I was born in Utica, New York--a small city in between Syracuse and Albany. My interest in history developed after learning about my grandfather's service in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. Dozens of photographs from the war recorded naval vessels, far off lands, and other facets of life that peeked my interest. The most shocking photograph was of a single unnamed soldier, looking happily at the camera as he held a severed Japanese head. This was my first introduction to the complicated ways in which human beings have interacted with one another. The more than 1,500 photographs, journals, and other types of sources scattered throughout my grandparent's house offered a lens into the types of documents that shape my professional life.
After entering college to become a high school history teacher, I developed an even deeper interest in how the changing nature of race and class relations translated into disparities of wealth and power. As an undergraduate history major, Dr. Paul C. Young opened my eyes to the ways in which race, gender, and class intersected. After earning a bachelors in history from Utica College, my interest in these topics served as the impetus to pursue advanced degrees in American history. I began working towards a master's degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the fall of 2006, where I renewed my life long interest in party politics by undertaking a dissertation that explored the fluid political climate of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This culminated with my dissertation, A Generational Divide: The Reconstruction of American Party Politics, 1865-1912, which interrogates the ways in which the arbitrary periodization of Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era has distorted our understanding of the development and evolution of the Republican and Democratic Parties (the Third American Party System).