Careers: Caitlin Murphy, Digital Native (’12)

Caitlin Murphy ’12 knew she was prepared for a job that combined her history and digital studies degrees and thought a position at PBS would be the perfect fit.

Caitlin Murphy '12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

Caitlin Murphy ’12 works at PBS in Washington, D.C.

Not long after she submitted her application, Murphy got a call from the internationally renowned public broadcasting network. They had reviewed her resume and delved into her online portfolio, which she developed while a student at the University of Mary Washington, and it wasn’t long before she had the job.

“When I applied for the position, they said my online portfolio was one of the main reasons they had contacted me,” Murphy said. “It really helped me get a foot in the door. I don’t think I would have gotten called if I hadn’t had the portfolio I did.”

Murphy is a program associate at the PBS headquarters just outside Washington, D.C. She screens upcoming programs, like “Masterpiece Theatre” or “Foyle’s War,” to make sure they meet PBS’ standards.

The position requires an eye for detail and the ability to research, skills Murphy said she honed while a student at UMW.

“Caitlin took full advantage of the liberal arts experience at UMW,” said Jeff McClurken, chair and professor of history and American studies. “Not only was she a history major who wrote a thesis that earned her departmental honors, but she also crafted a second major in digital studies, anticipating our development of the formal digital studies minor by nearly two years.”

Murphy's online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Murphy’s online portfolio, which she developed as an undergraduate, includes work from her classes and her internships.

Her digital studies major combined her passion for history with her love of technology in a multi-disciplinary way, combining classes in English, art, history, computer science with ds106, UMW’s open online digital storytelling course.

Murphy’s portfolio, which she shared during her job interview with PBS, included work from her classes and internships, as well as her work on the James Farmer Lectures project.

“She co-produced a site making the words, sounds and images of Civil Rights leader James Farmer available to anyone,” McClurken said. “She then took an assignment in my class to create a digital portfolio and ran with it, producing an amazing site featuring her projects in several classes in multiple departments.  It’s no surprise to me that PBS hired her based on her work.”

Now, all incoming students have the opportunity to create an online presence like Murphy, through the Domain of One’s Own initiative, launched in August 2013. The pioneering project provides free, personal domain names and web hosting to help students take responsibility for their online identities, as well as explore the implications of what it might mean for them to take control of their work and manage their own portfolios.

“Mary Washington does a really great job of providing opportunities for students,” said Murphy. “A lot of departments are working really hard to integrate digital media into day to day classes and projects. The integration of creating a website, blog or video project to create content that is still valid and historical really provided something a traditional class didn’t.”

This article by Brynn Boyer was originally published at the EagleEye Newsletter on October 31st, 2013, and is republished here by permission.

Talking History: Convo’s about Research with UMW Faculty

The History and American Studies Department is kicking off a new series this fall in which faculty members will share informal conversations about their research projects as works in progress. See below for further details. Talks this fall will be held in Monroe 233. All are welcome!

Dr. Allyson Poska Awarded Waple Professorship

Dr. Allyson Poska, Professor of History at UMW, has been awarded the Waple Professorship. The Waple Professorship is a new program supported by a generous gift from the Waple family. Three professorships have been awarded in this inaugural year, one to a leading faculty member from each of the three colleges (Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education) at our university.

Dr. Poska’s award was in recognition for her study, Gendered Crossings:  Transatlantic Migration in the Spanish Empire.

Primarily a social historian, she regularly teaches upper-level courses on the histories of Spain and Latin America and frequently offers seminars dealing with gender issues. Her most recent book is Women and Authority in Early Modern Spain: The Peasants of Galicia (2006) which won the Roland H. Bainton Prize given by the Sixteenth Century Studies Association to the best book in early modern history or theology.

In addition to her work at the Department of History and American Studies, Dr. Poska is currently director of UMW’s Women’s and Gender Studies program.

New Book by Dr. Steven Harris: “Communism on Tomorrow Street”

The History and American Studies Department is happy to announce that Dr. Steven Harris’ book, Communism on Tomorrow Street: Mass Housing and Everyday Life after Stalin, was recently published by the Woodrow Wilson Center Press and the Johns Hopkins University Press.

Book description:

This book examines how, beginning under Khrushchev in 1953, a generation of Soviet citizens moved from the overcrowded communal dwellings of the Stalin era to modern single-family apartments, later dubbed khrushchevka. Arguing that moving to a separate apartment allowed ordinary urban dwellers to experience Khrushchev’s thaw, Steven E. Harris fundamentally shifts interpretation of the thaw, conventionally understood as an elite phenomenon.

Harris focuses on the many participants eager to benefit from and influence the new way of life embodied by the khrushchevka, its furniture, and its associated consumer goods. He examines activities of national and local politicians, planners, enterprise managers, workers, furniture designers and architects, elite organizations (centrally involved in creating cooperative housing), and ordinary urban dwellers. Communism on Tomorrow Street also demonstrates the relationship of Soviet mass housing and urban planning to international efforts at resolving the “housing question” that had been studied since the nineteenth century and led to housing developments in Western Europe, the United States, and Latin America as well as the USSR.

Alum’s book reviewed

History alum (’94)  David Preston’s book was recently featured in a review essay in the William and Mary Quarterly, a leading journal of the colonial and early national period, on the cutting-edge works that have appeared on Iroquois history in the past few years.  See the essay at

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Prof. Mackintosh talks Vampires, Founding Fathers, and Pop Culture in a recent article

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Vampires

“Jefferson was a pretty cerebral guy,” says Will Mackintosh, assistant professor in the Department of History and American Studies at the University of Mary Washington.  Read the full article at

Recent Graduate, Joe Calpin, Featured in Local Paper

Joe Calpin of Dumfries found a love for the Chinese language through martial arts films and studying Kung Fu while in high school. Since then he has continued to pursue it within his undergraduate studies. While at UMW last year, he studied abroad in Harbin, China and this year is in Taiwan with the International Chinese Language Program.

He said, “Dr. Susan Fernsebner, professor of history at the University of Mary Washington, took my simple desire to study Chinese history and gave me the tools to dig deep into that history. It was actually through her that I became aware of the ICLP here in Taipei.”

Calpin recognizes the issue that “a number of people have their fair share of doubts about higher education, particularly in a depressed economy where everyone’s money is tight.”

But to him, it is quite worth it.

Calpin said, “If nothing else, I have received opportunities to study and do things that I would have never had outside of college. I couldn’t imagine where my life would be now without UMW providing the space for me to grow and ponder.”

According to Calpin, “You would expect that information given in a classroom stays within the confines of that room or even the campus, but I see the exact opposite. In taking part of the educational experience at Mary Washington, I soon discovered that with all of that knowledge I couldn’t help but open my eyes to issues that exist in our society today.”