A New Face at the AHA
Meet Karen Lou
The AHA has a new editorial assistant: Karen Lou, who will work closely with AHA publications staff and support the AHA’s Research Division. When asked what most attracted her to working at the AHA, Lou told Perspectives, “I knew I wanted to continue history learning outside of school, through either my career or free time. This job allows me to do that and to learn about the field of history and how it’s changing.”
“I’ve always had really positive learning experiences in history,” Lou says. As a native of the Washington, DC, area, she spent much of her time visiting the museums and monuments of the area. (She has now visited all 17 Smithsonian museums.) “I was lucky enough to have really great teachers in middle and high school who really made it an exciting subject,” Lou says.
Lou earned a BA in history and a second BA in international studies at Emory University in Atlanta. At first, she was interested in environmental history, but her interests took a new direction the more she studied: political history. In part, this was a response to the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. “I think on a state and local level so much was happening around me,” she told Perspectives. “I became naturally interested in trying to understand those events from a historical standpoint.” She took only one history course her first year, but it was by far her favorite, and it encouraged her to pursue a degree in history. She completed two capstone projects: one on environmental legislation during the Carter administration and another on the significance of soul and folk music during the civil rights era.
Lou was also an undergraduate research fellow for an interdisciplinary project, “Bankrupted Slaves,” supervised by law professor Rafael I. Pardo. She collected quantitative data for the project, coding books that logged the sale of enslaved people in New Orleans.
“We were separated by so much: time, experience, language,” Lou says of her study-abroad host, “and yet we were living together and sharing a room and plate.”
Lou also spent one semester in Rabat, Morocco, where she participated in the School for International Training’s Morocco: Multiculturalism and Human Rights program. She took classes at the Center for Cross Cultural Learning and researched the influence of colonialism on Moroccan art. She opted for a “homestay,” allowing her to form a meaningful relationship with her homestay “mother.” Her host told Lou about the events she had witnessed in her lifetime, which were shaped by the country’s history of dictatorship. “We were separated by so much: time, experience, language,” Lou says, “and yet we were living together and sharing a room and plate. Listening to her tell me about her past and family made me really understand the value of storytelling and gain respect for historians who study things outside of their own experiences.”
Lou is most looking forward to reading Perspectives on History submissions and writing her own content. Outside of work, she still has a taste for public history and the environment. Building, perhaps, on her collection of Smithsonian experiences, she is now working toward another ambitious goal: visiting all 58 national parks.
Megan R. Connor is program associate at the AHA.
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