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Alumni Spotlight: Amber Kates

Describe your work and activities at your current position.

My professional life revolves around research and archival work. The research I began during my internship at ODU's Special Collections is being used by the Colonial Historical National Park Service to assist with tracking the distribution of colonial pottery created in Yorktown. So far pieces have been found all along the eastern seaboard and in the Caribbean. Currently, I use what I learned during my internship in local archival projects. I work to preserve and record local tomes and documents for future researchers and scholars.

What skills and intellectual experiences did you acquire in the history program at ODU that have served you well in your subsequent career?

I was fortunate to take several courses that focused on conducting my own research. This solidified my love and appreciation for archives. My internship directly led to working with archaeologists at CHNPS. Which, in turn, opened doors to work in local archives. I believe it is through this work that I was accepted into the Master of Information program at Rutgers, where I am specializing in Archives and Preservation.

Through my time at ODU, I learned to trust myself and my capabilities. I took the initiative to move forward with my research on the pottery. It would have been easy to play it safe and stick to what I know. Instead, I decided to see how far we could take it. ODU can open the door for students, but it is our job to walk through them.

Based on your experience since graduating: Is history only about the past or how does it relate to today and the future?

I am so invested in studying history because I care so deeply about our future. To enact true change and create a better future, it is vital that we recognize how we got to this point. We need to know the stories of the past and understand the lives, struggles, and fights of the people who came before us. Everything is intertwined.

Which professors do you remember and why from the Department of History at Old Dominion University?

ODU is filled with amazing educators. I was lucky enough to learn from so many of them. Dr. Nutzman is not only extremely knowledgeable, but she is also kind and full of compassion for her students. She took the time to reach out to me on more than one occasion. Dr. Nutzman thoughtfully answered all of my questions and has continued to encourage me even after graduating. Her classes are exciting, and I highly recommend them to everyone. Even if antiquity is not part of your niche interests, the knowledge and critical thinking skills acquired in her classes are a great foundation for all history enthusiasts!

What new areas of historical inquiry have you explored since leaving ODU?

My work and studies continue to center on the Tidewater region. In addition to my work with colonial pottery, other current projects include Norfolk's role in the Civil War and Underground Railroad through the Victorian era.

What is the one thing you would like to tell our current students?

Trust your instincts and let your research lead you. No one has all of the answers - not even a well-meaning professor. Don't let anyone's opinion make you doubt something you know to be true. Also, cite everything, always, without exception!

What would be your advice to the department for the future ?

The history department at ODU is relatively diverse in reference to the time periods and areas of study available for students. That being said, I would love to see and active effort to diversify the subject matter within these areas. We need to highlight more stories of women and People of color within the more "mainstream" history classes.

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