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Carty pursues interest in politics, religion
November 16, 1998

It's 6 a.m. and time for Thomas Carty to start the day. Thirty minutes later he would be on his bike, pedaling toward South Campus. There he would slip on his apron and head for the kitchen of Crawford Hall to begin scrubbing pots and pans.

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It was 1991, and Carty was in his first year as a master's degree student. "I did that for a few hours a week so I could pay for my meals," Carty recalls. "It was a humbling experience, but it motivated me to work harder toward a goal that I had set for myself."

Life as a graduate student was not always so hard, however. As his studies progressed, Carty received support from the Research FOundation and from external sponsors including the John. F. Kennedy Library, the Herbert C. Hoover Library and the Bentley Historical Library.

With his goal now in sight, Carty will leave Storrs in May not only with his master's degree but with a Ph.D. as well. He hopes for a career as an academic and has begun the search for a faculty or post-doc position.

A native of Waterford, Carty obtained his bachelor's degree from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass.

He decided he wanted to further his education in an area that would let him combine his religious belief and his love for politics, specifically the presidency of John F. Kennedy. "Religion and politics are strictly separated today," says Carty, "and perhaps there should be more connection between the two.".

The scholarly reputation of UConn's history department brought him back home to the state's flagship university to pursue his graduate degrees in history.

As a Catholic, Carty says, he wanted to understand better how religious and political groups viewed Kennedy's Catholicism during the 1960 presidential campaign.

"Scholars have debated whether religion helped or hurt Kennedy's campaign," Carty says. "We haven't had a Catholic run for president since, so it is hard to know whether the same debate would occur today."

To explore the topic, he traveled to more than 10 states for primary source materials in archives and libraries.

"As a budding American historian," says Carty, "It was a great opportunity to travel and see the different states that I will be discussing in the classroom." His travel, he says, was one component of his graduate education that helped him grow professionally.

His adviser, Bruce Stave, a professor of history and director of the Center for Oral History, also helped Carty make connections with other historians by encouraging him to present papers at professional conferences.

Carty also appreciates the expertise he found at the University. "I have encountered faculty at UConn who challenged me through organized, thought-provoking and engaging lectures. They communicate their knowledge through lively and profound analysis, not merely stale facts and dates."

Interacting with UConn's history faculty helped Carty develop his teaching skills while he was an instructor at Eastern Connecticut State University. Overhead projectors, music, video and artwork allowed him to create his own style. "The greatest challenge for any professor is to communicate ideas that will challenge 30 or 40 individuals," he says.

Outside the classroom, as a graduate student Carty also learned about the effectiveness of advocacy. During renovations to Homer Babbidge Library, he approached the Graduate Student Senate to push for improvements in study space in Whetten Graduate Center. "The Graduate Student Senate officers negotiated with the Graduate School and they were able to get money to fund new furniture," he says. "Then I realized the power of making things happen through this organization." He began attending meetings and later held office as GSS secretary during the 1995-96 academic year. "I knew I could make a difference," he says.

Luis Mocete