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11 Jun 2010
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Student Profile: Kevin Powers
Kevin Powers studied with Professor McCartin as an undergraduate. (Photo: courtesy Kevin Powers)
Kevin Powers is an excellent example of where keen interest and exceptional faculty can take you as a student.
Powers, a native of Washington D.C., is a Ph.D. candidate in the Georgetown University Department of History. Professor Joe McCartin was Powers’ advisor when he was an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Geneseo. Powers said that he was "dangerously close to becoming a geology major" when he decided to take McCartin’s Depression-era America class as a second-semester freshman in 1997. He quickly became a history major. Powers is now working on his PhD dissertation, a study of the environmental aspects of the Great Depression and the New Deal. When asked if he would recommend McCartin’s classes to undergraduates he answered without hesitation: "absolutely." He noted that McCartin and his classes have been the basis for his concentration in history.
"I would say that the classes I took from Professor McCartin as an undergraduate were pretty foundational for me," said Powers. "In many ways my current research has its roots in that Depression-era America class that I took from Professor McCartin over ten years ago."
Powers assists with McCartin's research as a Ph.D. student. A few years ago, Powers spent several months transcribing oral history interviews as part of McCartin’s ongoing research project about the 1981 Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike. The air traffic controllers and their narratives struck Powers; he explained that the interviews were laced with anger, loss and frustration—even after the passage of time since the 1981 strike.
"Understanding and explaining the lives and experiences of ordinary people who become caught up in social and political forces beyond their control is not the only reason to study history. But it is a very good reason," Powers stated. "That’s one of the lessons I’ve learned from Professor McCartin. The interviews that I was able to help transcribe and catalog were fascinating."
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Feature Story
Professor Joseph McCartin and the History of Labor
McCartin posits in his upcoming work that U.S. labor relations changed dramatically for the worse with the 1981 strike of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO): a subject of some contentious debate amongst labor historians.
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I am fascinated by the rich history of the U.S. labor movement, and Professor McCartin’s course was recommended to me by other students who were involved in labor rights activism on Georgetown’s campus.