Featured alumnus: Michael J. Allen (BA 1996), Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University

“...I recall my experience at Chicago as one of high intellectual stakes where I was challenged and often found wanting despite being a hardworking and successful student by the standards of the time and place. And I found that the challenges and criticism mostly exhilarating and inspiring, though occasionally bruising.”

Allen wrote his BA essay on “the social and cultural consequences of the 1.75 million American men diagnosed with mental deficiency or mental illness as a result of their draft screening prior to military service and/or their service in the World War II military. I vividly remember researching and writing the thesis, which I wrote under the direction of George Chauncey and Laurie Green, a graduate student at the time. The archival research for my thesis was conducted mainly at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in my hometown of Abilene, Kansas, and I also relied on published psychology and psychiatry research from the 1940s along with military studies and popular press materials.”

To University of Chicago undergraduates considering the History major: “I would strongly encourage it! My advice isn’t really specific to the major but rather to finding one’s path through college generally—to pursue that thing which you are most passionate about with single-minded devotion. To be sharp and pointy vs well-rounded in the parlance of today’s college admissions jargon. On that note, I strongly encourage writing a senior thesis. It’s an extremely rewarding exercise.”