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History Alumnus Blake Jones graduated from SHPRS with his Ph.D. in 2013. He started his journey in academia with the school as a faculty associate in 2013. In 2014, he found himself as an assistant professor of history at Ohio Valley University in Vienna, WV. He moved up the ladder to his current position, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, in 2015.
Jones answered a few questions about his current position, his time with SHPRS and tips for current students.
Tell us a little bit about your current position and you found yourself there.
I am currently Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Assistant Professor of History at Ohio Valley University, a small private Christian college in Vienna, WV. I am also the institution’s accreditation liaison officer with the Higher Learning Commission. I’ve been at OVU since August 2014 and took administrative responsibilities beginning in the 2015-16 academic year.
Growing up, were you always interested in history?
Yes, I always knew I wanted to teach history growing up. I remember reading a 500-page book on the Mississippi River campaign in the Civil War in 3rd grade. Even though I knew I always wanted to teach history, the question was always at which level I wanted to teach: high school or college. After two years as a social studies education major at Western Kentucky University, I decided I wanted to teach at the collegiate level and became a pure history major.
What attracted you to the history graduate program at ASU?
When I was looking for potential advisors in applying for graduate schools, I was at a local bookstore in Nashville and looked at the dust jacket for Dr. Kyle Longley’s Albert Gore Sr. biography. Our interests aligned and he was a University of Kentucky graduate (my favorite college basketball team), so I decided to apply to ASU after doing some additional research. I also participated in the graduate recruitment fair in early March 2007 and I enjoyed the people I met during the visit as well as the weather (there’s a reason the graduate recruitment fair is not in July).
Tell us about your time with SHPRS:
It was a tremendous experience that not only prepared me for a career in academia, but also helped me form lasting relationships with faculty and fellow students. One memory that stands out is hosting one of Dr. Lynn Stoner’s Latin American history graduate seminars in my home each week of the semester. It was an early afternoon class, so different class members took turns preparing lunch each week and we would have our class discussion at the lunch table and in the living room.
Did SHPRS and your degree help in preparing you for your current position?
Yes, in addition to the regular classes, the program’s Preparing Future Faculty sequence and Intro to College Teaching courses were valuable in preparing for teaching and being a member of the academy.
Was there a defining moment with your academic career?
Accepting an administrative position after one year as a faculty member has changed the way I spend my time (more meetings and more paperwork), but it has opened up new opportunities to learn about the inner workings of higher education, particularly accreditation.
What is the most useful thing you learned that you can still apply today?
In my first year, I participated in an ad hoc graduate student committee recommending revisions to the doctoral program as the department considered making some changes. As an academic administrator in a predominantly teaching institution, I have participated in a number of faculty committees such as general education and assessment as well as university-wide committees such as the president’s cabinet and the strategic planning committee. That experience prepared me to do the work I am doing now in chairing our institution’s accreditation steering committee effort.
Were there any extracurricular activities you were involved in at ASU?
I was vice-president and president of the History Graduate Student Association (HGSA) and secretary for the Phi Alpha Theta chapter. I worked to organize social events for orientation, recruitment fair, and weekly happy hours.
Do you have any tips for current students?
Be sure to form relationships with your faculty members because they are professionally and personally rewarding. Go to job talks and ask questions so you can observe how candidates for faculty positions approach the interview process. Read up on the process of student learning outcomes assessment because that will be critical for jobs in teaching institutions and smaller liberal arts colleges.