Brent J. Steele is the head of the political science department at the University of Utah. As he tells Colin, it was an intro to American politics his freshman year at college that made him want to become a college professor. A native of Iowa, he also got his Ph.D. there. As an academic, he has a long list of publications that weave together analysis of American politics with ideas based in Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and modern psychology.
Brent stays busy. He has a book coming out soon from Cambridge University Press, Restraint and International Politics. He is also the host of his own podcast The Hayseed Scholar, which may or may not contain beer drinking. Colin and Brent cover a lot of ground concerning foreign policy and the political shifts in the period from Vietnam to the Trump and Twitter age.
In this short episode, Colin provides a brief overview of the General Sam V. Wilson Papers project, which he is working on at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Sam Wilson was a native of Rice, Virginia, and a veteran of the Burma campaign during World War II. The American offensive in Burma became the basis for the book and film Merrill's Marauders. Wilson survived that brutal campaign, and after the war, he learned Russian and went into intelligence. Years before people knew where Vietnam was, Wilson studied counter-insurgency, which became a doctrine for the U.S. military in Southeast Asia and beyond.
After serving in Vietnam, Wilson returned to intelligence work, living in the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. He retired from the military in 1977 and later became the president of Hampden-Sydney College. General Wilson died in 2017. The Wilson papers processing project began in July of 2019 and is funded for two years.
John Sacher is the head of the history department at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He is also the author of A Perfect War of Politics: Parties, Politicians, and Democracy in Louisiana, 1824-1861. John has been on a steady career path, but as he tells Colin, he had his doubts about staying in the history game while he was in grad school.
John attended Notre Dame as an undergraduate. As much as he loved it there, he went to LSU for grad school. In Baton Rouge, he studied with William J. Cooper (a previous podcast guest). John completed a master's thesis and dissertation on Louisiana politics, which became the basis of his first book. After spending some years in Kansas, he is back in his home state of Florida. Now, he is finishing a book on conscription in the Confederacy, the first full-length scholarly book on the subject in many decades.
As John and Colin discuss, even for the most committed students, graduate school can be daunting. Also challenging is the move from scholar to administrator later in one's career--a path that might be as inevitable for some as it is practical.