MA Mondays

MA Mondays

ISU History boasts a vibrant MA program. Who are our students? What do they do?

Keep an eye out here for weekly profiles of current students and recent graduates of our Master of Arts Program. You’ll learn about their past and current research — musicians, merchants, farmers, civil rights, ministers, prostitutes (lots of them!), and more — their plans for the future, and the interesting paths they have taken to get where they are today.

Josiah Pollock is a second-semester MA student.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get here?

I am from the rainy western portion of Washington State, 45 minutes south of Seattle–if traffic did not exist. Since high school I wanted to study agricultural history and tailored my undergrad at the University of Washington toward agricultural topics. Local history has always been my focus so coming to Iowa State to study Pacific Northwest agriculture is quite random. Iowa State was the only university I found in the nation which had a graduate program in agricultural history. Prior to starting my undergrad I was hired by Fort Nisqually Living History Museum as a historical interpreter. I had volunteered at the fort since a child of six. The job opportunity allowed me to stay local and research local topics. The museum was beginning to embrace its agricultural story which fed my desire to study agricultural history. After completing my degree, I continued to work for the museum until it became obvious that my career in the museum field would become stagnant without a graduate degree. I decided now would be the perfect opportunity to get a degree in agricultural history which is how I am here.


Courtesy Fort Nisqually Living History Museum, Tacoma, Washington.

What questions do you want to pursue while you’re at Iowa State?

I research the little known agricultural arm of the Hudson’s Bay Company, The Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC). They farmed close to 300,000 acres in Washington and British Columbia on Vancouver Island. In the past, I have only narrowly looked at the company between the years 1840-1860, primarily focused on the year 1855. I hope to expand the date range into the 1930s when the company dissolved. I’m particularly interested in the advanced farming techniques and agricultural practices utilized by the company, agricultural practices the United States would not impose for decades. Why the scientific advancement of agriculture was taking place in the remotest parts of the west in the middle 19th century has always intrigued me, especially since Ireland was struggling under extreme famine and England was suffering devastating crop failures. I’m also interested in crop rotation, primarily the relation between crop rotation as agricultural science and indigenous and Hawaiian cultural practice.


What do you want to do with your degree? 

I would love to return to the museum field, while working in higher education. Directing an agricultural museum as a fully functioning farm would be the ultimate goal with the opportunity to teach at a university.


Anything else you’d like us to know?

I enjoy lecturing and have given multiple lectures on the PSAC to museums, historical societies, and university classes. The highlight of my research to this point in my career was curating Commerce on the Cowlitz: Trade, Transportation, and Territorial Transition. This exhibit detailed the unique role agriculture and the PSAC played in creating the modern routes of transportation utilized in western Washington State. In my undergrad I was selected for the Mary Gates Research Scholarship and traveled to the Royal British Columbia Archives. I am very interested in cross border research and in my area of expertise it is imperative in gathering the full story. My passion is understanding an era to its fullest. This includes understanding the lifeways of the people in the region down to the mundane minutia. Food history, technology, clothing, I find this level of detail extremely important in order to understand the bigger picture. I have enjoyed co-writing articles on PSAC food and fashion and hope to continue including these topics in my future work.


Edie Hunter is a full-time, university employee as well as an MA student.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get here? 

I’m not really “from” anywhere – we moved many times when I was a kid, so I can say I’m a Hoosier by birth but lived in So Flo as a teen, escaped from the west side of Boone as a young adult, and now a proud citizen of Ames.   I received a Bachelors in 1998 from ISU then went to work outside of History, but found my way back when I returned to the University as an accountant in 2016.


What questions do you want to pursue while you’re at Iowa State?

My area of focus is 20th Century social and cultural history so my research has been all over the place within that focus.  I tend toward local history (Ames, central Iowa, Middle West) and I’ve written on subjects from the evolution of Psychology as a discipline at land grant universities, “town vs gown” anxieties revealed during two somewhat related murders in Ames in the late 1960s, and the changing shifts in power during a local involuntary land annexation case in the 1950s. For my master’s thesis, I’m examining the removal of war memorials during World War II scrap metal drives in the Middle West and elsewhere and exploring how this reflects changes in memory and commemoration during the early 20th Century.


What do you want to do with your degree? 

I qualify for tuition reimbursement as an employee of the University – but only for one class a semester.  This means I’m now on my third of four years earning a Masters, but the silver lining there is I can dedicate full attention to whatever that class may be. But now that I’ve had several papers accepted at various conferences, received two grants (albeit very small ones), and had an article published this fall, that makes me take this pursuit more seriously.   I’ve never had the urge to teach, but being an accountant with a History PhD might give me an advantage in the non-academic job market. I can see a government or public history career out there possibly.


