently a lot of scholarship on the subject), and the awkwardness of introducing yourself. Who knew, right?
What surprised me most was that a few of them already knew my name, simply because they’d chatted with a professor whose class (180, Introduction to Islamic Civilization, absolutely fascinating) I took last fall. Three professors and four fellow History undergrads spent the next ten minutes genuinely invested in my life and my interests, which was more encouraging than they know. My department is a very real academic family – we each have a personal faculty advisor as well as a wealth of historians who absolutely adore their work, and they’re available to me every day if I need them.
This week’s open house definitely won’t be the last time I swing by a professor’s open door to chat about my latest paper or an old Daffy Duck special, now that I know they’re so thoroughly accessible. In a few years, one of these professors will oversee my thesis. For now, though, I’m just stoked to know how many fantastic people are rooting for me.