AHA Member Spotlight: Courtney A. Short
Courtney A. Short is the speechwriter for the Commanding General of United States Army Forces Command. She lives in Wade, North Carolina, and has been a member since 2008. [Ed note: As of August 2019, Courtney Short is Garrison Commander of Carlisle Barracks, in Carlisle, PA.]
Alma maters: BA, Barnard College, Columbia University, 1999; MA and PhD, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2015
Fields of interest: military, America, race and ethnicity, modern Japan
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
I have always had an interest in history since I was a child. I read the Little House on the Prairie books and watched the series. I spent a day in period dress at a 19th-century one room schoolhouse. I volunteered at the Renaissance Festival. I watched every single episode of the miniseries North and South, and I would visit battlefields with my dad. I was fascinated with what it was like to live in a different time and in a different place.
In college, I majored in history, but I was also in ROTC. So, when I graduated in 1999, I also commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. I am still an active-duty Army officer today. My work in history has all been done while serving. In 2005, I was selected by the United States Military Academy to teach history. I spent a few years in graduate school earning my degree and then taught military history to cadets. I have actively worked to maintain a strong presence in the academic community-through my research and by attending conferences-while still serving as an Army officer. In 2015, I had the incredible opportunity to teach again at the United States Air Force Academy. Now, I am the speechwriter for the Commanding General of United States Army Forces Command. Speechwriting is not a typical job for a historian, but my academic credentials did help secure me the position and I pull a lot of history into my speeches. My office has quite a few tall bookcases full of history manuscripts that I reference often when I am preparing the Commanding General's remarks.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
My position as speechwriter is possibly one of the most dynamic jobs I have ever had in the Army. I travel around the country almost every week and I have a chance to witness the strategic level of the military firsthand. The writing process is also intense. You are writing for someone else, in their voice, across varying formats at a fast pace. I am making edits and adjustments right up to the execution of the speech.
What projects are you currently working on?
In my own research, I currently have a book under contract with Fordham University Press about issues of race, ethnicity, and identity during the wartime occupation of Okinawa. I also am contributing a chapter to the book titled Worst Military Leaders in History, edited by Dr. John Jennings and Dr. Charles Steele from Reaktion Books. I have also expanded into public history a bit through my volunteer work as a museum docent and battlefield guide at the Aversaboro Battlefield.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
A bit, but I would call it going back to my childhood roots. Lately, I have more of an interest in 19th-century America than ever before and I think that's a product of living in North Carolina now and Colorado previously. But, my fascination with the 19th century began when I was young.
What's the most fascinating thing you've ever found at the archives or while doing research?
The original 1975 vinyl recording of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen found in a record store in Carrboro! In all seriousness, I think the most amazing and chilling document I have found was the deposition of Martha Corey, accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. To see her responses to the inane questions, written down as they were heard, was phenomenal to see.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
History continues to be relevant in the present. I value a discipline that informs and enlightens far beyond the relaying of mere facts.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you?
Membership in the AHA has really broadened my professional base. In addition to connecting with other professionals and discovering academic opportunities, the AHA also creates spaces to develop new ideas and really explore how diverse a PhD in history can be.
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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