1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
When I was almost four years of age, my parents took me to see the Egyptian exhibit at the Chicago Field Museum. I was mesmerized by the artifacts, but the piece that fascinated me the most was a mummified cat. I immediately pelted my parents with questions about it. Why was it mummified? Was it their pet? Did they worship it? My parents encouraged my curiosity by purchasing a subscription to an archaeological journal (they didn't have a lot of stuff for kids back then), which I devoured monthly. They continued to take me to museums and center our family vacations around historical sites, so I have my parents to thank for cultivating my life-long love of history.
2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
The past seems to command my present. I'm always looking to explore historical sites or sift through archives. I like to think that I live in the moment, but whose moment I live in is a different story.
3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
I'm a history professor so history plays a huge part of my career. My husband and I also own a company, Roaming Historian, which allows me to share my passion for history with a broader audience than my college's student body. As the Roaming Historian, I encourage others to integrate history into their travels. I help travel destinations promote their history to travelers and offer other travel services, as well as history services (research, consulting, speaking engagements, etc.). I am incredibly fortunate that I have two positions, which I love, that let me share my passion for history with others!
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
Besides the fact that it is just the coolest subject on Earth? Studying history opens up a world of possibilities and inspires us to be great (or not to make the same mistakes as others). Through learning the past we build an appreciation of other cultures and become engaged, global citizens. I love having a complex, diverse past to explore, and studying history continually sharpens my abilities to think critically and analytically.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?It is difficult to choose just one era, but an aspect that I greatly enjoy is labor history, especially that of women. Coming from a working-class background, I was the first in my immediate family to go to college. My grandmother had a scholarship, but her father wouldn't let her accept it because she was a woman. I identify with the history of laborers and want to tell the story of people who are like me.
6. How and why did you get to be the Roaming Historian?Initially, I started writing about my travels for my friends, family, and students. As an avid watcher of travel shows and reader of travel articles, I noticed that a lot of them included history or were about historical sites. Since these were popular shows and magazines, I saw an opportunity to share my passion and expertise with a broader audience—so I became the Roaming Historian. As the Roaming Historian, I offer travelers ideas and opinions from a professional historian; I'm also able to offer my professional services in a variety of other ways.
7. What are some of your greatest memories of trips you’ve taken as the Roaming Historian?Rome is the city where I connect to its past most deeply, but Athens is a close second. As I wandered down Rome's cobblestone streets, my spirit felt at peace. It felt like I was home. I love Rome's culture: its food, historical sites, joie de vivre, and respect for heritage. Athens is another great city where I have wonderful memories. Climbing the Acropolis and gazing upon the Parthenon gave me chills. I couldn't believe that I was visiting the birthplace of democracy, and that I was standing where noted scholars may have once stood. Both are fantastic cities! Ephesus, Turkey is another great memory. To wander through a huge archaeological site fulfilled my childhood dreams and made me realize that my life had come full circle. I still have the same insatiable curiosity for the past that I did when I was a child. Thankfully, my professional and personal lives allow me to live my dreams daily.