Publication Date

June 4, 2020

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

AHA Topic

Professional Life


Public History

Eric Garcia McKinley is a consultant for media organizations and media funders at The Impact Architects. He lives in Rochester, New York, and has been a member since 2007.


Eric Garcia McKinley

Twitter: @garcia_mckinley

Alma maters: BA, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2006; PhD, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2015

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?

A few months after officially graduating with a PhD in modern European history and about one year after my dissertation defense, I was named an ACLS Public Fellow. This program places recent PhDs in government and nonprofit positions. I landed at American Public Media in St. Paul, Minnesota, working as a research analyst in the Minnesota Public Radio newsroom. My skills as a historian and my PhD got me the job, and I learned a lot while there—about public media, working in journalism, and the field of evaluation. I grew my network and honed my skills in a new industry, and that is how I found my way to a consultant job with The Impact Architects.

What do you like the most about where you live and work?

I work with organizations that are committed to sustaining quality journalism as a fundamental aspect of civic life and democracy. Knowing that I am working toward a social good is extremely satisfying. I have also found myself, at least partly, in an entirely new field with its own professional organizations and standards: evaluation. One thing I have come to really appreciate after attending trainings and the annual American Evaluation Association conference is the laser focus on usability, which is really crucial while working as a consultant. If my work is not going to be put to use in some way by the clients I work with, what is even the point?

What projects are you currently working on?

Most of my work time lately has been dedicated to organizing a convening sponsored by the Logan Nonfiction Program, which will be held at the Carey Institute for Global Good in April. The purpose of the event is to bring nonprofit media organizations together with media funders to share ideas about what “impact” means, and to re-think the concept not just as something to address in order to secure financial support, but as something core to the mission of nonprofit news.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?

Well, it has been a long time since I have read a book about German history, so yes. I am far more interested in the usability of my skills as a historian for different types of work than engaging in debates within a specific field. That means my interests are more general. Now, I think and read a lot about the history of media in the United States, and I consider how that history has led to the current state of journalism in the US.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?

I highly recommend the podcast Code Switch from NPR. It is about race and identity, and I learn something new from every single episode.

What do you value most about the history discipline?

The rigorous emphasis on understanding context first before getting into the details. I apply this principle all the time, and it makes me better at my job.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you?

I want to remain connected to historians, no matter where they work or what they do. It is a valuable professional network, and we all have a lot to learn from one another.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

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Matthew Keough
Matthew Keough

American Historical Association