A Letter from the President

Greetings, all!

It’s with great pleasure that I write this note to introduce myself as the new President of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region! (Even though, as I wryly note to anyone who congratulates me, I was running unopposed- still a pleasure!)

But before I do that, I want to thank outgoing President David Caruso for his many years of service to the organization. It’s going to be very hard to live up to the high expectations he has set!

Change can be scary, I know. So, if you haven’t met me yet- who am I?

I’m currently the Specialist Professor of Public History at Monmouth University and the primary point of contact for our public history minor. My service to the University includes administration of the Monmouth Memories Oral History Program and the Department’s social media and newsletter. I serve as the campus coordinator for the National History Day program, and the faculty advisor for the History and Anthropology Club.

I’m the editor for New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, a joint venture of the NJ Historical Commission, Rutgers University Libraries, and Monmouth University. I’m a trustee of the Parker Homestead-1665 in Little Silver and the Ocean County Historical Society in Toms River. I work regularly with other public history organizations such as the Monmouth County Park System, InfoAge Science History Learning Center and Museum, Monmouth County Historical Association, Monmouth County Historical Commission, Middlesex County Office of Culture and Heritage, National Guard Militia Museum of NJ, and more.

I worked as a command historian at the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, NJ from 2004-2011.

You can see more about my publications and projects on my faculty page here.

What has my relationship with OHMAR looked like?

I first presented at the 2011 OHMAR conference, and had the pleasure to do so several times thereafter before joining the board as an at-large member in 2016. I was the 2019 conference chair, and was delighted to host the conference on my “home court,” if you will, at Monmouth University. (Though I was conference chair, thanks so much to the entire OHMAR board for their work to make that most recent conference happen. It really was a team effort!)

What are some oral history projects I’ve worked on?

  • As an undergrad, way back when, I first interviewed Destroyer Escort Sailors in my Oral History class at Monmouth University. (Thanks, Professor Susan Douglass, for inspiring my love of oral history!)
  • During an internship, I then assisted with veterans’ interviews being conducted by the National Park Service at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook, NJ (Thanks, Mary Rasa, for providing meaningful work and not just photocopying!)
  • During my years working at Fort Monmouth, NJ, we conducted oral history interviews with active duty and retired military as well as civilians. (Thanks, Wendy Rejan and Mike Brady, for bringing me on board there!)
  • More recently, I’ve been working on the Monmouth Memories Oral History Program with my biennial oral history class. This is an ongoing effort to preserve our own organizational heritage. (Thanks to my Department colleagues for their enthusiastic support of this program.)
  • My classes have also helped with interviews for the Bruce Springsteen Archives and Center for American Music at Monmouth U. (Thanks, Eileen Chapman, for letting the students meet some incredible icons of rock n roll history!)
  • I’ve also conducted oral histories for the Monmouth County Park System’s interpretation of Battery Lewis and Monmouth County Historical Association’s exhibit Tracking Sandy: Monmouth County Remembers.

Why do I love OHMAR?

It’s always struck me as a very welcoming organization, free of pretension. The membership is full of incredible professionals doing inspiring work, yet students and new professionals are made to feel as if they belong.

What do I hope to accomplish during my tenure as President?

I have no huge changes planned, nor do I have to power to make comprehensive changes in a vacuum even if I was so inclined! I will note that it’s almost time for a new strategic plan. (More on that to come.) But as a mom of two boys, I’d like to see if we are doing everything possible to make active membership, including conference attendance, easier on parents. I’m not sure exactly what this might look like – I have only been president a few weeks, after all—but it’s definitely something I’ll be thinking about. I’d like to experiment with local or virtual happy hours to encourage informal networking outside the annual conference. And I’d love to get more of you publishing on our blog! I think the blog is a great way to promote your projects or share your works in progress before they are ready for formal publication.

I would love to hear from any of you with questions, comments, or even concerns as we move into this new chapter for the organization. You can reach me at mziobro@monmouth.edu

Take care!

Melissa Ziobro