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Nelson Chase
History grad student begins his museum career

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If you ask Nelson Chase what's new and interesting in his life, he'll probably tell you his recent wedding tops the charts. But things are also going well in the grad student's professional life. Chase is in the process of completing his thesis for the USD Graduate History Program, and has been putting his academic background to good use in the Research Library and Archives at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Nelson Chase

The University of San Diego has played a huge role in my life. I met some of my best friends and obtained more than I ever thought possible by studying there.

Nelson Chase

You are currently pursuing an MA in history at USD. When will you graduate?

I have completed all of the course work for the Masters of Arts in History and am currently writing my thesis. My thesis topic is on a local San Diego aircraft company, Ryan Aeronautical, and its role in the development of aviation in the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s. I should graduate in 2011. Well, my wife has told me I will graduate in 2011, so I better keep writing.

What drew you to the USD MA program?

I think the biggest reason why I decided to do my graduate work at USD is that I also did my undergraduate degree there, also in history. I had such a wonderful experience as an undergrad (class of 2008) that it was a natural fit for me to continue my studies there. Also, the world-class history faculty and my relationships with them were a huge factor.

Tell us about your current work with the Aerospace Museum.

Currently I work in for the San Diego Air & Space Museum (formerly known as Aerospace) in the Research Library and Archives. My official title is "Research Assistant" but I do much more than assist researchers. Besides answering outside research questions from scholars, students and aviation enthusiasts, I also supervise the volunteers and interns.

Nelson Chase

"I hope that I can, in my professional life, make the University proud and continue to build upon the strong reputation that our University has."

Nelson Chase

Additionally, I run the social media for the library-- a Facebook page and blog-- and have assisted in writing a book on the history of the building the museum is located in. Another one of my duties is cataloging special collections as they come in. Currently, we are in the process of starting a major renovation project that we hope to complete in the near future and my role in this process is packing and preserving the collection as we renovate.

How did your degree prepare you for your current work? Was a liberal arts background helpful to you?

My degree(s) from USD have played a major role in my profession. In fact, without them I would not be in the museum profession. One of the most important classes I took was Museum Studies with Dr. Iris Engstrand. This class exposed me to different museum practices and policies. It also allowed me to tour various institutions (many of which I now have professional contacts with) and listen to guest speakers who work in the field. Also, the liberal arts background has come in handy when writing books and articles for our newsletters and social networking.

A funny story is that when I was an undergraduate I interned at the San Diego Historical Society (now History Center) in their archives for a semester. I swore after that I would never work in archives because it was "boring." Yet, here I am four years later working in an archives and it is far from boring.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future involve growing in the Museum profession. I enjoy archiving but am also interested in collection preservation and curatorial work. I would love to continue working for the Air and Space Museum but who knows where the future will take me. I am very blessed to work in Balboa Park. There are so many wonderful institutions here and they offer many opportunities for professional growth and education. Balboa Park is the largest urban park in the country and largest concentration of museums outside of the National Mall in D.C. I have considered, after completing my thesis, looking into working for the National Archives.

Apart from my professional life, I'm also a newlywed, (less than two months) so my future plans include starting a family but that is down the road.

Nelson Chase

"My degree(s) from USD have played a major role in my profession. In fact, without them I would not be in the museum profession."

Nelson Chase

Which USD faculty have inspired you? How?

Dr. Iris Engstrand has inspired me to be the best historian that I can be. Without her guidance and support as an undergrad I don't think I could have survived college. Also, because of her I developed an interest in San Diego History and chose to write on it for my thesis topic. Professor Michal Gonzalez pushed me to question the status quo and helped me become a better writer.

I'd like to extend my special thanks to Dr. Jeannie Constantinou for her guidance, both academic and spiritual, in studying my other academic passion, Theology and Church history. She was there for me as an undergraduate and graduate student and I am inspired by her love of the Eastern Orthodox Churches daily.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about your USD experience?

The University of San Diego has played a huge role in my life. I met some of my best friends and obtained more than I ever thought possible by studying there. I hope that I can, in my professional life, make the University proud and continue to build upon the strong reputation that our University has.

- Anne Malinoski '11

Quick Facts

  • I am an Army veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and injured my ankle on April Fools Day 2001, when running from a missile. My parents thought it was a practical joke when I told them.
  • I am a devout Byzantine Catholic and am the Director of Young Adults Ministry at my parish.
  • I stayed in Greece at a Greek Orthodox Monastery and considered a vocation to the monastic life before marriage.
  • I am a diehard Padres fan.
  • I met my wife at a mutual friend's birthday party. He was interested in her and I ended up dating her.
  • I am the fifth member of my family to attend the university. My father has a BA and MA from USD in History and three of my cousins attended.

Useful Links

www.sandiego.edu/cas/history/graduate/

www.sandiegoairandspace.org/

www.facebook.com/SDASMLA