Alumni Spotlights

Robert Clines (2009)

Robert J. Clines received his MA in History from Miami University in 2009 with a thesis on the Jesuit order in sixteenth-century Rome (advisor, Wietse de Boer). He went on to earn a PhD from Syracuse University in 2014. Currently an Assistant Professor of History at Western Carolina University, he was awarded the 2016-17 Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome.  The Newsletter asked him about his work, education, and career path.Robert Clines

How would you describe your Rome Prize project?

The Rome Prize Fellowship is an eleven-month residency fellowship in Rome that will allow me to continue the research and writing of my current book project.  The project uses the experiences of Giovanni Battista Eliano [1530-1589], the only Jewish-born member of the Society of Jesus, as a means of exploring how religious conversion was a complex cultural problem that forced converts and non-converts to grapple with their own religious identities.  In the book, I argue that conversion was a prominent feature of daily life in the sixteenth-century Mediterranean and was central to understanding the tensions found in various Mediterranean societies that were both in conflict with one another but were also collaborators in all aspects of life: religion, politics, culture, commerce, etc.

Could you reflect on your trajectory from undergraduate student to professional historian?

When I began [my graduate work in history] at Miami, I saw it as an opportunity to explore on a deeper level a time period and a place (Renaissance Italy) that I enjoyed studying as an undergrad.  While that is [still] true, the process of becoming a professional historian has taught me that studying history is [also] an important part of understanding the nature of the human condition.  I've learned that good historians don't just study topics, places, or eras; they ask questions about what it meant to live in a specific time or place, and they ask about what factors led people to reflect on their world.  And the best historians ask questions about the past that are relevant to our understanding of the present.  My excitement in this discovery has also driven me to push my students to see historical inquiry as an exploration of why people thought and wrote in the ways they did, and how students can relate the past to their own lives by asking good questions.

In hindsight, what was the value of your Masters education at Miami?

My Masters education at Miami was fundamental in my development as a historian as well as a teacher.  First, faculty expertise and the dedication to offering stimulating coursework pushed me to recalibrate how I saw history.  One class that did this was History and Theories with Renée Baernstein.  That course illuminated to me the various ways in which the historical discipline has evolved.  This pushed me to reconsider what exactly it means to be a historian.  Second, Miami's Summer Language Institute in Urbino, Italy, was instrumental in how I developed as a researcher.  Spending two months immersed in Italy allowed me to master Italian, which is my primary research language.  This made getting into the archives far easier, both in terms of reading the manuscripts and in navigating Italy on my own.  Third, the teaching experience I gained at Miami was invaluable.  Being a Teaching Assistant was an unnerving experience at first given that I had never taught, but in the end it was the best part of being at Miami.  The teaching mentorship was great and the students I taught strove for excellence, which made teaching challenging and rewarding.

Jack White (1958)

John Hoxland White, Jr., Adjunct Professor of History and 1958 alumnus, honored his mother's legacy with a bequest to the Walter Havighurst Special Collections in King Library.  Jack is a retired Smithsonian Institute historian and curator and a nationally recognized author.  Read more in this article.

Chris Hines (2008)

Chris HinesWhen I first arrived at Miami, I dabbled around a lot.  Finally, heeding the advice of a few key people to consider pursuing a career in law, I decided to major in history, in order to train the reading, writing, research and other intangible skills necessary for that future.  My eyes opened to a world of self-discovery and hidden talents that I might not have ever known had I not taken this path.

Fast forward to graduation in 2008:  With my crisply framed Bachelors degree in hand, I quickly realized that the law school market was overly saturated and very competitive, so I found myself again at a crossroads.  My sister, an engineer, suggested that I consider becoming a recruiter, so I started putting some of my history skills to work by doing research on the industry.  I found that recruiters with a strong work ethic and a creative mindset were the ones having success, and so I started applying.  Two weeks and four interviews later, I accepted an offer and began my career as a Professional Recruiter.

Fast forward to the present:  I am very happy with the choice I made that day, and I am still recruiting.  It's important to share the whole story with you because the successes that I have been blessed with in my recruiting career can be directly correlated to the skills I first gained as a History major.

As a recruiter, the majority of my workload requires navigating large amounts of research to find a specific type of person to meet my client's needs and, to be competitive, I must do so at a rate faster than my competition can.

My history degree has helped me to do three things of particular importance in my profession:  (1) Efficiently research data; (2) Assess the validity of the information that I find; and (3) Present my findings in an articulate manner.  These are the tools that have allowed me to succeed in my career, and they are the ones that I perfected as an undergraduate History major at Miami University.

But, beyond these, I came away from my undergraduate education with an unquenchable yearning to learn.  I was blessed with course offerings ranging the gamut--from the Development of Early Christianity, to Medieval Jewish History, the Era of the American Revolution, and the Writings of Machiavelli.  This desire to learn everything and anything is what made law so exciting.  There is always a history to the law.  The way material fits together is a rich mosaic that you unpack throughout the three years.  In the same way historical inquiry unfolds, a history trained law student is able to meticulously discover the parameters of the law.  I will always be grateful to Miami's history faculty for inspiring me to learn more, supporting me to find where my passions truly lie, and for challenging me to grow as a student.  Indisputably, my history education prepared me for law school--and so much more.


