Michael Doidge: My Thoughts on History at Southern Miss
When I first came to Hattiesburg to see if Southern Mississippi was right for me, the Director of Graduate studies opened his meeting with me by stating that “I had never faced a challenge in my life like the one Southern Miss had in store for me.” His statement struck me so greatly that I nearly missed his follow-up sentence, which was to invite me to a barbeque with his family. There it was. With one breath the man had just challenged me to embark on the most trying educational experience of my life and with another he had opened up his home to me. In a nutshell, those qualities are the history department at Southern Miss: challenge laced with a mix of professionalism and congeniality.
I’ll confess at first I remained a bit skeptical despite this honesty, perhaps even in spite of it. For if, like me, you are a scholar interested in interpreting warfare as a mechanism of change in society, you are probably well aware that historians of war—dare I say it, “military historians”—carry some pejorative connotations in academia, many of which are unfortunately of our own making. What I found, much to my surprise and delight, was that Southern Miss not only encourages its students to develop and pursue their interests, whatever they may be, but also to expand them as well in ways they may not have thought possible.
On the one hand I received an eye-opening experience into social, economic, gender, and cultural history from historians renowned in their fields such as Greg O’Brien, Douglas Chambers, Louis Kyriakoudes, and Phyllis Jestice. On the other hand, the faculty, regardless of their academic interest, showed great enthusiasm in encouraging me to pursue my own interests in war and society as well.
That’s why I believe graduate students interested in war and society should strongly consider Southern Miss, especially those who are open-minded enough to recognize that both “war” and “society” can be interpreted from the variety of vantage points listed above. Our specialists in war and society reflect such diversity. They include Michael Neiberg, Andrew Wiest, Kyle Zelner and Kevin Dougherty. Their passion for the war and society program is matched only by their desire to help you to attain your own personal goal. What I have found is a great willingness on their part to use their connections within academia, government, military, archives, and teaching for graduate students who show a genuine desire to work hard and improve their scholarship.
It’s really quite simple. Southern Miss likes graduate students who like to be challenged. That’s why I came here.
Michael Doidge, PhD Candidate