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Alumni News | Francisco Cintrón turns history into his future

Ohio University alumnus Francisco Cintrón said a Western Civilization course at OHIO drew him into history, particularly the history of the medieval Islamic world.

Now he's a teaching assistant in a Western Civilization course at the University of Notre Dame, where he is currently a Ph.D. student in the Medieval Institute and a 2021-2022 Graduate Fellow in the Nanovic Center for European Studies.

After graduating from Ohio University in 2018, he lived in Spain as a Fulbright Research Scholar and was part of a research team funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation. In 2021, he presented some of this work at an international conference on Canon Law and Christian Societies, between Christianity and Islam in Madrid.

As an undergraduate at OHIO, Cintrón majored in history through the Honors Tutorial College and received a minor in Classical Civilization, with a Certificate in Law, Justice & Culture in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Q&A with Francisco Cintrón

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

A: Honestly, this is a very difficult question to answer, since every professor I interacted with in the History Department has left a lasting impression on me, both personally and academically. The range of courses I took and loved in history was matched by an excellent and deeply caring faculty. They fostered, from the beginning, an environment where intellectual exploration, interdisciplinary research, and experiences outside the classroom were valued and encouraged. I owe any degree of academic success I may have had to each of them, and it’s thanks to the History Department that I think so fondly of my time at Ohio University.

Francisco Cintrón and group in Rome
Francisco Cintrón with Dr. Jaclyn Maxwell and classmates in Rome.

Dr. Kevin Uhalde served as my thesis adviser, and his knowledge and guidance extended well beyond the many courses I took with him. He supported my research interests throughout all the turns they took and offered his encouragement well beyond graduation. Dr. Miriam Shadis was my HTC Director of Studies, and she remains a source of support, education, and advice in my life. Dr. Jaclyn Maxwell's Western Civilization course drew me to history and was the initial reason I added the major; her course is very much on my mind as I (serve as a) teaching assistant (TA) for Western Civilization in my current program. Her study abroad program in Rome was an unforgettable experience.

The courses I took with Dr. Michele Clouse were among my favorites. She taught in a way that opened my eyes to the possibilities of history as a discipline. Her Sex, Crime and Deviance in Medieval Europe class comes up all the time in conversations, and our discussions are the reason I continued studying social history. Dr. Mariana Dantas and Dr. Ziad Abu-Rish similarly broadened my horizons and knowledge of the world. Dr. Abu-Rish’s course on Women, Gender and Sexuality in the History of Islam pushed me to study the medieval Islamic world, which is now a central feature of my graduate studies.

It’s hard to put into words the immense amount of gratitude I feel for the support I received from the History Department. They are stupendous, kind, and inspiring in their wisdom and encouragement. Individually, they have each shaped my academic interests and made me a much more curious person. My current work in my Ph.D. studies echoes, in every way, all that I learned from them.

Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your faculty?

A: I do, thanks to social media. For the first two years after graduation, I kept sending email updates to Dr. Uhalde and Dr. Shadis. At the time, I was doing research in Spain on a Fulbright Fellowship, and it was such a relief to have a support system of people who knew how to navigate life as a researcher (and the infinite mysteries of the archives). That being said, I do owe them an email; but I want them to know that I mentally start drafting an email to them every time my research takes interesting turns or otherwise brings their teachings to mind.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A: My time at OHIO was defined by unbelievable programs and groups that I will never forget. Beyond the history department, my experience in the Honors Tutorial College and my involvement with the Center for Law, Justice & Culture exposed me to wonderful and fascinating people whom I never would have met otherwise. I tried to be as involved with them as much as I possibly could, which led me to join student organizations associated with each. My senior year, for example, I was the vice president for the Students for Law, Justice & Culture and got to do some fun work with the faculty there, especially Dr. Haley Duschinski. One special memory was organizing an art gallery that showcased the rich history of student protest at OHIO up to the present, titled “The Muslim Ban, Bobcat 70, and Campus Protest.”

Another very fond memory was my spring break study abroad trip to Rome with Dr. Maxwell’s Eternal Rome: Piety and Power course. It was a packed week, but we got to see so many wonderful and historical sights: from the Roman Forum and the enormous Baths of Caracalla to the Vatican Museum and the Lateran Basilica. The trip was my first time to Europe and the first time that I witnessed history leap off the page, into the world around me. Dr. Maxwell’s commentary and willingness to have long discussions about each site we visited completely elevated the experience – it was phenomenal.

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

A: Take advantage of the University’s resources and learn a new language (or two)! Whether you continue to graduate studies or seek a non-academic job, having proficiency in an additional language is never a wasted skill. Additionally, I can’t think of anything more enriching and relevant in a university degree than experience in cross-cultural learning. If you get the chance to do it abroad, jump on it. For history students in particular, chances to learn languages and study abroad should be something to look forward to and prioritize in your studies.

Also, take as many classes in as many disciplines as you can! Although taking more classes might sound unhelpful, I’d say I learned the most in classes that I took just because I felt slightly interested in the topic. I learned this the hard way: you will never know the full range of your interests until you take classes on subjects outside your wheelhouse. With the wonderful faculty in the history department, you can’t go wrong with taking that one class on a period you saw that one documentary on but never fully understood.

See more news about history alumni.

December 1, 2021
Staff reports