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Sean Trainor

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Sean Trainor

Since graduating from Penn State and the Richards Civil War Era Center in the summer of 2015, I have been pursuing a career as an academic freelancer in Gainesville, Florida. In this role, I’ve secured teaching contracts with Santa Fe College, the University of Florida, and Penn State University; organized a seminar with the University of Florida’s Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere (; helped design a digital pedagogy project for the Richards Center’s People’s Contest digital archiving project (currently in progress); and published my writing in both public and academic venues. These include The Atlantic, Salon, TIME, the Civil War Monitor, Business History Review, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, and a series of Gale / Cengage ebooks on U.S. history.

The role of academic freelancer has allowed me to pursue my wide-ranging interests in pedagogy, public-facing and academic writing, digital humanities, and professional service, while leveraging my academic training and making the most of a slack full-time employment market in history. My experience has proved (to my own surprise) both professionally and financially rewarding, and offers a model for how to be a publically-engaged, alt-ac historian in the era of the so-called “gig economy.” Going forward, I hope to continue to expand my client base and transition my dissertation into a book manuscript.

My background as a member of the Penn State and Richards Center communities has been essential to my successful transition into this new, largely-uncharted career path. In addition to supporting my traditional academic training with generous research funds, rigorous teaching opportunities, outstanding speaker series, and engaging seminar offerings, the Richards Center also encouraged my interest in public history, professional service, and the digital humanities. As a Richards Center research assistant, for instance, I created a short-lived but popular blog for the Center, where I was able to hone my writing chops; as a later stage graduate student, I had the privilege to help organize the first Emerging Scholars workshop (a tradition now in its fourth year); and as a recent graduate, the Center has helped me build my digital humanities portfolio by hiring me to create a digital project around the Milton Lytle Diaries. Perhaps most importantly, the Richards Center has provided me with a community of friends and mentors on whom I continue to rely for personal and professional support.