By: LESLIE LESTINSKY
Where did you attend college? I did my undergraduate at Antioch College in Ohio. I earned a bachelor’s in history. I had a dynamite American history class in high school, and that set my mind on fire. Before I graduated from high school, I was had an internship through Washburn University, which is a city university in Topeka, Kansas. I worked everyday in the state archives on a project involving a property the university bought. We were trying to get it on the national register of historic places. That clicked for me. From there, I learned I could get paid to work with historical land and artifacts all while helping people. That made sense for me. I always tell students, do internships. After some years and working a lot of retail and food service jobs, I went back to school to earn my masters in library science and archive administration from Wayne State University in Detroit.
I see you have Detroit memorabilia here in your office, and I know you have given some talks on the city. Tell our readers where your passion for Detroit came from. My Dad was an autoworker for over 30 years for Ford, working on the line. Therefore, I feel really tied to industrial history and how it’s shaped people’s lives. Detroit is a fascinating city because of that. I’m fascinated by Midwestern cities that are rust-belt cities. South Bend is great, in some ways it seems to me like a mini-Detroit.
I’m interested in race relations and ethnic relations. I look at who moves to these cities when they are down and how booming and then crashing shapes them. People are coming back from the suburbs into the city again.
What do you miss most about Detroit? I really love and miss really good Middle Eastern food.
How did you get to the position of archivist? I was a reference archivist at American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati. That was great. I learned a lot, but it was an entry level position lacking in room for growth, and I wanted to be challenged. So I went on the job market and found IUSB. I’m very involved in my profession outside of the university as well. I am a member of Society of American Archivists, Midwest Archives Conference, Society of Indiana Archivists and Indiana Library Federation. I’ve had a lot of leadership positions within these committees. You can empower people with history. Connecting people with history is really fun.
What is the most interesting piece of history you’ve seen come through these doors? It’s hard to say, there are so many. Our civil rights heritage collection is really a jewel in the crown. There is some information here about a suffragette from Elkhart. She was a leader for women’s rights. It really shows how progressive people in this area are and were. We have some great campus history here. I’ve been working with a community member to start to collect some GLBT history pieces. Those oral histories are available, and these people are working to make a better Michiana.
You have earned several grants for projects on campus and around town. Tell our readers more about this work. The most recent grant I received is from the Indiana State Library. It’s an LSTA grant. IUSB is using our civil rights heritage collections in partnership with the St. Joseph County Public Library to digitize our collection. It is going up online and is titled Michiana Memory. It will be available to anyone. You can Google it. It features local people, some of which are still alive. I’d like to continue that work through more grants.
What are you reading, watching, listening to right now? I read a lot of audio books. Right now I’m reading a real cloak and dagger book. It’s my guilty pleasure. I read a lot of professional literature as well, always while I’m in the gym. I don’t have a television set in my home on purpose. However, on Martin Luther King Day, I did go see Selma. That was great. I love all kinds of music but I’m privy to dance music. Hip Hop is great too.
Do you have any words of wisdom for our student readers? Like Chancellor Allison said, good time management is key. Also, do those internships. They will help make it clear what it is you want to do with your education and if the path you are on is right for you.
Students are encouraged to contact Alison by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org