This profile was originally published by The Miami Student.
If you ask any of Kimberly Hamlin’s students, current or former, what impact she has made on their time at Miami University, the response will be nothing short of life-changing.
Take Chelsea Cozad, for example. Cozad, a history major who graduated from Miami last year, spent most of her senior year working with Hamlin on her senior thesis. She said Hamlin made her experience by “paving the path for [her].”
“It’s crazy to think, but I don’t know if I would be where I am if I didn’t take her class my sophomore year,” Cozad said. “It really was a life changing experience, because I was able to see that there are professionals in the field that are unapologetic about what they do.”
When Hamlin graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University in Washington D.C, she thought she was going to work in politics. She spent four years working in the office of a pro-choice senator, but after serving for two different congresses, she had an epiphany.
“I realized that this was not where change happens,” Hamlin said. “All along, I had a seed in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a professor.”
Her mentor at Georgetown, however, advised her against it.
“My favorite professor … and I had talked about it, and she said, ‘Only go back and get your Ph.D. if you can think of nothing else to do,’” Hamlin said. “She told me, ‘It’s hard, it takes a long time, and you are going to make no money.’”
Nevertheless, in 2000, Hamlin found herself at the University of Texas at Austin pursuing her Ph.D. in American studies. She went in knowing that a job was not guaranteed, but it was what she wanted to do.
“As a historian and a scholar, I went all-in on my Ph.D.,” Hamlin said.
In 2007, Hamlin got a job at Miami, teaching history and American studies. From the start, Hamlin’s goal within her classroom has been to engage her students in what they were interested in. She’s done this with the creation of the class HST350 #MeToo: A Cultural History, one of a few classes of its kind in the nation.
Eliza Burgess, a senior majoring in psychology and art therapy, is currently enrolled in HST350.
“[Hamlin] places lots of emphasis on involvement in class,” Burgess said. “It is very much talking about things that we think are relevant and important.”
She said Hamlin focuses on women whose voices haven't had the opportunity to be shared before.
“We talk about the history of rape in American culture,” Hamlin said. “But it’s so much more than that. It’s about women’s resistance and survivors' resistance and how change happens.”
Wietse de Boer, chair of the history department, noted just how influential Hamlin, and the creation of HST350, is to the department.
“Her work is very important for our curriculum,” de Boer said. “Particularly in women’s history, the history of sex and gender, where she has really developed a following. It’s also a part of the curriculum that she updates constantly.”
De Boer also emphasized Hamlin’s uncanny ability to connect with her students.
“She is very effective in communicating with larger publics,'' de Boer said. “And in this way, bringing the results of her scholarship to all kinds of public venues.”
These public venues include her frequent contributions to The Washington Post, NPR and Smithsonian Magazine. In her latest piece for The Post, published this summer, Hamlin discussed the political significance of married women keeping their surname after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
In addition to her contributions to various media publications, Hamlin is also a published author. Her book, titled “Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener,” is a profile of one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the suffrage movement.
One of Kimberly Hamlin's books explores the life of Helen Hamilton Gardener, who donated her brain to science to prove men and women are equal.
In her novel, Hamlin tells Gardener’s story, taking her readers through the many turns of her highly ostracized and entertaining life. In its review, Bookpage states that “while Gardener wasn’t perfect, this biography does an excellent job balancing her extraordinary achievements against her cultural blindspots.”
In June 2022, Hamlin earned what is arguably her most exciting position yet. At the League of Women Voters 55th National Convention in Denver, CO, Hamlin was elected to the National Board of the League of Women Voters.
“This is so exciting to me to put more of my research in service of the expansion of voting rights,” Hamlin said. “I am so excited to be serving on the board … this really is an amazing opportunity for me.”
No matter how many prestigious roles she takes on or books she publishes, Hamlin emphasized that one of the most important aspects of her professional life is teaching and interacting with Miami students.
“I really think Miami is a great place for me to be a professor because they really prioritize this teacher scholar model,” Hamlin said. “I get to involve students in my research … and that is a part of my job that I really enjoy.”
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