AHA Member Spotlight: Ryan E. Messenger

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.

Ryan E. MessengerRyan E. Messenger is an adjunct professor of history and college success at Monroe Community College. He lives in Rochester, New York, and has been a member since 2003.

Alma maters: I received my BS in secondary education at Roberts Wesleyan College and my MA in history at SUNY Brockport.

Fields of interest: I have no expertise, only eclectic interests. My MA research was on the formation of the First Party System and the role of collective memory on American politics of the Federalist Era. I have a personal fascination with Napoleonic Europe and its intellectual and social implications, but beyond that I enjoy a broad range of intellectual, political, social, environmental, and occasionally military topics from all over the world.

When did you first develop an interest in history?

I began to truly appreciate the study of history in high school, but I’ve enjoyed it as far back as I can remember. I recall being obsessed with Davy Crockett as a small child, visiting Fort Niagara, and dressing up in costumes that my father made for me.

What projects are you working on currently?

I’m developing my syllabus for some new courses because Monroe Community College will begin offering World History in the spring. I also spend as much time as possible with my two-year-old daughter.

Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how?

Absolutely. In graduate school I was primarily interested in military history, the American Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars. Graduate school forced me to explore, and as I’ve experienced different life events since graduating, I’ve become much more interested in social justice and environmental issues.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?

I recommend one of my favorite books, The Face of Battle by John Keegan. You don’t have to be particularly interested in military history to appreciate this groundbreaking approach to the experience of battle. A true classic.

What do you value most about the history profession?

I cherish the opportunity to interact with my students. Very few of my students are history majors, but I believe that it is most rewarding to see non-majors enjoy history or make connections and understand the world around them in a new way.

Why did you join the AHA?

I joined the AHA on the advice of one of my professors at Roberts Wesleyan College, Dr. Ronald J. Stansbury.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?

I immediately think of the panel discussion on the origins of the American Revolution during the 2008 meeting in Washington, DC. Gordon S. Wood, Pauline Maier, and a few other historians bickered over the causes of the American Revolution. I often use this story to tell my students that if these prominent historians could disagree on a thoroughly researched subject like the origins of the American Revolution, then there is always room for discussion and a fresh approach to a subject.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?

I love my wife of 10 years, Alicia, and thank God every day for my two-year-old daughter, Ella, who was named after Ella Fitzgerald. My hobbies and interests include electric cars, environmental issues, politics, Buffalo Bills football, and brewing beer.

Any final thoughts?

I believe that the adjunctification of higher education and the working conditions of contingent faculty is alarming and not sustainable.

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