Jackson Foster didn’t start out as an historian. He had an offer from the University of Miami to do a joint BA/PhD in biochemistry, and he was prepared for a life of scientific research. Despite this chosen life path, Foster discovered that he was more interested in understanding society’s origins, its future, and its role in shaping the everyday lives of ordinary people. He wanted to explore how we as a society understand our origins and our futures and how the world has been shaped by the lives of everyday people. So instead of Miami and science, he came to Alabama to study history and religious studies.
The decision has paid off. Both a Randall Research Scholar and a Blount Scholar, Jackson currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Crimson Historical Review. Last summer, he won a competitive internship with the National Endowment for the Humanities in DC. And this semester, Jackson was named the winner of the John Fraser Ramsey Award. One of the university’s top honors, the Ramsey recognizes the achievements of versatile juniors who demonstrate excellence in mind and character — traditional goals of a liberal education.
The Award funds a Great Ideas Tour, and Jackson plans to use this travel to explore the unexpected, not only exploring the origins of prior great ideas but discovering where the next great idea might emerge. He wants to see new exhibition sites in London; talk with academics in Amsterdam whose computational work changes the way we think about ideas; and to visit cities less traveled to. He’ll bring these ideas back to Tuscaloosa, sharing them not only on campus but as an instructor at the Tuscaloosa Juvenile Detention Center.
Jackson hopes this will be the first step on a longer path of international education and research, and he plans to complete a graduate degree in the United Kingdom. In the meantime, he is working on an honors thesis exploring criminal law in early modern England, researching the roots of our current legal system and investigating the rise of the English state.
Foster is the fourth history major to receive the award in the past five years.