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Mike McGuire

After completing my degree at MSVU, I enrolled at Dalhousie to pursue an M.A. in History. I chose a rather non-traditional path in writing a thesis on the history of hip hop in Halifax from the mid-80s to the late 90s - a topic which met with some resistance. However, combining the research methodology and historiographical approaches I learned at the Mount, I was able to convince the school that my subject had academic merit, and that it could be explored using a traditional approach. Without the primary source research skills I'd picked up at MSVU, I wouldn't have been able to properly propose my thesis, let alone complete it.

My work in Halifax hip hop history was a compliment to my existing involvement in the scene, and in the years after leaving MSVU I continued to release my own hip hop albums and produce/contribute to many more under the name Hermitofthewoods. I became the resident judge for The Elements League, an underground rap battle circuit that is recognized as a precursor to the international battle circuits that exist today. My love of narrative history and hip hop lyricism steered me toward the spoken word community as well, and since leaving the Mount I have represented Halifax in national competition as a three-time member of the Halifax Slam Poetry Team, most recently in 2012 as the team's captain.  Throughout all of this, education remained a central focus, and I regularly hosted workshops and gave talks on hip hop's history and connection to social justice, and on spoken word and slam poetry as creative outlets for youth. In September of 2012, I returned to the Mount to teach a course in Music and Culture through the Cultural Studies department. It is great to be back.

The things I learned as an MSVU History student have helped me immensely as I have tried to find my way in a post-graduate world. The essays and papers honed my writing skills - which are hugely important, whether I am writing poetry, rap lyrics, chapter contributions for books, or applying for federal grants. The research skills I was taught have been useful to me every single day, in one way or another. This is increasingly important in an internet-based society, where there are lots of opinions floating around and the ability to support an argument, or identify where an argument is lacking that support, is crucial. Perhaps most importantly, though, I learned from my professors at MSVU to be passionate about your chosen field. During lectures, I always noticed when a topic or perspective came up that excited the prof and their enthusiasm showed. It encouraged me to think about what aspects of history gave me that same sense of excitement, allowing me to make history something I could happily immerse myself in.

The best advice I can give to current or prospective students is to recognize the significance of history in our lives. It's how we know who we are and where we come from. It's how we learn from our mistakes. It's why things are the way they are. More than that, however, it is a broad and all-encompassing field that is an avenue for exploring the world around us. History isn't just one thing.  My own field includes the social and cultural history of things like graffiti, moral panic over the influence of gangsta rap, and artists who create masterpieces in makeshift bedroom studios. Others focus on things like the Royal seals of Scottish nobles, cargo cults of the South Pacific, or early manifestations of Law in Ancient Mesopotamia. History is all of these things. The world is a never-ending story that we are all trying to make sense of and the study of history can provide you with the tools to decipher the context, the motives, and the perspectives that shape the shared experiences of humanity. If you are considering studying history then ask yourself which parts of that story interest you the most. Once you have an idea, learn everything you can about it and share what makes it so important with the rest of us.

November 2012