In the catacombs under Albert, France, during a study abroad trip.

What advice would you give your colleagues and/or prospective students?

Maybe just to impart a bit of wisdom I’ve learned while in the program (this may be common knowledge, but I needed to learn it all). First, please don’t think you need to write Race and Reunion or Nature’s Metropolis before you put your work out there. Maybe you have research that’s a work-in-progress and needs polish, but that shouldn’t stop you from submitting a conference proposal or serving on a panel. Even if the work isn’t something you will pursue later, it’s good to get used to presenting and getting your name out there in your area of specialization. In other words, don’t just go to a conference, be in the conference. 

Also, find and apply for grants. There are so many out there and if you spin your proposal just right, you never know what might happen. And along those same lines – take advantage of the grant writing courses and the writing resources we have available!  I was a good writer when I came into the program, but I’m an even better writer now for having done so.

Finally, GET INVOLVED!   Come to (or join) the RATE lectures and presentations, GSH meetings, or whatever else is offered by the department.  This program is only as good as its members and we need everyone to participate!  Bring your ideas and your experience to the program.  And, if nothing else, your participation always looks good on a CV.


Dwain Coleman graduated from ISU’s MA program in 2016 and is pursuing a PhD in History at the University of Iowa.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? How did you end up at Iowa State?

I am originally from Las Vegas, NV. I received my undergraduate degree from UNLV and was a history teacher. My family moved to Iowa to be closer to extended family here in the Midwest, and I decided that it would be a good time to go back to school and get a master’s degree. I applied to the history graduate program at Iowa State and gratefully was accepted.

Who did you study with and what questions did you pursue? 

When I started graduate school, I did not know exactly what I wanted to study. Early on, I took full advantage of taking various courses and attending history presentations put on by the university and by the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI).  After attending one presentation organized by Dr. Brian Behnken and SHSI on abolitionists in Iowa, I became interested in the postwar lives of some of Iowa’s Black freedom seekers who enlisted in the First Iowa Infantry of African Descent during the Civil War. I contacted the presenter, the late Doug Jones, who oversaw the Iowa Freedom Trail Project. He was generous with his time and became a good friend and mentor and helped me find many sources that aided my research. My thesis explores the ways in which Black Civil War veterans developed communities in Iowa using the political capital of their military service to fight for equal rights and community space. Dr. Kathleen Hilliard, my advisor, was indispensable in helping me to craft my thesis, which later won the Iowa History Center Award for Most Outstanding Master’s Thesis in Iowa History.

What are you doing now?

I am currently working on writing my dissertation, which is a regional expansion of my master’s thesis, at the University of Iowa. My dissertation explores how Black veterans and their families utilized mobility and the political capital of military service to form communities in Iowa and Kansas during the long reconstruction period. I am also a co-founder and co-director of the Iowa Colored Conventions Digital Project (a satellite project of the, which seeks to research the participation of Black Iowans in the Colored Conventions movement during the late nineteenth century. The Colored Conventions was a national movement that fought for Black citizenship rights, the repeal of Black laws, and equal rights in communities. The digital project has identified over a dozen previously unknown conventions in Iowa and is currently working on providing resources such as digital maps, essays that provide historical contextual analysis, primary documents, and curriculum for the public and educators. I hope to have a career in academia after I complete my dissertation.





Aiden Daly is a first-semester MA student

Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get here? 

I grew up in southern New York and then got my undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  I was interested in doing research on railroads and interregional connections and the history program at Iowa State offered the opportunity to do that along with chances for professional development.

What questions do you want to pursue while you’re at Iowa State? What area of history interests you most?

I am most interested in examining the interregional connections within the United States during the late 19th century. In particular, my research currently focuses on the interregional political and economic interactions behind the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad and the Cairo Rail Bridge, which provided a railroad connection between Chicago and New Orleans. Additionally, my research seeks to understand the ways in which the development of rural communities in Southern Illinois was shaped and influenced by the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad.

What do you want to do with your degree? 

I want to continue on to a PhD program.  I would like to end up teaching in some capacity and I think it would be interesting to explore different ways to communicate history.

How else have you been involved in the history profession?

I’ve been involved with National History Day for several years now as a competitor at the state and national level and as a volunteer judge, as well as helping students to improve their projects for the competition.