Posted tagged ‘CFH’

Signing On: Mary Sanders Says “Hello!”

October 7, 2013

Hi everyone!  I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get on the blog to introduce myself–I’ve just finished my written PhD qualifying exams, and I have some semblance of my life back now!

I am truly honored to have taken over the reigns as CFH Graduate Student Representative from Greg Jones this fall.  I’ve been involved with CFH since my undergraduate alma mater (Oklahoma Baptist University) hosted the biennial conference back in 2006, and I have found it to be an hospitable and nurturing organization.  I’ve come to look forward to the conferences and the breakfasts and panels at the AHA as a time to be professionally challenged and refreshed.

A bit more about me, by way of introduction: I have a BA in history (minor in theatre) from Oklahoma Baptist University, and an MA in history from the University of Connecticut.  I just started my fourth year in the PhD program at Oklahoma State University, and just finished the written part of my PhD exams in three fields: U.S. General, Modern U.S. Religion, and Modern Europe.  My dissertation looks at how the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Council of Churches responded to late-twentieth century terrorism.  I’m a teaching assistant for our U.S. Survey classes at OSU, and I adjuct at OBU as well.

Several people have already contacted me via email ( with questions about CFH–please, keep them coming! I look forward to working with all of you.  Perhaps we can plan an informal CFH Grad Student get-together for any of us who will be at the AHA in January?



Signing Off: Greg Jones Bids Farewell

July 8, 2013

Friends and Colleagues:

After three years of service as the grad rep for the Conference on Faith and History, today marks my final work in the position.  I’m passing the torch to Mary Sanders, an Oklahoma State University PhD student and enthusiastic member of the CFH.  I’m certain Mary will do a great job for us.

Just by way of update, I am still finishing my doctoral work at Kent State University.  This fall I’ll be teaching via a temporary appointment at Geneva College, my alma mater.  I’ve been working as a part time instructor there for a few years and love it.  God is very good in His provision.

I thought I’d finish off my work at the CFH with a few personal reflections.  It is not an easy position to be both a Christian and a scholar.  I’ve learned that I need to spend a lot of time focusing more on Christ and less on my career.  Here are a few points of perspective for your consideration.

First, I learned that God provides.  I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a college professor.  In fact, I started talking about it in middle school.  My parents smartly reminded me that I might consider actually attending college before I thought about teaching it.  God opened the doors for my MA and PhD programs in ways that are hard to describe. When I faced the ending of my adjunct work at Kent State, God provided the opportunity at Geneva. I’ve learned a lot lately about the foolishness of cutting pieces of scripture out of context to suit our own needs, but I have to say the “seek ye first” passage [Matt. 6:33] seems true in any context.  Seek first God’s wisdom and righteousness, before personal career, and He will bless your work (albeit not always how you envisioned).

Second, I learned that no matter the work, my family matters most.  Without getting too autobiographical, I’d just like to say that time spent with family is never lost time.  For those of us with small children bouncing around our rooms, it may be difficult to focus on that book review or last minute edit, but time spent with family is never lost.  Don’t use family as a crutch to miss out on responsibilities, but remember that family is the root of life.  When you put them in the acknowledgements of your book one day, you want to mean what you say about their support.  Don’t cut yourself off from that which brings real blessing.

Third, I learned that nothing is promised.  Not a day is promised to us.  We have to live for the moment not in a hedonistic sense, but to do our best.  I may never teach another class.  The higher education bubble may burst any day, closing our access to ever teaching or researching again.  So enjoy today.  Read what you must, but also read what drives  you.  Tomorrow is not promised so work and play as hard as you can today.  When I hear colleagues whining and complaining about how much work they have to do, I can’t help but feel for them.  This “job” is such a blessing to me.  Do I always love grading?  Of course not.  Do I always love meetings?  No way.  But do I count it a blessing to work in the conditions I do with people that I love, reading and discussing the things that matter most?  Of course.

Wherever you are in your program, or even if you’re a non-academic that surfed your way to this entry, keep working.  Keep your hand to the plow.  Keep your nose to the stone.  Work, love, play, and embrace the world that we have.  God is good and His bounty is not complete.  Seek Him.  Listen to His guidance in career, in research, in writing, and in teaching.  Faith is more than a nice set of moral standards for conducting our lives.  Faith is the lived evidence of a Living God.  Testify with your life, with your work, and with all that you are.

Thank you, again, to the CFH for inviting me to this position.  Thank  you to my fellow graduate students who have shared in CFH panel discussions or corresponded with me.  Thank you to the grad students who will carry on after me.  It is my prayer that the organization continues to grow, beaming the Light of Christ in the midst of an ever-darkening Academy.  Let us be a beacon of hope for the Kingdom of God.

