The academic world is in great need of Catholic scholars. With higher education becoming increasingly secularized, well-rounded thinkers who form young minds and produce meaningful scholarship are crucial to changing the culture for the better. Christendom alumni Jacob Hiserman, Amy Marter, Thomas Maurer, and Monica Burke desire to do just that, and are each pursuing Ph.D.’s in their respective fields, drawing upon the intellectual formation and academic mentorship they received at Christendom.
In the case of Jacob Hiserman, he is excited to bring his Catholic perspective to the field of history. Since receiving his MA in History from Baylor University in 2018, Hiserman is now studying with the History Department at the University of Alabama in pursuit of his doctoral degree, recently being awarded the college’s Frank L. Owsley Memorial Scholarship in History for his “superior competency in American History.”
As a student at Christendom, Jacob Hiserman excelled in the study of history, earning the Edward T. O’Keefe Memorial Scholarship from the Department of History, and graduating summa cum laude. Encouraged by many members of the history department to continue his studies, and with a deepened passion for the study of history, Hiserman decided to pursue a Ph.D.
“I want to rejuvenate the study of history as a liberal art in U.S. higher education and carry on the Catholic historical tradition as a college or university professor,” stated Hisermarn. “An authentically Catholic vision of history is desperately needed in our current cultural climate. To reinvigorate such perspectives at the collegiate level, I knew I needed a Ph.D. to have the highest professional qualification for collegiate instruction.”
Hiserman is specializing in nineteenth-century America, the U.S. South, intellectual history, and religious history. Hiserman has completed all coursework and is now preparing for comprehensive examinations. Once completed, he will shift his focus to archival research for his dissertation.
Throughout the course of his graduate studies, Hiserman has had opportunities to teach, leading class discussions and grading as a TA, and teaching American History online over the summers. This coming academic year, Hiserman is excited to teach students at the Blount Program, the University of Alabama’s liberal arts program.
According to Hiserman, the intellectual foundation he received at Christendom has been indispensable in his coursework, teaching, and research.
“Christendom’s intense core curriculum habituated me to think within and across various academic disciplines in a coherent liberal arts framework,” explained Hiserman. “Those analytical tools help me more quickly and decisively comprehend historical books and documents.”
According to Hiserman, studying at Christendom afforded him the opportunity to both reap the benefits of the core curriculum and also specialize in history as an upperclassman, which has ultimately served as a strong foundation for the challenging studies he has since undertaken.
Like Hiserman, Amy Marter gained the foundational tools to excel in graduate school at Christendom. As a literature major and classics minor, Marter excelled as an undergraduate, becoming the 2016 recipient of the Robert C. Rice Award for her senior thesis, “To the Heights of Contemplation: A Defense of the Linguistic Limits of Dante’s Paradiso.”
Now, Marter is pursuing a Ph.D. in Literature and is in her fourth year of graduate studies with the English Department at the Catholic University of America. For the past two years, Marter has served as a Teaching Fellow, instructing undergraduates in English 101: Writing and Rhetoric. Marter has completed coursework and is now preparing to take her doctoral comprehensive exam this fall, after which she will begin work on her dissertation.
Marter believes her Christendom education served as an excellent foundation for graduate-level studies. According to Marter, the knowledge of Western civilization and the overarching movements in philosophy and history provided by the core curriculum made the transition into graduate-level classes much more manageable. In addition, the experience of writing a senior thesis prepared her for the rigor of graduate-level assignments. Most importantly, Christendom instilled in Marter a passion for learning and the pursuit of truth.
“While graduate studies have taught me the tools of scholarship and of teaching, I am grateful for my time at Christendom that formed me as a person, instilled my habits of study, made me passionate about the pursuit of wisdom, and gave me a love for teaching, all of which have sustained me through these last four years,” shared Marter.
