In 2003, thanks to the generous support of Larry (’71) and Lynne (’72) Brown, the Richards Center created a summer internship for undergraduate students at Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. The Richards Center selected Jim Flook (’05, History) for that inaugural internship. Much has changed since Jim completed that first-ever Richards Center internship in 2003. The center expanded the internship program to consist of two positions at Gettysburg and two positions at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park each summer and, for a brief period, also sponsored internships at Antietam National Battlefield. Nearly 50 undergraduate students have taken part in these Richards Center internships, and over 30% of those interns have gone on to careers in public history, education, or libraries and archival management.
Jim is one of the intern alumni who has found a postgraduate career in public history. Following his internship, he completed an honors thesis and graduated from Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College in 2005. Former Center Director Dr. William Blair and Dr. Mark Neely, emeritus McCabe Greer Professor of the American Civil War Era, served as his primary and secondary thesis advisors, respectively. Jim subsequently entered the University of Florida’s graduate program in History, earning his MA and completing coursework toward the PhD before leaving academia for career opportunities in public history. He has worked as a seasonal interpretive park ranger at Gettysburg, a historian with the National Park Service’s Alaska Regional Office, and as a park ranger with the Bureau of Land Management at Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas, Nevada. In that capacity, he developed education programs for local 4th grade classrooms. Jim writes, “the skills I began learning during my internship served me well as I was able to visit over 300 schools and give park passes to over 15,000 4th graders over three years,” encouraging them to develop an interest in the national parks’ mission of environmental stewardship. Currently, Jim is employed by the United States Air Force as the historian of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base. Tracing his career success back to that first internship, seventeen years ago, Jim wrote us to thank the Richards Center for its support of undergraduate students like him: “I can personally assure you that your investment in future historians enables students to learn critical skills that lead to interesting careers.”