SFS Senior Camden Elliott Takes Passion for Environmental History to Harvard for a PhD


Camden Elliott
SFS, Class of 2018, International History
Charleston, West Virginia
Language: Turkish
Proseminar: Fiction and Politics of International Relations
On-Campus Activities:
International Relations Club, Georgetown Undergraduate Journal of History, Phi Alpha Theta,  Georgetown University College Democrats
Non-GU Activities:
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (intern), Kalorama Fellow (research)



May 14, 2018 by Alfredo Carrillo

“Like a lot of Georgetown students, I came to the SFS because I wanted to be a Foreign Service Officer, or some State Department policymaker,” Camden Elliott (SFS‘18) says about what brought him to the Hilltop.

Elliott did not expect then that his experiences at SFS would take him in a completely different direction. After majoring in International History, Elliott will begin a PhD in history at Harvard University in the fall.

“Right now my focus is just on going back to school and graduating again. From there who knows?”

Elliott says he had first planned on majoring in International Politics, but after satisfying his “foreign policy itch” through a course on diplomatic history, he began taking the classes that interested him the most. He says that International History gave him the most flexibility to explore courses on different subjects and flesh out his academic interests.

“IHIS gives its students so much freedom to develop concentrations and include courses from outside history that it was the perfect major for me,” says Elliott.

Turning his Passion into an Academic Pursuit

“It took a village to get me my degree,” Elliott says about his academic focus on the history of warfare and the environment.

“First I have to give credit to Professor Kathryn Olesko, whose Atomic Age course gave me my first opportunity to do original research with primary sources. I analyzed nuclear targeting data that had recently been declassified and that gave me the research bug, so to speak.”

Camden_Elliot_SFS18He also expresses his gratitude for professors Dagomar Degroot and Timothy Newfield, who introduced him to environmental history and disease in history, subjects that defined his undergraduate experience and his post-graduate aspirations, respectively.

“Without that course I’m not sure what I’d be doing,” Elliott says about Degroot’s environmental history class.

And speaking about Professor John McNeill, who oversaw and advised him on his senior thesis, Elliott expressed gratitude for helping him become “a much better historian.”

Elliott also cites his Foundations of Grand Strategy class, co-taught by Professor Charles Kupchan and Professor McNeill, as one of the best he ever took at Georgetown.

“To me it felt like exactly what the SFS was designed for,” Elliott says. “The interplay between a global historian and a practitioner of foreign policy resulted in one of the most vibrant academic environments I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of.”

One of Elliott’s favorite Georgetown memories features a former National Security Advisory poking fun at his studies.

While sharing a group dinner with Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor to President Obama, Rice asked the students about their plans for the summer. Elliott, back then a junior, answered that he would be studying the environmental history of asteroids through a Kalorama Fellowship. Rice responded that she totally understood his project because she had seen and really liked “Armageddon” with Bruce Willis.

“So yeah, Susan Rice roasted me,” Elliott says.

Making the Most out of Georgetown and D.C.

Camden_Elliott_SFS18Outside of academics, Elliott has been involved in numerous clubs and organizations, ranging from the International Relations Club and the GU College Democrats to the Georgetown Undergraduate Journal of History and the Phi Alpha Theta national honor society for history.

Beyond his activities at Georgetown, Elliott has also tried to make the most out of living in Washington, D.C., whether by visiting its museums and accessing its archives or simply enjoying some Nationals baseball. In each of them, he has found a unique community of students and lifelong friends.

“The city has so much to offer (especially its archives), so get out there sooner rather than later,” Elliott advises current students.

Looking Back and Ahead

After four years, Elliott is bidding farewell to Georgetown and D.C., at least for the next 5 to 7 years, while he will be completing his PhD at Harvard.

“I’ll miss the community,” Elliott says. “There are few places where people are as engaged with international and domestic issues.” Reflecting on his life as an undergraduate, Elliott says he will miss the people he met at Georgetown the most.

And looking back all the way to his freshman year, Elliott makes one final bold assertion.

“Darnall is the best freshman dorm. That’s my hill to die on.”