Headshot of Steven Elliott

Steven Elliott, 2012 (M.A., American History)
Ph.D. student at Temple University

Q: What did you like about the program?
A: I was initially attracted to the program because of its affordability and convenience.  Paying my own way through grad school, I was looking for a program that was in-state, public, and close to home.  Rutgers- Newark fulfilled all three of those criteria.  Furthermore, it offered the most rigorous program of any of the state schools I looked into.  Rutgers-Newark had a good record of its graduates moving on to PhD programs, which was my ultimate goal.  Few other affordable programs in NJ had such a record.  I liked that Rutgers classes were challenging.  The faculty assigned strenuous workloads, but this left me well prepared for PhD coursework.  Several professors were also excellent mentors, and helped me through not only coursework, but also navigating the process of applying to PhD programs.

Q: How did your experience in the Master’s program influence your choices concerning further education or work?
A: When I first entered the Master’s program, I was somewhat unsure of pursuing graduate education further, since I had been rejected from many PhD programs.  While at Rutgers, I grew intellectually, and by my second year had a much firmer grasp of what the profession of history was all about.  I had a better understanding of historiography and research, which made me more confident that I could succeed in a PhD program.  I also received guidance on how to prepare my applications.  Because of this, I succeeded in entering a PhD program at Temple University, where I am currently.

Q: What courses best helped you prepare for your Master’s thesis/essay?
A: Courses in American legal and political history under Dr. Rao prepared me most for my Master’s thesis.  I was in a difficult position in that my focus is on military history, a field which the program does not cover.  However, these courses taught me how to study institutions, which was a useful perspective for understanding armies.  Dr. Rao ultimately served as the advisor for my thesis, which studied the intersections between armies and the state during the American War of Independence.

Q: Do you have any advice for current graduate students?
A: Don’t get discouraged during your first semester in the program.  My first few courses were very intimidating.  It seemed many students had a much stronger background in history than did I, and I felt uncomfortable participating in class.  Also, I found the amount of weekly reading overwhelming at first.  Many of my peers felt the same way.  Sooner or later you begin to adapt to the workload.  You figure out ways of breaking down and understanding the books and getting through them more quickly.  Eventually participation in class becomes less intimidating as well. So, by the end of the first semester, the whole experience is much more rewarding and engaging.

Describe your experience in three (3) words or phrases:
"Affordable, rigorous, rewarding"