GS: Where are you from?
JWB: Pell City, AL.
GS: What degree will you receive and when?
JWB: An M.A. in History, in the Spring.
GS: How long have you been at UAB?
JWB: This is my second year
GS: What is your research?
JWB: My focus is 20th Century/post-Cold War American diplomatic history, with a secondary interest in world diplomatic and socio-economic history.
GS: What made you choose UAB for your graduate studies?
JWB: I had spoken with Dr. Tennant McWilliams a long time ago about whether to go to law school or continue with history, so my connection with UAB is also amusingly historical. I took some time off to make a decision, worked with non-profits for a few years, and then realized how much I enjoy academia. I was applying elsewhere, but then I got a random letter of acceptance in the mail from the UAB graduate school last summer (they had just received my GRE scores). I considered that my "sign," so to speak, and I promptly began gearing up for classes here in Birmingham.
GS: Have you received any awards or honors?
JWB: I had the distinct honor of being asked to present independent research at the Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference last Spring, along with Jennifer Phillips and Heather Guy. My work was focused on pre-WWII Alabama laborers and their views and agendas concerning international events leading up to Pearl Harbor. I'm currently revising it for publication.
GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?
JWB: Staying involved. Although the library consumes much of my time during the year, I also volunteer for UAB sponsored events, tutor student-athletes, represent my program in the Graduate Student Association, and work with the UAB History Honors Society, Phi Alpha Theta. If you like history, JOIN TODAY!!
GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?
JWB: I met Dr. Tennant McWilliams when I was still an undergraduate at Birmingham-Southern, and our conversation about history reinforced what I had suspected all along: do what you love. When I began signing up for classes last summer, I saw that he was teaching a course on American Diplomatic History, so I enrolled. His lecture style, his passion for the material, and his guidance in my research allowed me to think outside my bias and my comfort zones (I was planning on doing Russian history before) and really dig into rich subject matter. That was the easiest 27 pages I've ever written because it flowed so naturally, and it is that paper that I presented at the Spring Conference.
GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?
JWB: Sometimes when I listen to a musical genius, or read a well written book in Victorian prose, or whatever...I have to close my eyes and take a deep breath because its beauty is simply overwhelming. My motivation is to make someone feel that way about my work. And if history doesn't pan out, I play the guitar.
GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?
JWB: I'm getting all of my application materials together for Doctoral programs. Right now my top three are North Carolina, Georgetown, and Columbia. However, my life's goal is to start a private school that specializes in the liberal arts and foreign languages. In an increasingly globalizing world, communication is becoming the central theme to development, and with the U.S. exporting less and less we need to be able to work closely with other nations without confusion. My school will prepare students for that, regardless of their profession. And I'll have dictatorial control over the curriculum.
GS: Is there anything else you would like to say?
JWB: Everything happens for a reason. Everything.
John’s advice for other graduate students:
Study with the best faculty you possibly can, regardless of the work load. Oh, and if you hate your field, quit.