In addition to the academic preparation Christendom provided, Marter also found incredible mentors at Christendom who guided her through the process of applying to graduate programs. Through the graduate school mentorship program, Marter was paired with literature professor and academic dean Dr. Ben Reinhard, who helped her delve deeper into her interest in medieval literature and provided invaluable advice about applying to graduate school. Many other professors served as excellent mentors, encouraging her to pursue her “vocation” to graduate studies.
Like Marter, alumnus Thomas Maurer found many indispensable academic mentors at Christendom. As an undergraduate, Maurer majored in history and minored in classics, graduating summa cum laude. Now, Maurer is pursuing a Ph.D. in medieval history at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, where he regularly draws upon his knowledge of classical languages and the “top-notch historical training” received at Christendom.
According to Maurer, history professors such as Dr. Brendan McGuire and Dr. Michael Kelly, “brought the past alive in vibrant colors,” and inspired him to continue his studies. Before studying at Christendom, Maurer had a strong interest in history, but under the tutelage of the faculty at Christendom, Maurer’s interest became a passion, and the desire to earn a Ph.D. and engage in pedagogy solidified. In addition, Maurer has been inspired by the legacy of Christendom’s founder Dr. Warren Carroll, who was an avid historian.
Since graduating from Christendom in 2015, Maurer has completed his Master’s degree at Western Michigan University, finished the remainder of his coursework at the University of Tennesee Knoxville, and has also passed his comprehensive examinations. Now, Maurer will be beginning his dissertation, which will focus on apocalyptic prophecy among the Italian communes in the thirteenth century, a niche area in medieval history that will require plenty of archival research.
Monica Burke, on the other hand, is just beginning her journey towards receiving her Ph.D. and is entering the second year of her masters with the MA-PhD program in the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
After graduating in 2017, Burke spent two years as a research assistant at the Heritage Foundation, researching pro-life and pro-family policy at the DeVos Center. While this work was fulfilling, Burke could not shake the feeling that she was meant to return to the world of academia.
As an undergraduate at Christendom, Burke was highly invested in her studies, earning the Outstanding Philosophy Major Award her senior year, and graduating summa cum laude. During her time as a student, professors supported her interest in pursuing graduate studies, and even after graduating Christendom, assisted her in the process of networking with fellow scholars, applying to graduate programs, and receiving funding.
“Professors from the philosophy department helped me to select a program and craft a statement of purpose [for my applications], while members of the political science department were instrumental in building out my professional network. Not to mention the professors of literature and history that offered moral support and advice along the way,” shared Burke. “I could not have done it without all of them.”
Most importantly, Burke believes that her Christendom education instilled in her a love of truth and wisdom, which sustains her through the challenges of graduate-level studies. As opposed to philosophy departments at other educational institutions, which focus merely on instructing students about the positions of various thinkers, Christendom’s philosophy department focuses on instilling in students the desire to pursue wisdom, especially within the Thomistic tradition.
“At his Tuesday philosophy lunches, professor Mike Brown told us that his goal was that we might become lifelong readers of Aquinas. I decided to take him literally and study Thomism in graduate school,” Burke shared. “The Department of Philosophy at Christendom gave me a strong foundation in Thomistic philosophy, which has helped me to think carefully and critically, to ask ‘why’ and make essential distinctions. I would not trade that knowledge for anything.”
Inspired by the educational foundation Burke received at Christendom, she is excited to continue her philosophical studies on a deeper level.
Hiserman, Marter, Maurer, and Burke are all examples of alumni who are uniting their talents and interests with the education they received at Christendom to do important work in their respective fields. Earning a Ph.D. is certainly not an easy goal to achieve, but these alumni have the necessary tools and supportive mentors to enable them in this pursuit.
The world needs Catholic scholars to shape minds and to change the culture. Equipped with the ability to research, write, and integrate knowledge across disciplines, Christendom graduates are ideal candidates to pursue careers in academia and higher education. Having taken full advantage of the academic opportunities available at Christendom, these alumni are now excelling in their graduate studies, taking another step closer to helping the next generation of students thrive inside and outside the classroom.