Maria-Clara Torres

Prior to starting my Ph.D., I worked for seven years in regional development projects in Colombia's epicenter of illicit coca and cocaine production. This experience provided me with firsthand knowledge about grassroots coca communities. I became interested in how coca peasants considered "outlaws" were, paradoxically, concerned with state-building in their local milieu. I incorporated those insights into my M.A. thesis in political science at the National University of Colombia. I entered the Ph.D. program at Stony Brook with the desire to study the history of coca peasants in Colombia.

I was attracted to the program because of its strengths in Latin American studies. The seminars, in-class discussions, and preparation for oral exams provided me with an opportunity to rigorously engage with the literature and historiographical debates. They also awoke my interest in the Andean region and allowed me to draw connections and disparities between the countries. The intellectually stimulating faculty members brought the best out of me and gave me invaluable advice while allowing me academic freedom.

In support of my graduate studies, I have been awarded fellowships from the Drugs, Security, and Democracy Program of the Social Sciences Research Foundation (SSRC), the Inter-American Foundation Grassroots Development Fellowship, the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Center at Stony Brook, as well as the agency in Colombia that supports research (Colciencias). I am really excited to write my dissertation on the historical roots of illicit coca in Colombia, a topic that I am passionate about. I am greatly thankful to the history faculty for encouraging me to develop my research skills and for their relentless support. I recommend this program for students coming from the U.S. or Latin America, or any other part of the world, who are interested in Latin American history.

—Maria-Clara Torres, Ph.D. candidate

Gregory Rosenthal

I was drawn to pursue my Ph.D. at Stony Brook because of the History Department's strengths in the field of environmental history. The graduate curriculum exposed me to new areas of the world, new temporalities, and new theories and methods for crafting engaging stories about the past. I came into the program with a desire to study the environmental history of indigenous peoples, but I knew little more about my own interests than that. After taking a class in Chinese history, I was able to find my footing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean: bringing together studies in American history and East Asian history, while capitalizing on the department's increasing strengths in transnational studies. My first-year classes exposed me to literature on commodities and capitalism, and my dissertation project emerged out of these readings and ruminations: I would research the things that moved among Hawai'i and the islands, coasts, and continents that surround Hawai'i. I was able to incorporate the theories and historiographies that I encountered in my graduate classes into my research project: imperial Chinese history, transnational environmental history, U.S. history, material cultural studies, the history of the body.

Stony Brook's History Department was fertile ground for testing out new ideas. I presented my work at departmental colloquia, and I even helped run the colloquium program for one year. I was awarded funding to present my work at national conferences, and I won competitive awards from the History Department as well as the Graduate School to help fund dissertation research in Hawai'i. As I moved toward completion of my dissertation, my advisor and committee members were always available—in person, on the phone, or even on the sidelines of national conferences—to give me feedback on my chapters as well as provide advice on the job market. I now teach at a small liberal arts college in the South where I am tasked to guide undergraduate students in yet new fields of inquiry: public history, oral history, queer studies. My Stony Brook education gave me the tools I need to approach any subject or discipline with an open and inquisitive mind. And as I work toward revising my dissertation into a book, the strengths of each chapter reflect the encouragement and wisdom of the Stony Brook faculty who helped me imagine this project from the ground up.

Gregory Rosenthal, Class of 2015 (Assistant Professor, Roanoke College)

Brenda Elsey

I came to Stony Brook without a clear idea of what I wanted out of a Ph.D. program, beyond studying history. My initial enthusiasm came from reading about the faculty's strengths in Latin American studies. I was also drawn to the thematic structure of the program. My coursework inspired me to think broadly about the significance of historical research and to approach my dissertation deliberately. Faculty guided me through the process of grant applications. While a graduate student, I received research fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the American Association of University Women. I also gained experience as a research and teaching assistant.

Stony Brook has a dynamic intellectual environment to offer students, including a rich calendar of events, workshops, and student conferences. The faculty encourages students to take courses outside the discipline. I took seminars in sociology, philosophy, and gender studies. That experience has helped me as Hofstra University's director of Women and Gender Studies, as well as its director of Latin American Studies. Moreover, my first book, Citizens and Sportsmen: Fútbol and Politics in Twentieth-Century Chile, drew upon a wide range of methodological approaches. And my current project, Futbolera: Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Latin American Sport, moves beyond Chile to examine Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Again, Stony Brook's strengths in gender and Latin American studies during my doctoral education provided the foundation for this work.

At Stony Brook, the faculty made a concerted effort to encourage collaboration among students. I benefited enormously from the insights of my cohort, many of whom came from Latin America. Years later, they remain cherished colleagues. It's a testament to strength of the graduate program at Stony Brook that I still feel as though I belong to its scholarly community.

Brenda Elsey, Class of 2007 (Associate Professor, Hofstra University)

Mark Rice

My experiences as a doctoral student at Stony Brook's History Department were the most important in my intellectual and professional development. First, I benefited from the department's well-respected Latin American specialists and its reputation for producing well-rounded and prepared Latin Americanists for the job market. Second, the department's curricular focus helped introduce me to new fields of historical thought and prepared me for a professional academic career. The innovative theme seminars introduced me to new ways of approaching the study of history while the research seminars and prospectus helped me hone my investigative skills and develop a viable and rewarding dissertation project.

Finally, I benefited from the program's collegiality. At Stony Brook, the program's teachers and students understand the difference between challenge and conflict. In classrooms, research, and debate both professors and grad students challenge one another constructively. As grad students we didn't see ourselves as competing for jobs or grants, but as a group of friends working together to make a productive, and fun, environment. This sense of community doesn't end at the doctoral defense. Even now I am in professional and personal contact with Stony Brook professors and friends.

Mark Rice, Class of 2014 (Assistant Professor, Baruch College)

When I decided to apply to Ph.D. programs, I narrowed down my options. One of those was Stony Brook University. Stony Brook was a well known comprehensive research school and the History graduate program was spoken of highly. I entered the doctoral program with the hope I'd be challenged in new and exciting ways. That first year I found out just how true this was! I was introduced to concepts and theories that opened up for me entirely new ways of approaching, understanding, and interpreting history. 

Over the years, the program also prepared me for the profession. I was encouraged to attend conferences and present papers before established scholars. I gained invaluable lessons on teaching history in the classroom and was able to design my own courses. Along with this were workshops and colloquiums that helped immerse me in a dynamic academic environment. Most importantly, the department has a faculty and staff who were always accessible, encouraging, and supportive of the success of its students. This well-rounded experience helped me achieve my goals (including the most important one—graduating!) and ultimately secure a career as a historian.

Dexter Gabriel, Class of 2016 (Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut)

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