History may focus on the past, but it shaped one SUNY Oswego graduate alum’s future.
Vincent Intondi, ’03, took his master’s degree in history and used it to build a rewarding career. He is now a professor of history at Seminole State College in Florida and the director of research for the American University Nuclear Studies Institute in Washington, D.C.
As the director of research, Intondi teaches about nuclear culture in the United States and organizes an annual trip to Japan over the anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to show students the ongoing effects the bombings had on the nation.
“We take students from around the country to Japan to hear from the hibakusha [atomic bomb survivors],” he said. “It gives the students a new understanding of what happened and it’s a big focus of my research.”
Intondi said the annual trip is necessary to show students another version of history, beyond what they are traditionally taught in the classroom.
“Students in this country grow up only learning the heroic version of the atomic bombings from the U.S. point of view,” he said. “For the first time, these students now get to examine it from the Japanese perspective.”
Students from schools all over the country come together for the trip, where they meet with students from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, among other Japanese schools. Together, they visit with scholars and historians, former mayors and dignitaries, and attend anniversary ceremonies and museums.
The trip always takes place from July 30-Aug 11, staying in Hiroshima on its anniversary on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on its anniversary on Aug. 9.
Intondi’s interest in the history of nuclear weapons began when he was pursuing his doctorate at American University under the advisement of Dr. Peter Kuznick, the director of the Nuclear Studies Institute and co-author of the recent book, "The Untold History of the United States."
“From the moment I stepped foot on AU’s campus, Kuznick was asking me to go on the Japan trip,” he said. “I went my first year and was so affected by the trip and what I saw and learned I knew when I returned, it would have to be an area of focus for my dissertation.”
Intondi’s interest later led him to write a book, which focuses on the role of African American antinuclear activists. It is currently under review at Stanford University Press.
Strong foundational experience at SUNY Oswego
Despite his subsequent achievements, Intondi is quick to thank SUNY Oswego for his education as a student in the history master’s program.
“I wouldn’t have gotten to American University without Oswego and I wouldn’t have the job I have now without AU,” Intondi said. “I give so much of my credit back to Oswego.”
According to Intondi, it was the history department’s faculty that truly made the difference in the quality of his education.
“I would put it on par with any graduate program in the country. I got encouragement every step of the way and it started with the faculty,” he said.
Intondi worked closely with a number of faculty while pursuing his master’s degree, including emeritus professor David Conrad and current professor Geraldine Forbes.
“[Conrad] and [Forbes] were instrumental in my life and getting me into my doctorate program,” Intondi said. “The time they spent with me is invaluable.”
In 2002, Forbes brought Fulbright Scholar Ranjit K. Roy to teach, whose studies focused on Gandhi and nonviolence. Intondi had the pleasure of taking one of the two classes Roy taught during his time at SUNY Oswego.
“He was a brilliant man and there’s no way you would ever think of getting someone of that caliber to a state school, but Forbes and Oswego did it,” Intondi said. “The time I had with him I knew I couldn’t get at another school and the impact he had on me will last forever.”
Intondi’s own subject specialty as a history professor was also inadvertently affected by his experiences at SUNY Oswego in Leonardo Hernandez’s Latin American history class.
“I took [Hernandez’s] course and because of him I got a grant from Oswego to study in El Salvador where he was from,” Intondi said. “That fundamentally changed my life.”
As a direct result of that trip, Intondi made Latin America his outside field of study for his Ph. D. at American University and later taught Latin American history at Seminole State.
Despite the distance and time that has passed since he was a student, Intondi holds a great deal of respect for the state university in Central New York.
“You only hear about schools with big names in that area, but I would put Oswego’s history department above any of those any day of the week,” he said.
Fighting the stigma
Intondi is familiar with the stigma associated with liberal arts degrees like the one he earned in history; he was urged to pursue a career in a field more “financially stable” before enrolling in the history master’s program.
“I graduated from SUNY Potsdam in ’97 with a degree in economics, immediately went into the job world and I hated it” he said. “I knew if you said to me you can do what you’re truly passionate about, it would be writing, teaching and studying history.”
Intondi is often reminded of the times he was advised to choose another field and references that memory when he gives advice to his own students.
“I think about that and I always advise my students to do the opposite,” he said. “I always tell my students to study what you’re passionate about, you never know what will inspire you and change your life.”
Intondi urges his students to use their history degrees and pursue careers in archival work, education, nonprofit organizations and law. He knows the reward of following a passion firsthand.
“I can’t comprehend that I get to get up every day, walk into a classroom and teach things I love,” he said. “Finding what you're passionate about is what college is meant to be. The jobs will be there.”