Online history grad seeks to make difference by filling the gaps in history education

Photo of Atticus Powell

Atticus Powell

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Atticus Powell grew up in rural Kentucky and noticed something odd about his high school history books: the ones in his school told a simplified, contradictory story than those he found in his local library. 

Powell was disturbed by this disparity and decided to pursue a career in history education. He sought to understand how and why something like this can happen, and if it can be prevented.

“History is powerful,” he said. 

Powell, who will graduate with his master’s degree in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies through ASU Online, earned his bachelor’s degree at a liberal arts college whose mission is to foster “public intellectuals who care” — a sentiment that is echoed in ASU’s commitment to inclusion and community. 

He was also looking for a challenge. 

“I chose ASU because I wanted an online program that was as academically rigorous as in-person classes,” he said. 

Powell is currently working as an educator in his home state and hopes to continue teaching while he works toward a PhD. 

Here he talks more about his ASU experience. 

Question: What's something you learned while at ASU (in the classroom or otherwise) that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: I was continually delighted and surprised in my classes at ASU to find that my preconceptions were almost always being challenged, not only by course materials but by the perspectives my classmates brought to discussions. One of the important lessons the graduate history courses focus on is teaching students to evaluate the state of academic conversations in the field through historiography — the study of history writing. Even though I already loved studying history, the depth of nuance and scholarly conversation in the field — and knowing that I can participate in that conversation — makes me feel like a real historian.

Q: Which professor taught you one of the most important lessons you've learned at ASU? What was the lesson?

A: Definitely Professor James Dupey. One of my very first courses in the program was Professor Dupey's early American history course, and it taught me how high the expectations are for students in this program and helped me get better at adapting my work after criticism. I was quite accustomed to just sailing through my classes, so the learning curve of adapting to criticism as I tried to produce graduate-quality work was steep. I'm thankful for Professor Dupey's clear and actionable feedback. 

Q: What's the best piece of advice you'd give to other students?

A: The things that seem incredibly daunting now will soon become further proof of your capability. Knowing that you're capable of success is half the battle!

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