Stephen Barchick '09
Field: Infantry Officer at United States Marine Corps
Thesis Title: "Thomas Arnold and the Making of Christian Gentlemen: The Values and Ideals of a Nineteenth-Century Educator"
Walking through the Dexter Gate on Harvard’s campus as an undergraduate, I was inspired by its inscriptions. Entering the Yard through Wigglesworth near Widener Library, one reads “Enter to Grow in Wisdom,” and leaving the Yard to Massachusetts Avenue one sees “Depart to Better Serve Thy Country and Thy Kind”. Yet, as some History 97 students may remember, it was often a dash through the gates to the Yard to turn in one’s paper before the firm deadline! As a senior I felt the call to serve my country, and after long deliberation and discussion with mentors from Harvard and fellow students, I decided to pursue a commission in the United States Marine Corps.
Studying history at Harvard was incredibly enjoyable and academically rewarding. I was inspired by lectures with historians who were not only phenomenal professionals, but also had a strong interest in teaching students. One of the most important skills I learned as a concentrator was the ability to utilize inductive reasoning in framing arguments. Learning how to articulate a point based on a myriad of facts is a vital skill that will assist professionals in any job. History concentrators have a voracious reading appetite and will be fulfilled and challenged within this department while being supported by professors who, in my experience, are very interested in students’ academic and extracurricular lives. As a student-athlete, I was impressed that some professors attended the Head of the Charles in the fall or other rowing races on cold Boston spring mornings. Electing to write a senior thesis—for me it was analyzing Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby’s influence in ushering in the Victorian Era through the educational system he developed—was a worthwhile experience. Focusing on a project for an entire academic year, searching through vast numbers of primary and secondary sources to uncover facts and frame arguments was an invaluable experience. Also, working with an advisor (Professor Maya Jasanoff) showed me how professors manage the competing interests involved in researching and writing larger works.
I deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in the summer of 2013 as part of the effort to support the Afghan National Security Forces as they took lead responsibility for security operations in Afghanistan. As an infantry officer, my primary job is to train alongside, supervise, and monitor the development of an infantry platoon in preparation for deployment and to lead Marines in combat operations. This job can be stressful and physically grueling but is incredibly rewarding because it truly is a job in the service of people. With industrious and ingenious Marines, platoons are often successful despite the involvement of junior officers, not as a result of it! Like historians, military enlisted and officers must work diligently to understand problems in as realistic a manner as possible. For any student interested in military service, whether for four years or forty, history is a fantastic foundation on which to build one’s career and access the 5000-year-old mind.