AHA Member Spotlight: Laura Dull

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.

Dull_photoLaura Dull is a professor of history at Delta College. She lives in Coleman, Michigan, and has been a member since 2000.

Twitter Handle: @proflauradull

Alma maters: BA, Central Michigan University; MTS, Weston Jesuit School of Theology; MA, PhD, University of Notre Dame

Fields of interest: medieval and early modern Europe, gender history, history of the book 

When did you first develop an interest in history?

I became interested in history as a child through historical novels. I was fascinated by the Arthurian myth, and this led me into a love of medieval and gender history.

What projects are you working on currently?

In my research, I’m currently looking at Anthony Woodville, the uncle of the Princes in the Tower, and exploring his roles as a late medieval nobleman, Christian, and humanist. His story is full of drama (he was arrested and beheaded in Richard III’s path to the throne), which I hope makes a good teaser for the deeper analytical elements of the project. In my teaching, inspired by the “Getting Started in Digital History” pre-annual meeting workshop in Washington, DC, last year, I am integrating more digital history projects and comparative history units. For example, this semester my survey course students reviewed the Pinterest boards of public history organizations and created their own boards modeled on those they found most effective. Last winter students in our gender history course became Wikipedia editors and, as the product of their research assignments, evaluated and edited Wikipedia entries. These projects have engaged students in passionate conversations about the historical research process and the responsibilities of historians in communicating that research to the public.

Have your interests changed since graduation? If so, how?

My interests have broadened since graduation, due in large part to my teaching. I teach at a community college, so I teach many sections of Western civilization surveys. These experiences have pulled me to more comparative history, to looking outside the west, and to see the “big history” that has become trendy again recently. My research interests remain rooted in the late medieval/early modern world around questions of gender and power. In both teaching and research I have become interested in the possibilities of the digital humanities.

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

I love Erik Kwakkel’s Medieval Books blog. He writes about quirky aspects of manuscript studies and brings in a fun popular culture hook. 

What do you value most about the history profession? 

There is a common human desire to understand where we came from and where what interests us came from. History has a space for every interest because there is a history of everything. I ask students, are you human? Then you like history. You just have to find the history of what interests you. Once we hook them, then they will discover the interconnectedness of all histories. This works with students and the public, whose good opinion we need to win back. It worked for me! 

Why did you join the AHA? 

The AHA is the premier professional organization for historians in the United States. As a graduate student I appreciated the ability to stay connected to the profession in its various faces (research, teaching, public history, etc.) through Perspectives, to current research through the AHR, and to network and hear research in various stages of formation at the annual meeting. As a more experienced historian, I have come to appreciate the AHA’s advocacy for our profession. 

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

My very first AHA annual meeting was in Chicago sometime in the mid-1990s. I stayed at the Palmer Hotel and to this day remember the visual spectacle of that dramatic lobby and the sight of so many historians bustling through registration and talking in small clusters, all decorated with their conference badges and clutching the program. I feel that same excitement of the possibilities of those few days every time I walk into the first day of the annual meeting. 

Other than history, what are you passionate about?

I have kept the passion for reading fiction that led me into my love of history. When I am not teaching, researching, or reading, I enjoy spending time with my family and my four crazy dogs.

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