Emilee, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Emilee Ramirez. I grew up in San Marcos, got my B.A. in history from CSUSM in 2016 and my M.A. from CSUSM in 2019. My thesis, entitled "Subjugated Lands: Interment, Colonization, and Development on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, 1945-1960," receive the department's Outstanding Thesis Award. I taught HIST 131 in the History department in 2019-20.
Why do you like studying history?
History was not really my strong suit originally, but in high school I had a really great teacher that just made things click. I ended up choosing history as a major during my second year, and I realized I was really interested in anything history. The professors at CSUSM definitely made learning fun and I loved the challenges posed by deep historical analysis. I matured I realized the invaluable skills that come with studying history: inquiry, investigation, research, writing, argumentation (I always loved a good argument!). I am continuing to find new skills or ways to better my skills and apply history in a lot of what I do. For my undergrads, I always include a lesson on why studying history, and developing these skills, is vital to their future careers and to being good, informed citizens.
What was it like to complete an M.A. here? What was your experience working with faculty
CSUSM's M.A. program is not huge, but that that worked to a great advantage for me. The relationships that you build with your professors, even if you have them for one seminar, is aided by the fact that our groups tended to be very small and therefore very constructive. This also meant that everyone had to have a voice, something that I didn't really exercise in my undergrad. As for the classes, I somewhat front loaded my M.A.: by the end of my first year I had completed 21 units. This was a lot, but when it got down to the writing process, it gave me a lot more time to dedicate to my thesis. The classes are hard, but that's because they're quality! I was exposed to a thousand different ways of thinking, writing, and researching because of the kinds of classes that the M.A. program offers.
Completing an M.A. is by no means easy, but in hindsight I would have done a few things different. For starters, your advisor is your friend and the gatekeeper to graduation so do not be afraid of them. My advisor was Dr. Jeff Charles, and once I got comfortable "bothering" him and sending drafts, finishing was somewhat of a breeze. It's also important to at least have an idea of what to study or who to study with, so that once you start HIST 620, you can start writing immediately. I did not do this, meaning my first 620 class was strictly about finding an advisor and writing my proposal.
What contribution did your M.A. thesis make to the field?
My thesis was focused on a crossroad of many different fields. I tied US wartime policies of Japanese internment with 20th century US Indian policies (who would have thought!). In this sense, I highlighted a much-overlooked aspect of not only how the government failed Japanese Americans through discriminatory policies, but in turn how this impacted another disenfranchised group of Americans and used internment as a "foot in the door" to implement economic change on Indians of the Southwest. To do so I had to retell the chronological narrative of these policies to show why they fit together. I analyzed the long term impact of these changes, which, I argue, failed.
Why is Digital History useful?
Digital History is the new face of history. On the one end, in my teaching experience I've found how important it is to help students visualize history and present information in more than just monographs. For my own research though, digital history solidified the arguments I was making. One of my most prized parts of my thesis was the digital element. I found blue prints of the internment camp and used georeferencing to overlay the prints over topographical maps of the reservation to prove that most of the agricultural development on the reservation resulted from projects within the internment camp(s). Not only that, but the availability of my resources was aided by digital archives like HathiTrust.
What you are your future career goals?
Thanks to CSUSM, I'm doing it! I get to teach history at my alma mater. It is a bit bittersweet that I'll be leaving for some time but it's for the better, and my mentors reassure me that leaving only means in a few years I'll be doing it again! But, besides teaching, I am still in love with the process of history as well, so one my future goals is to be able to research and study. So, in the chance that the market is over saturated with PhDs, I'm definitely comfortable with gearing myself towards a more "behind the scenes" type of career that wouldn't necessarily involve teaching. But in a perfect world that's what I want to do again, and I don't think I can emphasize enough that it's with great thanks to our department that I feel this way.