Nine years ago, I was reading applications for our PhD program at Baylor History. My upstairs table was covered with files (we still printed paper copies then). Our Graduate Program Director (GPD), Barry Hankins, had suggested I look first at an applicant from the University of St. Andrews. She was graduating with a MLitt. from the St. Andrews History department and had written her thesis on nineteenth-century dance halls. He though I might be interested in working with her.
So, I did.
The name of the applicant was Lynneth Miller. I flipped first to her writing sample. This was how I usually start reviews of applicant portfolios–skimming the writing sample to get a feel for their potential as a researcher before returning to look at other materials. But as soon as I started reading Lynneth’s essay (an analysis of the meeting between the British Queen Victoria and Hawaiian Queen Lili’Uokalani), I gave up skimming. I read her paper twice. Then I read it a third time. Then I emailed our GPD: “I want to talk to this applicant,” I told him.
The rest, as we say, is history. We met for coffee during the graduate student preview weekend in 2014, and just like that I was her PhD advisor. Lynneth and I shared so much during our academic journey together–from attending conferences together, researching side by side in the archives, writing together, and volunteering in a church youth group together. Once we even shared shoes. I still can see her sitting in Paternoster square, St. Paul’s looming above us, as she wrapped bandages around her feet. It was 2016 and we were on a 10-day research trip to London. She had only brought one pair of shoes. I didn’t think twice about giving her my spare pair. (Ever since, I have never failed to remind graduate students to take at least two pairs of shoes when they travel with me to England.)
It has been four years since I signed Lynneth’s completed dissertation. Since that time, Lynneth has published two books (one as co-editor and her dissertation book), received a prestigious award for her dissertation book manuscript (the Founders’ Prize from the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference), published nine articles (including one co-authored with me), and become a beloved history professor at Anderson University in South Carolina. Some of you are probably familiar with her, as Lynneth has authored several guest posts on the Anxious Bench, including “The Weight of Words: Medieval Jangling to Modern Tweeting,” “Frightening Figures: Sacrilegious Women and Dancing Witches,” Plagues, Fear, and Hope in an Honors Classroom,” and “Dance and the Church: A History More Complicated than Footloose.” Something you probably didn’t know is that Lynneth read draft chapters of The Making of Biblical Womanhood. I can tell you that my Reformation chapter is significantly better because of her advice.
Today I am so pleased to welcome Lynneth back to the Anxious Bench–not as a guest blogger but as a regular contributor. Lynneth (Dr. Renberg) is currently an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Anderson University (Anderson, SC). Like me, Lynneth has a strong desire to use her skills as an academic to help grow and support the church. Also like me, Lynneth specializes in late medieval and early modern Europe with an emphasis on women and religion. Unlike me, Lynneth has further expertise in the history of the British Empire and the history of dance.
I have been reading Lynneth’s words for nine years and, I promise you, she just keeps getting better. I can’t wait to see what she is going to write next! Welcome Lynneth! (and don’t forget to follower her on Twitter @LynnethRenberg). Her first regular post will debut the first week of February.