Linda Gray
Linda Gray

Faculty Chair

The path that has brought me to Union Institute & University is a long one. I was raised in a family steeped in local politics in Massachusetts. My escapes were hiking, camping, mountain climbing, sailing, and attending theater productions. These are activities which continue to sustain me. My work experience has been as a social worker, a journalist, an editor, a grant writer, a trainer, a grants manager, a community organizer, a campaign manager and a teacher. My volunteer work has been just as varied, including hosting youth leadership conferences, serving on the board of day care centers, as a commissioner on the Governor's Commission on Women, and on the board of the Green Mountain Film Festival.

My formal education was at Smith College (B.A. in anthropology), the University of Vermont (Master's in medieval history) and McGill University (Ph.D. in early modern history). But my real learning experiences have also included other venues. Specifically, I have learned the most when I have come into intimate contact with people whose thinking is different from mine. These experiences have included being an exchange student to France in 1969-70 (American Field Service), to Sri Lanka in 1973 (Experiment in International Living), to Canada in 1996-97 (Fulbright), considerable extended travel in the Pacific, Europe and Asia, as well as the more personal experiences of marriage and parenthood. I have recently returned from three semesters teaching in Ukraine on a Fulbright Scholar grant, where I taught memoir as history and literature to undergraduate and graduate students. However, reading literature also can be a transforming experience, and learning from characters in novels or learning from an author's method of telling a story have been ways that I have grown while seated.

My current work examines the edges of things: national and personal borders. When we focus on history in the borderland, cracks in the historical narrative are revealed. I find it fruitful to break down, as much as possible the sometimes narrow academic disciplines in order to understand the individual in his or her community. This means addressing the psychological, sociological, religious, biological and historical aspects of their lives. My recent research centers on the lives of women and Native Americans as they navigated the world of northeastern America in the seventeenth century, as well as the struggles, wars, massacres and deportations in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century.

I am also interested in narrative theory. Simply put, this means how a story is told, and how the telling affects the story. I have studied oral traditions as well as the ways authors tell their stories. I am exploring the ways that historians can use oral history and traditions to expand their understanding of historical periods. I often use literature and memoir to assist my work, and I enjoy sharing this aspect of my work with students. I believe that all voices need to be heard.