Successful Alumni and Students

Nate Kuehnl

'11, BA, History, English
Doctoral Student
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Active citizen; lifelong learner; actor; politician; presenter; published author; doctoral student; historian

Nate Kuehnl

Not one but all of these adjectives describe Nate Kuehnl. Currently in his first year of a doctoral history program at Wayne State University, his studies focus on African American history and the history of medicine and healthcare. His dissertation involves researching racial exclusion in the medical field, particularly with African American physicians during the first half of the 20th century.

Nate credits his Lourdes education with preparing him for graduate studies. “The Lourdes history program was incredibly beneficial to me. The professors offered a wide variety of courses that gave me a foundational understanding of many different subject areas. I’ve often felt more prepared than some of my peers who attended larger schools with more specialized course offerings. While they certainly had a deeper knowledge of some subjects, my broader education was more helpful in the seminar room and when choosing my field of interest.”

Wayne State History Building

Wayne State History Building

As a double major in English and history, Nate says he was lucky to have several professors who challenged his writing and critical thinking on a regular basis. “I am certainly a better writer as a result. My history classes always pushed me out of my intellectual comfort zone. When I approach my research, I have a much more critical eye for detail and substance because of my Lourdes education.”

For current Lourdes students, the learned scholar recommends getting involved with campus and academic programs outside of the classroom. “It opens up countless opportunities.” Not an outgoing person by nature, it took Nate a few years to venture out of his comfort zone. In his senior year, he was elected to a student government association position, traveled to Assisi and Rome, Italy as a student Franciscan pilgrim, served as the student representative on several university committees, acted in several Drama Club productions, and was one of the inaugural resident assistants for Lourdes Commons campus housing. “In the end, my grades improved, I made friends, became very active in the local community, and became a vocal and visible presence on campus. College became a fantastic experience!”

Students majoring in history should diversify their course load. Nate encourages you to take as many different continental and regional histories as you can. “Not only are they wildly fascinating, but they will open your mind to new ideas that will relate to your area of interest. Also – take advantage of office hours where you have unfettered access to great professors who are more than willing to help you become a better student and person.”

A huge Detroit Red Wings fan, Nate is anxiously waiting to attend home games and take advantage of Joe Louis Arena’s $10 student rush ticket program. He also is still involved in politics. “I’m passionately in favor of expanding social services. While I’m not Catholic, the Lourdes Franciscan values of community, reverence, and service color my perspective on social and economic policy. We need to be better stewards of the Earth and of our neighbors’ well-being.”

Wayne State History Building

Detroit Historical Museum

While he has enjoyed his first few months experiencing Detroit and living in its cultural hub Midtown, he is keenly aware of the vast inequity between the two. “In Midtown, I’m within walking distance of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles Wright African American Museum, the Michigan Science Center, and countless theatres and other cultural institutes. Comerica Park, Joe Louis Arena and Greektown are just a few miles away. The neighborhood is constantly expanding with new housing, restaurants and other businesses. When I walk to class, I pass through beautiful old neighborhoods as well as the lively urban center of Detroit. Midtown, however, is sheltered from much of Detroit. The neighborhood is becoming increasingly gentrified and economically disparate in comparison to the rest of the city.”

Wayne State History Building

Detroit Public Library

Just a few blocks from campus, Nate says the Detroit that many citizens experience on a daily basis is a heartbreaking reality with boarded-up homes, libraries and churches. “While Midtown residents and businesses possess a fierce sense of pride about Detroit; there is definitely a question about whose Detroit they’re defending. There is a sense of disconnect between the transplants and native Detroiters, and solving that is one of the more important issues facing the city today. Ultimately, living in Detroit and attending Wayne State University with its diverse student body, I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate place to be for my research. When I complete my studies and move ahead in my career, I will value this experience much more than the ability to live in a culturally ‘vibrant’ neighborhood.”

As he continues with his studies, Nate is designing his research to keep several career options open. With the goal of becoming a professor at a small, liberal arts college or university, he is also interested in policy work. “Since my research deals with healthcare policy throughout the 20th century, I would be interested in working in that capacity. Medicine and healthcare are heavily affected by institutional racism and classism, so I’ve devoted my academic work toward the larger movement that aims to amend this problem.”

He has already begun to present his work to the external community. Presentations include addressing The University of Toledo Medical School students about the history of African Americans in medicine and a similar presentation at the 2014 Conference of the Southern Association for the History of Medicine and Science (SAHMS) in St. Louis, MO. Nate’s master’s theses—“Establishing Professional Legitimacy: Black Physicians and the Journal of the National Medical Association”—will be posted on Ohio LINK soon. He has hopes of editing and publishing it in a journal. Another one of his publications includes an article about his Gray Wolves alma mater in the Journal of Northwest Ohio History 80.2 (Spring 2013). However he cautions, “I’m always hesitant to share that because it’s my first publication and I’m not happy with my writing! But, I should probably get used to the anxiety of having others read my work.”

Campus Visit