Lynne Marks

Lynne  Marks

Reflecting on the academic supervision and mentorship she has done throughout her career, History professor Lynne Marks believes that a supervisor’s most important task is simply “being there for the students,” meaning “meeting with them as much as they need, providing feedback as quickly as possible, and providing enough feedback that students can improve.”

The most successful history students, she says, are willing to work with that feeback. “Not slavishly,” she laughs; “you can have your own opinion.” However, she says the best students are able to “recognize when an argument needs to be refined, and take the advice and make it better.”

Marks says that when students are willing to take advice and put in the necessary work, the process of putting together a graduate project is an incredibly rewarding experience for both supervisor and student: “It’s wonderful to see how they take your advice and run with it and develop really strong products in the end that they can be proud of.”

Marks also recognizes that the study of history gives students the tools to make a difference in the world. “If we have no knowledge of what happened before, we just have amnesia, and we’re just constantly living in the present. But if we know history, and we know where certain things have gone in the past—like where populisim, xenophobia, and racism have gone in the past—I think we can have a major impact if we speak up loudly about history and where we don’t want to go. And for me, as a women’s historian, having a knowledge of what women’s lives have been like in the past is very useful for women to know where they don’t want to go back.”

Finally, Marks believes that learning history isn’t just important; it’s exciting: “It’s exciting to make people aware of how much more complicated the historical stories are than they knew.”