AHA Member Spotlight: Amy Forss

Amy Forss is the chair of the history program at Metropolitan Community College. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and has been a member since 2006.

force_picAlma maters: BGS, University of Nebraska-Omaha, 1994; MA, University of Nebraska-Omaha, 2000; BS, Peru State College, 2002; PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2010

Fields of interest: African American history, women’s history, oral history

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I fell in love with history while munching on buttered popcorn and watching the movie musical 1776. I knew then I would teach but I wanted a family first. Eleven years after the birth of our eldest daughter I completed my bachelor’s and started right in on my master’s as a teaching assistant. After my MA was done, I decided to improve my pedagogy with a bachelor’s in secondary education. It was a labor-intensive choice but a good decision. I was offered a full-time faculty position at Metropolitan Community College. Once I adjusted to our now six children and teaching a full plus load, I pursued my PhD. All those years of schooling and getting up before 5 a.m. to make sure everyone had what they needed paid off big time. I served as a Fulbright scholar teaching for a semester in Kecskemet, Hungary. This past summer, I accompanied 10 of our MCC students on a study abroad trip to Ireland. It was blissful watching them literally experience history.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? My adopted hometown of Omaha has a rich historical background. It was the site of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition and remains the headquarters of the Union Pacific Railroad. There are plenty of local and regional archives for research projects. I enjoy teaching at the community college because it encompasses a four-county area. My history colleagues, the majority of whom also have their PhDs, and I teach a diverse population in the classroom, online, distance education, hybrid, and accelerated.

What projects are you currently working on? I am in the process of having my second book illustrated and writing my third book. The second book is actually a children’s picture book. It is the second grader’s version of my first text, Black Print with a White Carnation: Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star Newspaper, 1938–1989. It was key to share African American newspaper woman Mildred Brown’s story with elementary students. My third book, entitled Borrowing from Our Foremothers, will examine suffragist artifacts and strategies borrowed by modern day feminists campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? As a participant in the NEH/AHA Bridging Cultures Community College Institute, I spent time researching the maps of Captain James Cook. In the Library of Congress Geography and Map Reading Room, I found a chart attributed to Cook but it was actually the wrong Captain Cook. Turns out there were three, possibly four, British navigators/explorers named James Cook. Ah, that right there illustrates the beauty of history. It is not static!

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.

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