AHA Member Spotlight: Allison Scardino Belzer

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series. The members featured in this column have been randomly selected by AHA staff or nominated by fellow AHA members. If you would you like to nominate a colleague for the AHA Member Spotlight, please contact Nike Nivar.

Allison Scardino Belzer is assistant professor of history and the coordinator of undergraduate research at Armstrong Atlantic State University. She lives in Savannah, Georgia, and has been an AHA member since 2002.

AHA Member, Allison Scardino Belzer

Alma mater/s: PhD and MA, Emory; AB, Vassar

Fields of interest: modern Europe, especially Italy and Britain

When did you first develop an interest in history?
I look back to my high school history class. My teacher, Dr. Sam Haynes, helped me develop a question about Italian fascism that I pursued for years. I felt so frustrated doing research because I knew the answer was in the library, I just couldn’t get to it because I didn’t know Italian. I ended up being a double major in history and Italian.

What projects are you working on currently?
I am researching a fascinating British family from the mid-19th century who helped support Italian unification. All five children were very involved in promoting nationalism and befriended Giuseppe Mazzini, who became like a brother to them. I’m intrigued by the varying notions of “family” during this period and what “family values” the Victorians shared and foisted upon the rest of the world.

Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?
Yes, definitely. I came in to grad school planning to focus on intellectual history in France and Italy. My dissertation ended up being about women and World War I in Italy. I’m now moving farther back in time and across Europe to Britain. Instead of studying war, I’m studying families and I’m enjoying the less brutal subject matter. At Armstrong, I have to teach across the world civ curriculum, so I have much broader teaching interests than I anticipated.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?
I’m intrigued by Ben Affleck’s Argo—the story it tells and the liberties it takes. I plan to assign it next year as a way to get first-year students interested in the process of historical research. I hope they’ll enjoy figuring out what questions they have about the film and how to answer them in a scholarly fashion.

What do you value most about the history profession?
The discovery process. I love helping students discover the value of listening to individual voices from the past. I hope it reassures them to know what other people across the centuries have endured and created. I appreciate the humanity of history and feel that the liberal arts really do help us to become better people, more capable of leading and making decisions at the personal and political levels.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?
Spending time with my family on the nearby May River and in Italy.

Any final thoughts?
Public opinion gets so worked up about promoting the sciences, but I wish people paid attention to the skills that students gain in the liberal arts that equip them to be more well-rounded human beings.

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