Women in Research
Texas Tech University history professor Emily Skidmore tells female and non-binary students, and students of color who are looking for a career in academia to pursue their passions—despite what can be a tough career path for historically marginalized groups—and to study broadly for a rapidly changing academic job market.
Historian Emily Skidmore
During March, Texas Tech celebrates women faculty who exemplify excellence in research, scholarship, creative activity, teaching, and mentoring.
Emily Skidmore is an associate professor and director of Graduate Studies in the Department of History, and she pursues research interests in United States women's and gender history, cultural history, and queer studies. Her book, "True Sex: The Lives of Trans Men at the Turn of the Twentieth Century," was published by NYU Press in fall 2017. She is also an associate editor of Gale's forthcoming text, "A Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History".
In the question-and-answer session that follows, Skidmore describes her work more fully.
What inspired you to work in your field/area of expertise?
I was inspired to study (and eventually teach) history because of the courses I took as an undergraduate at Macalester College. It was there I learned that history is political—i.e. the stories that we tell about our past influences who we see as having a right to power, as being important, or, in the case of United States history, who has the strongest claim to being "American." It was at Macalester that I began to see how impactful it is to tell U.S. History with women, people of color, immigrants, and/or queer people at the center of the narrative rather than at the margins, and it was there I decided that is what I wanted to pursue in my own career.
Who inspired you to pursue academia?
I've been lucky to have encountered a number of incredible mentors throughout my education. My first advisor, Peter Rachleff, powerfully illustrated to me what it means to be scholar activist (and he is someone I continue to be inspired by; after retiring from Macalester, he and his partner opened the incredible East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul, Minnesota—if you are ever in the Twin Cities, check it out!).
In graduate school, I was deeply inspired by Antoinette Burton, one of the co-advisors of my dissertation. My first year of graduate school was rough, and I considered dropping out—until I met Antoinette. She was (and continues to be to this day) everything one could want in an advisor: tough, caring, diligent, witty, and smart as a whip. She always asked precisely the right questions, and bolstered me up when I was doubting myself. I'm constantly striving to emulate her model of feminist mentorship with my own students now.
What would you tell your female students interested in pursuing an academic career?
I tell all my students (but especially my female and non-binary students, and my students of color) to pursue their passions, even if it calls them into spaces where there are not many others that look like them. This is vital because women and other historically marginalized groups enrich the academy by bringing with them important perspectives and ideas that make every room they are in better.
At the same time, I also try to be honest: this career path can be tough for women and other historically marginalized groups, and so it's important to study with career diversity in mind. The academic job market is changing rapidly so train yourself broadly, as it's challenging to know what skill-sets will be most marketable upon graduation.