WPeople: Nick Witham
By Lauren Sandhu, on 11 April 2019
1.How did you come to be at UCL?
I finished my PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2012, and then worked for three years teaching American Studies and History at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent. I was very excited to join UCL in 2015, not only because of its amazing reputation as a research university, but also to shape the teaching offered in my home department, the Institute of the Americas, where I led the team that designed the exciting new undergraduate programme, the BA in History and Politics of the Americas.
2. What is your job at UCL?
I teach twentieth century American history to undergraduate and postgraduate students. I lead a whole range of modules that cover politics and culture in the United States, in particular during the Cold War (c. 1945-1989). As well as this teaching, I am Programme Director and Admissions Tutor for the BA History and Politics of the Americas programmes, which involves ensuring that the degree is running smoothly from admissions all the way through to graduation (our first cohort of students will graduate in 2021). Beyond this, I am the author and editor of several books and journal articles, the research for which informs all of the teaching that I do.
3. How are you involved in Widening Participation?
As Admissions Tutor for the BA History and Politics of the Americas programmes, I run all of my department’s undergraduate admissions, which includes widening participation.
4. Why is Widening Participation important to you?
Studying for three or four years at university is a rewarding and enjoyable experience for all students. But from the outside, the idea of attending UCL can seem quite daunting. I am committed to making the exceptional teaching that is on offer at UCL in the History and Politics of the Americas, as well as the opportunities for language study and study abroad, available to everyone. I want to show that these subjects are a brilliant way of seeing and understanding how the world works, through the lens of a diverse and endlessly fascinating region, the Americas.
5. Tell us a bit more about the History and Politics of the Americas Masterclass
The History and Politics of the Americas Masterclass is a two-hour session devoted to giving prospective students an insight into what it means to study the degree programme at UCL. Based around the theme of “Encountering the Americas”, which is the title of one of the degree’s Year 1 modules, and delivered by the tutors who teach on that module, the session will give students an understanding of how and why we need to understand the connections between Latin America, North America and the Caribbean if we are going to properly understand the region’s history and politics.
6. How would you describe the Masterclass to some who has never heard of it before?
This is an opportunity to learn about History and Politics, two fascinating and important disciplines that sit very well alongside each other. It is also an opportunity to discover a hugely important region of the world, the Americas, which encompass a global superpower (the United States), a large emerging economy (Brazil), important regional actors (i.e. Canada, Mexico, Argentina), developing nations (i.e. Bolivia, Haiti). Putting the region into these perspectives will help you to understand many of the major historical and political dynamics in the modern world.
7. What would be your main bit of advice for someone thinking about studying History and Politics of the Americas?
If you are primarily interested in History or Politics, or in the United States, the Caribbean, or Latin America, this will be an important entry point into our degree. But you should also remember that studying the other discipline and other regions will hugely increase your overall knowledge and your understanding. It will also give you a wider-ranging set of transferable skills to take into the job market.
8. What would be your advice to young people who want to learn more about the history and politics of the Americas?
Read, think, debate! There are many websites and blogs out there that will help you to better understand the History and Politics of the Americas. From mainstream daily newspapers like the New York Times to alternative online publications like NACLA, you should aim to draw on as wide a range of information as possible, to help you understand the region and its political and historical development.
A word from the writer:
I am a historian of the twentieth century United States, with a particular interest in the ways that protest has shaped American politics and culture. I teach the undergraduate modules “The Making of Modern America, 1920-present”, “The United States and the Cold War”, and “American Radicalisms, 1945-1989”.