Mellon Humanities Faculty Fellow Pedro Acuna

Pedro Acuna graduated with a PhD in History in 2016 and is now a Faculty Fellow in Humanities Core.

What do you enjoy most about teaching in Humanities Core as a Faculty Fellow? What are the challenges?
I really value the central role that Humanities Core’s interdisciplinary courses play across the UCI campus in teaching undergraduate students to think and write analytically about different topics. My work in the program has enhanced my existing training in History by giving me the chance to discuss multiple pedagogical challenges with members of the teaching staff and to bring those ideas into the classroom. Besides, the four-course load gives enough time to pursue research and prepare the doctoral dissertation for publication.

How are you bringing your research into the classroom?
As a historian of Latin America, I believe that the present thematic cycle of Humanities Core, “Empire and Its Ruins” is a great way to introduce humanistic research questions to undergraduate students. Latin Americanists scholars, almost by definition, must be attentive to dynamics of colonialism and imperialism, and their lasting legacies. For instance, my own work on the history of sports and masculinities in Argentina and Chile acknowledges soccer (or fútbol) as an important legacy of the British influence in South America. All of my graduate coursework on Latin America at UCI emphasized comparative frameworks of empire, which is similar to what I attempt to apply in my courses in Humanities Core.

What kind of support did you get from your advisor and mentors to help you complete your PhD in five years?
My advisor, Heidi Tinsman, provided enduring support and guidance throughout all these years in graduate school. Besides an immense amount of feedback and suggestions in different stages of the dissertation, she always believed in my work. I am also grateful to the members of my dissertation committee: Steven Topik and Alex Borucki, for their encouragement, perceptive advice, and for helping me to establish professional connections. As Mellon Humanities Faculty Fellow and as part of my research responsibilities, I will continue working with all of them on the same campus.

Do you have any particular advice for graduate students interested in writing their dissertations in a timely matter?
Although the research phase is crucial to the success of any dissertation, I would suggest starting the writing as soon as possible, even if the research takes place in a different country and/or in a different language. Reading too many materials could sometimes get you off the road. Establishing writing deadlines and discussing drafts with my advisor was very helpful too. Free time is also important so I recommend practicing sports and spending some time with family and friends.