For those who don’t know, where have you worked before coming to Mason?

I came to Mason from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Which looks at the history of the Underground Railroad. But before that, I worked at the National Museum of American History and I was there as the director, and as a curator, and as an administrator for about 20 years. Before that, I taught college at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

What position was the most fulfilling?

Recently, as I was serving as the interim director at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The founding director became the secretary of the Smithsonian and he asked me to serve as the acting director for about a year and a half. That was very fulfilling because that museum has been so well received by the public and there is so much interest in what they are doing. Given that my area of focus is African American history it is very fulfilling to be at a museum that focuses on African American history and is getting such a positive response from its visitors.

Did you ever have to balance working both as a curator and a professor at the same time? If so, what was that like?

It makes for a bit of a hectic schedule because you are trying to juggle a lot of different things at the same time. But they also sort of reinforce things because I can sometimes share what I am thinking with the students and get some feedback from them … For me, doing both was on similar kinds of paths and each was fulfilling in their own kind of way. One was a lot more research and one was a lot more interchange of ideas and thoughts between myself and the students.

Are you back a Mason full-time now or is there still some back and forth?

I’m still doing a little back and forth. I’m finishing up work on an exhibition at the museum that will actually open in two weeks on Reconstruction … So it continues to be exciting and certainly not boring, I enjoy and love doing both. If you enjoy it, it is not a burden.

[The exhibit] will be at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. They are actually going to have their fifth anniversary in September so this will be one of the anniversary exhibitions that will be highlighted as a part of their anniversary.

I think it will open to the public on the [Sept. 24], which is a Friday. It’ll then be up for a year.

Finally, what is one thing you would want to say to any aspiring history students and the community at large?

For inspiring historians, I would say if you love it go ahead and enjoy the journey along the way. You never know where it is going to wind up. Make sure as you are taking classes, make sure you are doing classes that you enjoy and that you find that really resonate for you … The other thing is that what we always say is that the skills you learn of critical thinking and writing and analysis are skills that you can apply in a wide variety of fields as you go forward … Think broadly about the things that you might want to do as a historian.