Though I’ve always had a love for teaching, I didn’t fall in love with history until high school, when the study of modern China convinced me that true stories are better than fiction. As an undergraduate at George Mason University, the wonderful staff in the History Department challenged me intellectually and inspired me to pursue history as a career. In 2011, they kindly welcomed me back into the fold when they accepted me into their PhD program. As of May 2016, I am now a PhD candidate working on my doctoral dissertation.
My interests over the years have varied. As an undergraduate I spent most of my time studying East Asian history, with a particular focus on Modern China. I stumbled upon a love for American history when I took several women’s history courses, which developed into a permanent interest in the importance of gender, and identity formation in general. For my undergraduate thesis I wrote a paper titled “Turn the Body, Turn the World: How Communist China Inspired Radical Feminists in the United States during the 1960s and 70s.” In it I traced the ways in which radical feminists in the United States found inspiration for their own social movement in the Chinese Communist Revolution, thereby placing each movement within a broader global context.
After receiving my B.A. I spent two years living in Oakland, California and working in a large used bookstore in Berkeley, California, located two blocks from UC Berkeley. Berkeley is a mecca not only for bibliophiles, but for science fiction fans in particular. A lifelong fan of the genre in all its iterations, I was lucky enough to run the science fiction section in my bookstore, which immersed me in a community of science fiction lovers that deepened my appreciation of the genre’s cultural and social significance.
When I returned to GMU to work on my PhD, my love of science fiction manifested itself in one of my favorite topics: civil defense. I have spent extensive amounts of time studying not only government sources, but also a wide array of cultural sources relating to civil defense. As an extension of my interest in civil defense, I have spent time both studying and teaching about the domestic ideal in the 1950s and 60s, using multimedia and other cultural sources to create an interactive learning environment that encourages students to notice that history is all around them.
Along with civil defense, my current research and doctoral dissertation focuses on space colonies. I use these two case studies to explore and understand disaster preparedness in the 1970s. My methodology includes examining each case study as a work of speculative fiction, and therefore engaging methodologies both historians and literary scholars use when studying science fiction as a historical source. Both civil defense and space colonies offer speculative solutions to pending disasters that reflect concerns about the present and can therefore tell us about the historical moment in which Americans created them.