History Grad Introduces Throngs to Lady Liberty
David Imhoof, associate professor and chair of the Department of History, recently interviewed Brad Rousse '07 to learn more about why he chose a career in history. Currently a graduate student at Fordham University, Rousse works for the National Park Service in New York City.
DI: In what area is your graduate work focused?
BR: United States history with an emphasis on New York City. My thesis will look at Director Austin J. Tobin of the Port Authority and how he became the main force behind building the World Trade Center. This research will incorporate the ports and urban development processes in New York in the immediate postwar period.
DI: How did you come to choose public history as a career?
BR: Basically, I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. I did some writing, performed in school drama clubs and choirs, but I kept coming back to history. One of the topics that started my fascination with history was the sinking of the Titanic. In fact, I talked to a college class about it when I was in fourth grade, as incredible as that may sound! My taste in history has expanded since then, but I still enjoy sharing my joy and knowledge with someone willing to listen. When I found out during my senior year at SU that there was actually a field like this, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
DI: What’s it like giving tours of the Statue of Liberty?
BR: Since she’s one of our greatest icons, we have people from all over the world coming to see Lady Liberty. A lot of them come for the picture and to climb a staircase closed since 9/11. But when you have people tell you that it’s important to see her because “it was either here, or wait to be gassed [in Poland]” or that they could wear under the Statue of Liberty what they could not under the ayatollah, you can see what kind of different connections people make to the same subject.
DI: What connections do you see between study and work?
BR: Plenty! Dr. Imhoof, you made it clear that above all else, everything in your paper is a “slave” to the argument. If you’re giving a tour about the Statue of Liberty, you want to give one befitting such an important icon. My tours deal with the statue as an engineering marvel and how it went from being a gift to the embodiment of our country. The only way you can do that is by carefully laying out what you want to say and how you’ll support it.
And, of course, be prepared to read, read, and read some more. If you want to become any sort of authority on a subject, you have to make it your own. Pick something you like and read everything you can about it! And never be arrogant enough to assume you have full mastery of a topic. I’m still reading about the Titanic and finding new information every time.