“I knew right off the bat that teaching history was what I wanted to do with my life,” Alexis Myer said.
Myer is a transfer student from Lone Star college, with a major in history and a minor in political science. Her mother, who was also a history major at SHSU, was Myer’s inspiration for studying history. When her mother became ill with lupus, she was unable to teach history.
“She taught me a lot about gladiators, which is what my research is about now,” Myer said. “I’ve known I wanted to teach since I was in kindergarten, and her inability to teach made me want to do it even more.”
Myer’s first college history course at Lone Star wasn’t the typical classroom we would imagine.
“We would act out history instead of reading it from a book. One game I got to play Marquis de Lafayette from the French Revolution.” Myer said. “Acting out history is a movement that is going through the history departments in several schools that started at Columbia.”
While at Lone Star, Myer had a study abroad scholarship that allowed her to go to Spain to study the Spanish language. However, she ended up learning a lot more than the language.
“I got into doing research on bullfighters, because I noticed the lack of uniqueness in how they fight bulls,” Myer said. “Even in how the arena is set up and how the crowd interacts with the fighters.”
Myer was part of the Honors College Chancellor’s Fellows program at Lone Star, and the program was planning another study abroad trip to Italy.
“I decided to ‘make the roman connection’ as a lot of historians say it, of how Roman gladiators influence Spanish bull fights. I went to the coliseum in Rome and looked at how it was set up, and compared that to arenas in Spain.” Myer said. “It is actually surprising that there is not a lot of research in looking at that connection.”
Myer continued to do research on how gladiators fought in the coliseum and how the fighting evolved over time.
“There is a type of gladiator called bestiarius who would fight animals, which became more common than fighting other people as gladiatorial games against humans were ending. Eventually that transitioned over to things such as bullfighting, which came into Spain because the Roman empire became so big.” Myer said.
Myer uses what she learns while studying abroad and applies it to her classes. When she got to Sam, she was inspired by some of her professors and mentors to also do research in American history.
“I thought I was just going to research Roman history when I came to Sam,” Myer said. “They convinced me that there is more out there and I can study American history if I want to.”
While studying American history, Myer focused on slavery within the Native American culture.
“I did a historiographic essay, which looks at how historians are writing about the Native American’s transition from being slaves to slave holders.” Myer said. “Specifically, when they were holding African Americans as chattel slaves.”
While writing her research paper, she looked at how slavery has effected the relationship between Native Americans and African Americans, and how it has started race relations between them.
“Native Americans first held other Native Americans as slaves,” Myer said. “Certain tribes would raid other tribes to take people and adopt them into their system. For example, if someone’s daughter died, they would go raid another tribe to take a girl her same age and put her in their tribe in place of their daughter.”
But when the Europeans came with slaves from Africa, it changed the culture of the Native Americans.
“When you take ownership of someone and keep them beneath you because of their race, it is called chattel slavery.” Myer said.
Myer said that recently there have been court cases where Native American tribes that held slaves are trying un-enroll their African American members.
“They are trying to prevent them from being citizens of the Native American tribe. It’s controversial because the Native Americans are saying the African American members aren’t native by blood. But the freed descendants are saying that they’ve been raised with those tribes,” Myer said. “It is important to talk about these subjects together to grow our historical knowledge.”
While at Sam, Myer was inspired to choose her minor by her political science teacher.
“I had a professor, Dr. Ross, who believed I would excel in political science. I didn’t believe her,” Myer said. “She pushed me and sent me to a bunch of workshops. One of the workshops I went to was called New Leadership, for getting women involved in politics. It was really inspiring to be around other women that want to run for office. We learned that it’s not that scary, and you can actually have fun doing it.” Myer said.
Myer is now the president of Ignite, a political non-partisan chapter on campus.
“I didn’t like political science before, but now I am considering doing something in government one day. I want to do something in public policy, but if I were to run it would be for a senator or something.” Myer said.
Myer wants women to know that they can run for office, and shouldn’t be intimidated by it.
“Women should be aware that we are 51% of the population but our numbers aren’t represented that way. There’s only 18% of government offices that are held by women,” Myer said. “I think women need to understand that they are just as smart. The top two highest IQs were held by women, and we’re just as able as anybody else. And it’s possible to have a family and still be politically active.
Myer has had several opportunities to present her research at conferences. She presented her work on Native American slavery during Spring Break.
“I actually like speaking in front of people. The more I do it, the more comfortable I get with it,” Myer said. “I think when you do research, you have to do have confidence in yourself that you’re the expert on that subject now. Understanding that makes it a lot easier to speak about it.”
Myer sends out her work to colleges that offer to publish student works. Her research on bullfighters can be found on Lone Star’s website or library.
Myer’s next adventure will be a study abroad trip to Thailand, where she will be studying the history and culture of Thailand and Cambodia.