Great Grads - Michael Hattem
BA, HistoryMichael Hattem, a 35-year-old high school dropout from New Jersey who earned his GED, spent most of his twenties working a series of dead-end jobs. When his first son was born in 2006, he realized he had to do something with his life.
He enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Once there, he found a goal to aim for: going to graduate school to study history. During the second half of his freshman survey course in American history, his professor allowed him to do research in lieu of a term paper. "I enjoyed the experience of doing research and felt like it was something I could do well," he said.
After a year in the CUNY Baccalaureate Program, he transferred to City College. "It seemed that CCNY was CUNY's flagship school and I liked its historical character," he said. "I also wanted to work with Professor Darren Staloff, since I had read some of his books and listened to his recorded lectures."
Professor Staloff let Michael do research in his first semester. There would be more papers to come in his budding field of interest, pre-revolutionary New York City. One paper, written for the department's honors research colloquium in his junior year, was one of only four papers selected nationwide to be published in "The Columbia Undergraduate Journal of History."
Impressed by Michael's accomplishments, which include a 3.94 GPA, multiple departmental awards and a Thomas W. Smith Fellowship, his professors advised him he had a "good shot" at getting into a top PhD program. But, getting there would require additional sacrifice. With the support of his fiancé and family, along with fellowship and award money totaling over $11,000 in the last two years, he quit his part-time job so he could focus on his studies.
The gambit paid off. After he graduates from CCNY, Michael and his family will move to New Haven, Conn., where he will begin work on a PhD at Yale University with a University Fellowship that covers tuition, living expenses and health insurance for him and his growing family for the next five to six years.
"Being highly motivated on its own isn't enough," he says. "I've been very fortunate, and I've benefited immensely from the outstanding faculty here. Professors Staloff and (Greg) Downs really went out of their way to work with me, and the improvements I've made over the past two years in my research and writing are a reflection of their amazing commitment to their students and the department."
"I've been very fortunate, and I've benefited immensely from the outstanding faculty here."
- Michael Hattem