Marisa Richmond is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of History and Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and has been a member of the AHA since 1987.
Alma maters: AB, Harvard University, 1980; MA, University of California, Berkeley, 1985; PhD, George Washington University, 1992
Fields of interest: 20th-century US politics, LGBT, science and technology
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I initially thought about becoming an attorney, but by the time I reached my senior year of college, I realized that I was more passionate about history. I always liked history and enjoyed reading biographies when I was growing up. In addition, both of my parents were college professors (organic chemistry and German literature), so being an educator was in my field of vision. I made up my mind just prior to responding to the acceptance offers.
What do you like the most about where you live and work? I was born and raised in Nashville, so I decided to move back home to help take care of my parents in their final years. I was fortunate that a job opened in my field. I also like living in large, urban areas with a progressive political bent, and Nashville has evolved in some exciting and dynamic ways. MTSU has specifically been a wonderful place to work since I joined the faculty.
What projects are you currently working on? I am working on a chapter on transgender law and politics as part of a larger work on the evolution of the transgender movement. It is being co-edited by a friend of mine from Florida State University.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? Yes. I always defined myself as a political historian, and my dissertation is a study on presidential policy-making using space policy as the topic, but I have begun to do more on transgender history in recent years. It was a topic not being studied in any serious manner when I finished graduate school. I teach a class on the subject in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, and it is unlike any other class that I have ever taught.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? I used national security records to study the development of early space policy. I was able to uncover previously redacted documents and paragraphs through the Freedom of Information Act. The first time I read previously classified statements about US responses to Soviet initiatives was very exciting. I was seeing correspondence and discussion that nobody outside of the national security apparatus had ever seen.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? I cannot think of just one. The area of transgender history is new and the definitive work on the evolution of the transgender rights movement has yet to be produced.
What do you value most about the history discipline? I love the fact that I can do different things as both a teacher and as a scholar. I am not limited to one thing for the entirety of my career. It keeps me fresh and it keeps the material exciting.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you? It is an opportunity to stay grounded with the research being done in a wide array of topics. Besides my main fields, I teach in numerous areas, including history of Africa, modern Europe, and world civilization. It helps me keep up with new developments and interpretations in these other areas.
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.