Greg Jones

So you want to go to grad school? Five things advisers won’t tell you but you need to know

March 1, 2013

When students get the idea to go to graduate school, they immediately put their undergraduate advisor in a difficult position. The professor can encourage you to press on, apply, and go for your dreams. Or, he/she can choose to be honest, explaining the realities of the dreaded “job market” and the general societal malaise for all things “higher education.” Somewhere in this conversation of “well… you know” and “how can I say this without sounding offensive?” awkward moments, maybe inklings of truth creep through.

I decided, in my service here as the CFH grad rep, to save some of the trouble with five things your adviser never told you, but you should definitely consider about graduate school:

  1. Grad school is nothing like college. Nothing. Seriously not even a little bit. It’s a job. You’re going to a job that doesn’t pay you anything. In fact, you’re going to a job that is quite possibly going to cost MORE than your undergraduate debt. The glorious stories of drinking coffee, up late in your tweed smoking jacket pontificating about some great historical figure are often squelched by extra side jobs, chicken-scratch esoteric jargon-filled commentary from frustrated research professors, and a general disconnect from the beloved “academy” that sparked your initial interest in the “profession.”
  2. Job Prospects. The golden goose at the end of it is not a guaranteed “practice” as in the medical professions. No, instead, you will be in the precarious position of trying to oust a senior colleague who is, at that time, making the most he/she has ever made in his/her career. There’s a reason people don’t retire.
  3. You start putting quotation marks around everything and your friends/family hate you for it. No, seriously, graduate school after the postmodern turn is akin to walking on eggshells EVERYWHERE you go. You start talking about “race” and “class” instead of race and class. You read Foucault and start deconstructing everything. You order a chocolate donut and begin asking yourself about the global impact of your personal cocoa reliance… then you throw the donut away and hope that the good people of Nicaragua forgive you for exploiting them. Then you put “exploiting” in quotation marks and feel awful, again.
  4. You feel guilty for having hobbies. You will find yourself justifying going to the gym because it’s time spent away from books. You have this immaculate pressure that, because your life is not on a 9-5, it must be a 24/7 immersion in theory and difficult readings. You will be in the middle of a workout wondering what a Marxist critique of this gym might look like. You wonder if anyone else has ever even contemplated such a thing. You apply Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined communities” to the gym rats. Then you cry a little, and remember you have a precis to write by morning. You cancel whatever fun thing you thought about doing that night and go read because no good grad student has hobbies.
  5. Awful War Stories. All survivors have a story. Mere survival IS the story. Graduate school, should you survive, makes for awful stories. When your “friends” ask where you’ve been for the past two years, you explain that you were on a mountaintop of exalted consciousness, connecting with the great minds of the ages. They ask about your library fines and tease about your use of quotation marks. Then, your friends stop calling you to hang out because either they don’t like quotation marks, or, more realistically graduate school changed the way you look at the world so much that you can’t tell a single, solitary story anymore without giving a theoretical background, a brief discussion of historiographic context, and an explicit, clear, well-articulated thesis statement. “Bro, we just asked what you had for lunch. You didn’t have to talk about the history of ‘Po boys.”

*This is decidedly tongue in cheek. If you’d like advice on attending graduate school, do not hesitate to email me at I’ve had some really incredible “experiences” in graduate school and am happy to help any aspiring students with the pesky questions you’d never really ask your own advisors. And yes, I do put a lot more things in quotation marks now.

Spring 2013 – Status

January 26, 2013

AwaitingFriends, colleagues, and fellow Christian historians,

Hopefully your semesters are off to a rousing start.  I hoped that we could communicate a bit more extensively about our respective programs.  One of the great things about the CFH is that we have this (inter)national breadth of scholars in various places, points in their careers, and experience levels.  We all wrestle with similar problems and frustrations, yet we seemingly all put up with (or do I mean endure?) them for the same reasons.  It’s my idea that in the comment section of this post, some of you might be willing to share an extended “status update” of sorts with colleagues.  Who knows, maybe there’s a fellow CFH member at a nearby school… or sitting at the other table in your coffee shop.  Won’t you join us?

I suppose I’ll get us started.  After the awesome CFH Conference at Gordon College in the fall and the birth of my baby girl, life’s been a bit of a roller coaster.  I’ll decline to comment publicly on the exact status of my dissertation, but suffice it to say I’m near(ing) in the end.  That said I’m adjuncting (and, apparently, gerunding) at two different schools in two different states.  I’m thankful for both opportunities.  I am particularly excited about a course I’m teaching at Geneva College called Digital History in which I’m working with 7 undergraduates to build an archive.  We’re still narrowing our focus and determining what it will look like exactly, but I hope to have something to share with you all.

