Kelly Feinstein-Johnson '02

Kelly Feinstein-Johnson

Location: Arizona
Major(s) and Minor(s): History, focus in European History
Thesis title and/or topic/description: “The Representation of Women in the Weimar Cabaret”

What have you done since graduation?

Immediately after graduating I faced a challenging job market. I spent my first year out of college working in sales. At the time, I was considering law school and was fortunate to be hired at a legal administrative assistant with Cornerstone Research, a litigation consulting company. After a few years as an administrative assistant and a project administrator, I realized that I did not want to be in the legal field and decided to pursue a PhD in History.

I began my PhD in European History in 2005 at UC Santa Cruz. Though I began as a 20th Germanist, I ended up doing most of my work in Early Modern Britain and visual culture with minor fields in World and Jewish Histories. Needless to say the “breadth and depth” approach of my Scripps education is reflected in my professional path. I earned my PhD in 2012 and am presently teaching and working as an independent scholar in Tucson, Arizona. My dissertation and research work focus on visual culture, literacy, and gender in English broadside ballads – the early modern equivalent of a tabloid newspaper. My current project explores the relationship between women, violence, and murder in the same media. In addition to my research, I teach Jewish History in Tucson. Channeling both my training in CORE and a general interest in gender history, I teach a popular class on Jewish Women’s History through Memoir and am designing a course on Jewish Feminisms.

In additional to the professional pursuits, I am happily married to a Pomona graduate (’01) and we have an 18-month-old son.

Side note: I’m balancing being his full-time caretaker and pursuing my professional work when he naps. I would be very happy to speak to other women facing this sort of life-work challenge.

How do you think majoring in history or taking history classes has mattered to you?

Even before deciding to pursue a PhD in history, taking history classes was very beneficial in the professional world. The writing, research, and verbal communication skills I developed in my history classes at Scripps were valuable assets while working in the legal field. I quickly became a go-to editor in my office, a specialist in Chicago Manual of Style, and was appointed office archivist because of my familiarity of working with data and sources.

Being a history major cultivated a deep interest in how human beings respond to their world in different places and times. This curiosity eventually prompted me to return to graduate school and pursue a PhD. Even though I work in the early modern period, my work on printed media and text-image based strategies for reading is particularly pertinent to contemporary research into how we read and consume information in the digital age. Undoubtedly, my own thinking is strongly shaped by the theoretical tradition introduced to all Scripps women in the CORE program, and the introduction to visual culture theory I explored in Andrew Aisenburg’s class, “Paris and the Birth of Modernity”.

Do you have any particular memories of faculty or classes that you can share?

I have very fond memories of Ava, Andrew Aisenburg’s black standard poodle, joining our Modern European History class.

Not a memory, but just a note: When beginning graduate school, the theoretical and historiographical training I received at Scripps put me heads and shoulders above the other members in my cohort, if not my department. As a scholar, I am strongly shaped by the foundation laid in my Scripps classes. As a teacher, I hold my students to the same high standards that I was held to. Without trying to sound cliché, I am eternally grateful for my Scripps education.

Are you available to speak to current students or alumnae?

I am brutally honest when I speak with students considering graduate school. In addition to being blunt about graduate training, I do not sugar coat the realities of the present job market. I am happy to speak openly and honestly with them about pursuing a PhD in history, but all potential PhDs need to know what they might be getting themselves in to.

Please contact Julie Liss if you would like to connect with this alumna.

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