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Touching history in Rome rekindled Kristin Osborne's passion

Published: November 4, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Just when Ohio University alumna Kristin Osborne '18 was questioning herself and her career plans, along came Dr. Jaclyn Maxwell's spring break program in Rome.

Now, Osborne is still passionate about history and confidently making career choices in her personal storyline with many chapters still to come. It wasn’t an easy journey, as she battled mental health conditions along the way, but she persevered, particularly helped along by that fateful trip.

After graduating from the Honors Tutorial College with a bachelor's degree in history, she added a master's degree in history from Miami University, focusing her research on the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century.

"After finishing graduate school, I worked on Mackinac Island in Michigan for the Historic State Park as the lead historical interpreter and museum educator. I oversaw living history interpretation for historic homes that portrayed the 1830s and domestic life during the last years of the Great Lakes fur trade," said Osborne, who also earned a minor in German and certificate in European Studies at OHIO.

"Through this job, I realized my true passion was teaching history, so I decided to leave the public history field and pursued teaching licensure. I currently hold an Integrated Social Studies license and am employed in a long-term substitute position at a middle school."

She also works remotely for Ohio State University’s History Department as an associate editor for the online publication Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective. Origins is a digital humanities initiative that takes a deep dive into current issues by dissecting their historical roots, including the project “Pandemics: Past, Present, and Future: Coronavirus in Historical Perspective.”

But it almost didn't happen.

"The hardest hill I had to climb while at OHIO was battling mental health conditions. College is a strange time in anyone’s life, and for me it was when several conditions rose to the surface,” Osborne said. “I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in my third year. This threw a wrench into my college plans and the dreams I had for after school. I struggled immensely trying to find excitement in school like I used to, and I was worried that I was not good enough for the program. Mental health is a difficult battle and one that takes a lot of work to overcome.”

Maxwell leads the spring break study abroad program Italy: Eternal Rome – Piety and Power for OHIO credit. During this one-week intensive program, students focus on the physical transformation of the city of Rome and the impact of political and religious leaders during Rome's ancient, medieval, Renaissance and modern eras.

The program was also a transformative experience for Osborne.

"I remember that the trip I took to Rome with Dr. Maxwell’s spring break study abroad program was a big turning point for me. Her passion for history and love of the city inspired me to push on with history because I knew it was my calling,” Osborne said. “While I was on that trip, I decided to go to graduate school and pursue a Master of Arts in History. Had Dr. Maxwell not pushed me to go on that trip, I may have never overcome the feelings of inadequacy that had masked my love of history for so long.

"Reconnecting with history on that physical level, being in the spaces that people inhabited for hundreds of years gives you a sense of duty. I understood that my duty was to responsibly share history and stories with people. This trip did not cure my mental health conditions and over the years I have found new ways to cope with them. However, the History Department at OHIO gave me a sense of purpose and duty that helped me overcome those obstacles."

While not working, Osborne enjoys horseback riding and carriage driving. She was on the Ohio University Hunt Seat Equestrian Team and continues to pursue her love of horses.

"I also love hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, camping, and exploring the small towns of Ohio. I have a passion for antiques and vintage items that I channel into collecting, restoring, and curating various antiques. You can also find me spending time with my rescue dog, Jasper, who recently earned a few trick-dog titles. I also have two amazing rescue cats, Mabel and Kiki."

Kristin Osborne selfie
Kristin Osborne

Below is a Q&A with Kristin Osborne.

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO — that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

It took until my senior year to have this moment, but it still happened! I was completing my senior HTC thesis at the time. The act of producing and writing research gave me that feeling of accomplishment. It was one thing to learn about history for so many years, but the process of putting together a research project and finishing it gave me a whole new perspective for the discipline. The highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is “Create,” or producing original research on a topic. Reaching at that level while at OHIO was my ah-ha moment, the moment I knew that I could accomplish what I wanted to in the history discipline.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life? 

There are so many professors that made an impact on my life but three have always stood out. First, Dr. Geoffrey Buckley in the Geography Department pushed me to see the interdisciplinary opportunities that history offered. His mentorship and willingness to facilitate a tutorial on Scottish history changed the course of my academic career. I credit him with fostering and encouraging my love of Scottish history, which would later become the focus of my master’s program.

Dr. Miriam Shadis was a constant stabilizing force in my time at OHIO. She was extremely honest with me about my work, writing, and research. At the time I did not understand her feedback, but I realize now how valuable her critiques were. My writing improved immensely under her tutelage, which helped me greatly in graduate school.

Lastly, Dr. Maxwell was an amazing thesis advisor. My thesis was outside of her expertise, but she always had great suggestions, coached me through the research process, and constantly assured me. She helped me produce a thesis that I am proud of and one that enabled me to get into the graduate program I wanted. The classes I took with her were also inspiring. Her CLAR: Thinking About Death class was so much fun and made me look at the cultural concepts of death in historical perspective. Dr. Maxwell’s Western Civilization to 1500 was my first introduction to university-level history courses, and it did not disappoint. I loved every second of it because her lectures were so engaging and fun.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

Hiking at the Ridges, Rome Spring Break study abroad trip, tutorials in the History department, and the Athens community.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss?

Explore Athens and Athens County as much as possible! There is so much more to OHIO than just the campus. Some of my favorite memories from college happened away from the hustle and bustle of the campus. There is so much history, culture, and nature in just a 30-mile radius. Get away from campus and be a part of the Athens community because you will never find another place like it.