New Faces at the AHA
Meet Christopher Flanagan, Laura Ansley, and Rachel Wheatley
The AHA is excited to introduce three new staff members: Christopher Flanagan as the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for 2019–20; Laura Ansley as managing editor of the AHA; and Rachel Wheatley as assistant director of the National History Center.
The AHA welcomes Christopher Flanagan from all the way across the pond. Flanagan left his hometown of Liverpool, UK, to pursue a PhD in US history at the University of Notre Dame, where he received the 5 + 1 Postdoctoral Fellowship from the College of Arts and Letters and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This funding provides a postdoctoral fellowship for students if they submit their dissertation within five years.
Flanagan’s interest in US history began when he seized the rare opportunity to take an American history course while completing his bachelor’s degree at Oxford University. “I was looking to get outside of European history,” Flanagan tells Perspectives. His interest in American politics and culture only grew as he followed the 2008 presidential election.
Between his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Oxford, Flanagan worked as a tax inspector for the British government. After completing his master’s, he decided to move back into the world of being a historian. His PhD dissertation at Notre Dame focused on the US Constitution and subsequent American political ideas, incorporating research on geopolitics, foreign policy, and diplomacy in the late 18th century.
When asked what interested him in a fellowship at the AHA, Flanagan told Perspectives, “It’s a great opportunity to do a variety of tasks.” Flanagan is looking forward to assisting with the AHA’s jobs report. “It’ll give some perspective on the field and a sense of ‘where do I fit in?’” he says. Flanagan is also excited to be in Washington, DC, at the center of American politics, and to learn more about how nonprofits and professional associations work.
When Laura Ansley saw the job posting for the managing editor position at the AHA, she thought, “That’s the dream job.” When asked what appealed to her about the position (outside of her interest in history), Ansley told Perspectives, “Managing processes is something I really enjoy in editing. I have a knack for that kind of organizational work.”
Ansley’s passion for history grew with her enthusiasm for reading, as she often found herself gravitating toward historical fiction while growing up. Ansley entered her undergraduate career at Case Western Reserve University with every intention of majoring in history, while also being on a pre-med track. She quickly found that she was most at home in her history courses. “I had a wonderful mentor, Dr. Renee Sentilles,” Ansley tells Perspectives. “I took almost all of her women’s and gender history classes.” Ansley went on to complete her master’s degree in history at the College of William and Mary, where she researched the history of sex education for girls between 1890 and 1920.
During her master’s program, Ansley worked as an editorial apprentice at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture, where she received “nitty gritty” training in editing and publishing, and it was there she realized that editing could be a possible career avenue. After leaving the William and Mary PhD program in 2016, she became a production editor at the American Society of Civil Engineers, where she worked in the journals program and oversaw the various stages of production. “I enjoy helping people communicate their knowledge and research in a clear and understandable way,” Ansley remarks.
In her spare time, Ansley is the managing editor of Nursing Clio, a volunteer-run blog that covers the history of gender and medicine. She started as a writer, social media manager, and editor for the blog, and when the managing editor position opened up, her friends and colleagues told her, “There’s only one person for this job. You.”
Ansley is most looking forward to involving new writers in Perspectives, hoping to represent more of the AHA’s membership. You can follow her at @lmansley, where she often tweets about what she’s been reading.
As assistant director of the National History Center, Rachel Wheatley oversees the day-to-day operations at the center. When asked what she’s most looking forward to in her new position, Wheatley told Perspectives, “Planning congressional briefings—they’re a really cool way to use history to inform policy.”
Wheatley is currently an MA student at Georgetown University in the Global, International, and Comparative History Program, where she is studying American political history before the election of 1860 and pro-slavery ideology and successionist movements. Before graduate school, Wheatley worked in grant administration positions at Brigham Young University and Georgetown, where she learned about grant and program management.
Wheatley minored in business management alongside her history major at BYU. “I was looking for something else to diversify my degree,” Wheatley says, “and a minor in business management offered additional practical skills.” Initially, the connection between her studies in history and business wasn’t obvious, but now in her daily work, “it’s very apparent that when you put them together, they work really well,” she says.
In her free time, Wheatley enjoys traveling and nurtures her love for skiing, which began at just eight years old. She’s always ready to share a fun fact about Abraham Lincoln whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Megan R. Connor is program associate at the AHA.
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