The following videos were published in July 2015. Chris is an executive recruiter for Randstad Engineering, a global provider of HR services and the second-largest recruiting firm in the world. He has been collaborating with Miami's Career Services to advise graduating seniors on how to leverage their liberal arts degrees as they prepare for the entry-level job market. Here he talks about how history has helped him in his current career.

Thinking Outside the Box

Don't Worry

James Nealy (2014)

James NealyWhen I finished my BA degree in 2012, I knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD in History.  I also knew, however, that I needed a more sophisticated knowledge of the literature relevant to my area of interest, modern Russia, and additional language training in order to have a realistic chance at earning a spot in a competitive PhD program.  The collection of scholars, language courses, and resources, specifically the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, at Miami University made it the perfect place for me to accomplish these goals.  The History department in particular helped me to grow in ways I could not have foreseen.  My classes fundamentally changed the way I see history and scholarship in general; I have invaluable teaching experience; and Miami even helped me spend time in Russia on a research trip for my thesis project.

My thesis explores the relationship between the spatial relations of the first line of the Leningrad Metro system, completed in 1955, and subjectivity in the post-war USSR.  Soviet subways were not simply mechanisms by which one travelled; often referred to as "underground palaces," these facilities featured art and architecture that informed passengers about the history, and future, of the Soviet Union.  Thus, the metro offers a glimpse of how the USSR conceived of itself and its position along the dialectical path to communism.  Ultimately, I argue that the messages in the underground's walls suggest that many of the reforms often associated with Nikita Khrushchev's Thaw-period were actually well under way during Josef Stalin's lifetime.

I was able to accomplish my goals at Miami.  Recently, with my wife's support, I accepted a five year fellowship to continue my studies in the History department at Duke University.  After completing the PhD, I plan to pursue a professorship and a career in academia.  While the path ahead will no doubt be a challenging one to navigate, it is my view that it has been made considerably less so by the two years I spent in the History department and Miami University.

Kyle O'Brien (2014)

Kyle O'BrienMy greatest joy at Miami, undoubtedly, was from the unexpected but welcomed convergence of my two majors, history and education.  This may not sound surprising:  I was a student teacher in social studies and I was drawn to the field from history specifically.  However, exactly how I was able to connect my two majors brought new meaning to my college experience.

I discovered a passion for urban education early on at Miami.  Details aside, the History Department Honors Program presented an opportunity to converge both interests:  for my honors thesis I chose to research the movement to desegregate Boston Public Schools.

All the more fulfilling, I was able to apply my research on a deeper level than just the knowledge gained alone.  This semester I conducted an oral history and finished and edited my thesis -- all while living in downtown Cincinnati and student teaching in a "resegregated" school.  Cincinnati may not be Boston, but to actually teach segregated students about segregation history was a true reward for my efforts.

Alex Filice (2015)

History is always relevant: The American Revolution and the making of the office of the President

Alex FiliceIn the summer of 2014 Undergraduate Summer Scholar Alex Filice researched the history of the American Revolution, focusing in part on the debate over the position of the president of the new country. Filice researched this era through the letters and writings of Gouverneur Morris, one of the founding fathers and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. Morris is also credited as the author of the Preamble of the Constitution. 

Morris "advanced the idea of being a citizen of a single union of states, rather than citizens of their respective states," Filice said. Morris was also a valuable chronicler of the French Revolution, having traveled extensively in Europe and serving as minister to France from 1792 to 1794.

During the French Revolution Morris wrote letters extensively to George Washington. Comparing the American and French Revolutions, "America took it in one direction and got a president; France beheaded their king and the result was chaos," Filice said.

Filice became involved in this research when his mentor, Tatiana Seijas, assistant professor of history, pulled him aside after class one day and suggested he apply to the USS program.  The rest is history: a great chance to "get paid to do what I love," he said.

During the 2014-15 academic year Filice turned his research into a senior honors thesis and presented it before graduation at the History Honors Symposium, held on April 29-30, 2015. Other graduating History Honors students presenting their work at this occasion included:

  • Steven Darnell, “Johann Ewald and America: A Study on the Changing Perceptions in European Military Affairs as Influenced by the American Revolution and the Trans-Atlantic World”
  • Shea Hendry, “A Spartan Confederacy: Classical Discourse in the Southern Intellectual Life, 1780-1865”
  • Kelly Irwin, “Analyzing the Female Humanist’s Character: How Paolo Giovio’s Assessment of Illustrious Women Aligned with Italian Renaissance Discourse”
  • Amanda Lawson, “Perfect Partnership: the Disney Studio and the United States Government During World War II”
  • Grant Lemasters, “The American Abroad: The Experiences of Paul Lemasters in the South Pacific, 1944-1945”
  • Michael Putz, “Science, Mercantilism, Empire: Colonial Development and Nature on Barbados, 1627-1700”
  • Andrew Sullivan, “Architect of Destruction: The German Armaments Ministry and Albert Speer, 1936-1945”
  • Cassondra Willoughby, “The Church and the Foreign State: The Impact of American Missionaries on Turn-of-the-Century Korea”