Kate Wroblewski received her PhD from U-M in 2018. After serving as assistant professor of history at Missouri State University, she returned this fall as the new assistant director of undergraduate studies (ADUGS). In addition to her advising and administrative work, she will be teaching History 202: Doing History and History 230: Sports in Society in the Winter 2020 Term. History staffer Elizabeth Collins sat down with Dr. Wroblewski to talk about coming back to U-M. 

When did you realize you wanted to be a historian?

I decided I wanted to pursue history professionally when I was an undergrad in the History Honors Program here at U-M. As I was planning my thesis, I was able to participate in a study abroad program that focused on Polish-Jewish relations. In the early 2000s there was a lot of interest in examining issues like antisemitism in Eastern Europe and a broader recognition of the need to shift attention to experiences on the ground in Poland. That program helped me think about the importance of competing narratives of the past, and that’s something that still drives my work. I ended up writing my thesis on ideas of victimization and commemoration in postwar Poland. I suppose the rest is [*wait for it*] history.

What is your current research project?

My book project explores the experiences of peasant labor migrants in nineteenth and twentieth century Poland and more specifically looks at how those individuals incorporated ideas of economic uplift, respectability, and commodification into their understandings of citizenship. It also considers the importance of social theory—why thinkers as disparate as Booker T. Washington, John Dewey, and Florian Znaniecki saw peasant labor migrants as representative of a certain
condition in a post-emancipation world. Ultimately, I want to figure out why the stories we construct to describe our lives and families often revolve around and privilege expectations of economic progress.

How has the transition to ADUGS been?

Excellent.  My colleagues in History have always been supportive of my work, and it’s an absolute joy to be at a place where there’s so much energy and innovation. Also, I grew up in West Michigan, so it’s been nice to be closer to family.

What do you like best about working with undergraduate students?

Our students come to us from a variety of backgrounds and tend to think outside of the box when it
comes to course content, which leads to great conversations in the classroom. I want them to know that we have a supportive community where they can develop their ideas. What could be better than discussing big ideas with smart people?

What activities do you enjoy outside of academia?

I play tennis—I used to be pretty decent but my serve’s rusty. In the summer I tend to watch quite a bit of baseball and I enjoy running, even though I’m objectively terrible at it. I’m also a stress baker.