Alumni@Work: Catching Up With Our Former Students

Editor’s note: When we launched Historians@Work three years ago, we announced our intention to focus on “the journeys the community of historians at Marquette take in the name of research, broadly defined. Some of these will be actual, physical journeys, to archives, to conferences, to places strange and familiar to our readers. Others will be intellectual, as we learn about our world and ourselves through our research.” Since then, in about five dozen separate blog entries, we have written about “the places and ideas and yes, adventures, that we encounter scrounging through archives, networking with our colleagues, and even at our computers.”

Over the next several weeks we’ll turn H@W over to our former PhD students, who will provide updates on their own journeys since leaving Marquette. Some have remained in Milwaukee, working at local universities; others have traveled the world. My email invited them to write “a paragraph or two about your experiences, including frustrations, discoveries, altered viewpoints—anything that you would like to say about your careers,” including “the ways your expectations have or haven’t meshed with reality, about how your perspectives on teaching, researching, and the profession have been confirmed or altered.” Some provided chatty updates on themselves, others reflected on the ways that the profession had changed during their careers. We’re proud of all of them! Jim Marten, Editor

 First up is David Pigott, Brigham Young University-Idaho, who writes,

I’ve been quite active, not necessarily in the publishing realm, but in teaching and various projects. I am very grateful for the FullSizeRender4counsel given to me by Dr. Ruff to choose a non-western minor field, and to Philip Naylor and Dr. Gardinier.  It not only made me more marketable and enabled me to land a very good tenure-track job but also has become my main teaching field, and has allowed me to help build a new undergraduate program in international studies at my university. As a result, I teach in both the history department and  in the international studies dept.  I love to travel and this job fits perfectly with this preference—indeed, I’m writing to you from Kathmandu where I’m taking a few days off after doing research in rural Rajasthan, where I’m comparing solid fuel consumption to that of sub-Saharan Africa, all with the intention of presenting a “solution” to deforestation and the use of invasive species (such as water hyacinth) as a fuel source to Muhammad Yunus in May, and then again at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in November.  It’s a bit more complicated than that but that’s the most recent project I’ve been on, as well as teaching a 3-3-3 (yes, three semesters/year) load.

Before the water hyacinth project I put together a documentary film about the Baganda people of Uganda and the challenges globalization poses to the survival of their culture and future as a tribal identity.  It’s called Cultured Pearl: Voices of Uganda (click here for the IMDb entry for Cultured Pearl).

I’ve also taught at Mutesa I RFullSizeRenderoyal University in Kampala where I lived with my family. I also run a small charity dedicated to providing school fees to Ugandan children, called Enough to Spare (check out its website at We also help fund an orphanage in Gulu.

Most recently, as of last week, I was informed that I’ll be awarded Professor of the Year at Brigham Young University-Idaho where I’ve been teaching for the last 14 years. I credit Marquette, and specifically Julius Ruff and Philip Naylor for preparing me for the rigors of a teaching university.  I try to stay passionate about what I teach.

Most importantly, and I know this is long, my wife and four children have been able to enjoy many of the travels this career has offered me.

David Pigott received his PhD from MU in 2001; his dissertation was Autonomy and Antagonism in Early Modern France: The Protestants of Bergerac, 1545-1685,” which he wrote under the direction of Julius Ruff.


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