Graduate Faculty Spotlight - Kathryn Meier

 

Dr. Meier posing in front of a bookcase full of books on History

Dr. Kathryn Shively Meier is graduate faculty in the History Department in the College of Humanities and Sciences. We asked Dr. Meier a few questions about her educational background, teaching graduate students, and words of advice.  Here is what she had to say: 

Describe your education (BS, MS, PhD)

BS in English, concentration poetry, from U.C. Berkeley; MS and PhD in history from University of Virginia. 

Describe your current career/research interests.

Environmental, medical, and early American military history, with a specialty in the American Civil War. My first book, _Nature's Civil War_, examined the influence of environment on Civil War soldiers' mental and physical health and how soldiers, in turn, altered their environments to prevent and treat illness. My current book project examines the origins of the ex-Confederate collective memory of the Civil War, which dominates Virginia textbooks even today. 

How did you become interested in this field?

I entered the field interested in how warfare affected Civil War soldiers' mental health, because my grandfather was a WWII veteran. I wanted to hold and tell soldiers' stories, testifying to our democratic responsibility to bear the consequences of our warfare. Along the way, I encountered environmental history of war, which helped me to recognize the centrality of environment to soldier experience. 

What do you like most about teaching graduate students at VCU?

I enjoy connecting graduate students who are interested in the Civil War with local landscapes, such as battlefields, and archives, which contain hand-written manuscripts from the 19th century. This grants me the privilege to see my students connect the intellectual to the physical experience of learning about a past time and people. Richmond is also an excellent learning space in which to explore how collective memory--the ways in which groups remember their past to bolster identity--has influenced one's ideas about the Civil War, and then compare that to the best available historical scholarship. In that context, graduate school becomes an identity journey, as the student learns not only how to conduct quality scholarship, but why they have held certain beliefs about the past. 

What advice would you give prospective students about pursuing a graduate degree at VCU?

If you are interested in pursuing a career in early American history, you could not choose a better location than Richmond. There are numerous internships available in the area to provide practical experience in conjunction with the many first-rate research archives we have in town. In addition, should you get the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant, you will get to know our amazing undergraduate students, who are full of life, compassion, and passion.