Are You a Good Fit for SHA?
Last year I wrote a bit about what I felt were the strengths of Developing History Leaders @ SHA. I opined on SHA’s top-notch faculty and the importance of the relationships that I developed as part of the SHA Class of 2011. My blog was one part of an all out effort by the SHA Class of 2011 to increase awareness of a program that we all feel indebted to and one which we are convinced is our field’s most important and effective leadership program.
Now, I’m setting out to continue to spread the good word of SHA; but, this time I’m going to try a different angle. This time, at the risk of sounding sarcastic, overbearing, or rude, I’m going to lay out who I think may not be a good fit for Developing History Leaders @SHA.
- If you don’t want to be a leader, you might want to reconsider applying to attend SHA. It’s understandable that not everybody wants to lead (in fact the world needs as many good followers as it does good leaders); but, SHA’s main emphasis is to develop leaders for our field. So, if you have no interest in being a leader, than SHA is probably not for you.
- If you are not very interested in collaboration, than you probably shouldn’t attend SHA. It’s understandable if you’re not interested in collaboration. But, at its heart SHA is essentially a collaborative program—attendees learn and develop by collaborating with each other, the faculty, and the area museums. So, if you aren’t interested in a high level of collaborative activity, you may want to stay home.
- If you’re satisfied where you are in your personal and professional development, than SHA might not be the best choice for you. SHA should be part of your career-development plan. I’m not saying that you need to be overly ambitious, but I think you certainly should have some ambitions to improve yourself and your career. SHA is not easy. Throughout your time at SHA, you’ll have plenty of reading assignments and plenty of challenging and rewarding small-group assignments. If you don’t have some ambition to work hard and an eagerness to expand your abilities, you’ll probably be unhappy. You can have a good time at SHA, but it’s no vacation.
- If you feel you have no role outside your own institution, than SHA may not be your thing. One of the great strengths of SHA is its ability to inculcate in its attendees the importance of not only being a leader at their own institution but also being a leader in the field. Most SHA alumni feel a commitment to the field—they ask not only How can I contribute and lead at my own institution? but they also ask How can I contribute to the betterment of my field and all institutions?
All that being said, my intent is certainly not to scare anyone away from SHA. However, SHA is a commitment that should not be taken lightly. From the competitive application process to the extended time away from home to the soul-searching discussions you’ll have with your classmates—SHA will challenge you. I encourage you to be a leader, to be collaborative, to discover your role outside the walls of your own institution, and to continue to push yourself to improve—I encourage you to consider SHA.
Mark Sundlov (SHA ’11) is Site Supervisor at the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site in Cooperstown, North Dakota. He currently serves on the SHA Alumni Committee and the AASLH Program Committee.