By Bailey Dick
At every AJHA conference I’ve been to, I’ve spilled something on myself.
In 2017, it was coffee. In 2018, it was an entire hot tea. On both occasions, it was right down the front of whatever business casual, but neither too business nor too casual outfit I’d picked out to wear. And on both occasions, it was on the last day of the conference, right before the awards ceremony.
The good people of AJHA have been kind enough not only to provide me with a few certificates to cover my clumsiness with, but also were nice enough to not point out the fact that I was covered in my caffeinated beverage of choice two years in a row while receiving them. In a way, that’s what my time in AJHA as a graduate student so far has been about: Seeing those who I look up to champion the work of graduate students, and being warm and welcoming to us as we learn to be historians ourselves.
As a master's student, and now a doctoral student at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, I’ve had the honor to learn from Dr. Mike Sweeney and Dr. Aimee Edmondson, who are the embodiment of what AJHA is all about. They both believe in me and my work more than I believe in myself, and are what we Ohioans call “good people.” Both of them told me that I’d find AJHA to be full of people who are genuinely interested in my research, people who aren’t competitive or territorial, people who want me to succeed as much as they want to succeed themselves.
And it’s true. At every AJHA conference I’ve attended so far, I’ve had conversations with people whose books I’ve read, whose research I’ve cited in my own work, whose faculty bios I have bookmarked on my web browser so I can look through their work. And they’ve wanted to hear about my work. Not because it’s particularly amazing or because I’m particularly aggressive in wanting to talk about myself (it actually makes me deeply uncomfortable). It’s all because these are scholars and teachers who want to see others love history, love this field just as much as they do. And that’s a sign of mature, selfless scholarship.
AJHA has been a space where graduate students like myself are welcomed not only by faculty, but by other graduate students. It’s a solid network of people doing the same kind of work I am, and who care about history just as much as I do.
I know AJHA conferences have helped bolster my own confidence in my work as a journalism historian, and that’s thanks in no small part to the warm, welcoming atmosphere cultivated by both faculty and other graduate students. I’ve found it to be a group of people who will still root for you, even after you’ve spilled something on yourself. Twice.