In terms of “what I’m reading” these days… that’s an oddly personal question but one I like thinking about.  I’ve been trying to read more on postmodern education, as I see it as an important obstacle to effective teaching compared to the late-modern era of schooling that bore my scholastic self.  I’m working on N.T. Wright’s *How God Became King* for a dose of the theological.  For my academic historical reading, I’m trying to broaden some theoretical work on correspondence in the 19th century as well as failing horribly in my attempt to keep up with the unending waterfall of Civil War historiography.  The best book I’ve read recently is Mark Schantz’s *Awaiting the Heavenly Country* about death culture that motivated the society of Americans that fought and supported the Civil War.

So… what say you?

Faith and History Meets Our President(s)

January 26, 2013

We’re excited to learn that the CFH President R. Tracy McKenzie has a blog about the intersection of… you guessed it, faith and history.  His recent comments on the Presidential Inauguration seem of particular interest to readers of this blog.

Dispatches from Graduate School – Part 40

January 31, 2012

*Re-posted by permission of John Fea’s The Way of Improvement Leads Home*

Cali Pitchel McCullough is a Ph.D student in American history at Arizona State University.  For earlier posts in this series click here.

After what I consider an embarrassingly long hiatus, I return to my Graduate School Dispatches routine.  Thanks to Dr. Fea and to my readers (Hi, Dad!) for your patience during my absence. I felt especially uninspired during the fall semester. I had what only a privileged graduate student could consider an unfair grading assignment that had my nose in bluebooks for a disproportionate amount of time. I needed the winter break desperately and feel reinvigorated for my final semester as a PhD student before I enter candidacy (fingers crossed) in the summer.

I look toward my last semester of coursework with a bit of heartache. In some way, this is the beginning of the end. In less than six months I take my qualifying exams and move from student to candidate. Although a quick search through the past year and a half of Dispatches will return more than a few melancholy missives on graduate school life, I envy those students still sitting in the lecture hall or seminar. What I love most about the study of history is the dialogue, the collaboration, and the opportunity to learn from seasoned scholars. To borrow an analogy from Jane Jacobs: the classroom ballet. Academia is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, but there is a marked difference between furiously taking notes from a foremost historian on the Bracero Program and standing before a classroom delivering a synthetic commentary on the United Farm Workers. I will always look fondly on my time facing the lectern.

Despite the distress I felt (and will likely continue to feel) over my workload, I am more equipped than ever to take on my nine concluding credits. My course lineup agrees especially well with my interests. I’m taking two readings courses, one in urban history and the other in food production and consumption. The former prepares me for my secondary field in urban history, while the latter familiarizes me with a literature necessary for my dissertation prospectus due next fall. I am fortunate to work with two great faculty members, Philip Vandermeer and Matt Garcia, respectively. In my other course, North American Cultural Landscapes, we will read the likes of Tuan and Meining in order to better understand the systemic interaction of human beings with their environment.  Susan Gray, whose work deals with the interplay of place, race and gender, teaches the course.

It’s quite the array of courses if I do say so myself, and what a fine way to close out some of the most rewarding
years of my life.

Opportunities to Chair a Session: CFH Gordon College in October

January 31, 2012

Grad Students… to arms! to arms!  (Or, at least, to pens!)

We’ve been volunteered (you’re welcome, I think) to serve our esteemed organization by way of offering commentary on the papers for the undergraduate conference at Gordon College in October.  The dates are October 4-6, 2012.  Check out the details of the conference here.

Some of you may be a little apprehensive about this, but we’re really looking for advanced graduate students (ABD preferred) to comment on papers within your field of specialization.  That said, we may not have a perfect match between papers being presented and commentors available.  So, let’s begin the process by getting willing volunteers to contact me ( and I will work with Jared Burkholder, the undergraduate conference organizer, to match things up.

If you’re wondering WHY on Earth you should volunteer your time for such an endeavor, the answer is simply because it will help your career.  Not only is it the ever-popular “vita line,” it is also and opportunity to show future employers your willingness to help in a time of need.  We, the grad students, will be lightening the load for the rest of the membership of the CFH.  Additionally, you’ll gain experience in commenting on papers.  Remember that these will be more polished than the average undergraduate “written the night before its due” papers.  Many of these are inquiring young scholars attempting to dip their toes in the academy.  We have a chance to offer them direction and encouragement in the way that many of us received at a similar critical juncture in our careers.

I truly hope many of you will volunteer.