Quick Take: Nick Pellegrino

Nick Pellegrino, Ph.D. candidate in history. (Photo courtesy of David Appel)
Dec. 6, 2013

Nick Pellegrino says his discovery that there was much more to history than the narrow version he was taught growing up spurred him to dig on his own. “I realized how incomplete and unsatisfactory that version of history was. Seeing how differently historians could present their own literary reenactments of the past got me interested in pursuing history as a career.”

Now a history doctoral student, Pellegrino recently was awarded the UNLV Foundation Board of Trustees Doctoral Fellowship, which allows him to focus on his research. He is writing a dissertation on the development of the separation of church and state in America.


I chose to attend UNLV because the history department had a number of scholars whose work matched my professional interests.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Morganville, N.J., which is a small town near the central Jersey shore.

What’s the biggest misconception about your field?

The biggest misconception in history is that there is some universal agreement on questions of importance.

What’s the biggest challenge in your field?

Piecing together all your materials into a coherent, readable argument.

Proudest moment of your life?

I try not to focus on the macro. While I have achieved success in my life, I am most proud of the quotidian things, like working all day and night on a research project without getting distracted, helping my family, or making an appointment to donate blood to hospitals.

One tip for success?

I once had a professor tell me to do whatever was easiest first. Doing so pushes back the most difficult parts of a project until the only thing left to do it the most difficult part — which is, by then, the easiest part. It also helps with motivation since you can talk yourself into it easier knowing you are doing the easiest part.

If you could fix one thing in the world what would it be?

My flashlight has been broken for a week now. Seriously though, I believe good values are the foundation to healthy individuals, families, and societies. So I’d instill good values into everyone. Outside of natural disasters, that would pretty much solve everything.

Who was your favorite professor and why?

I’ve had a wonderful experience at UNLV and have learned far more than I imagined since enrolling four years ago. While there are many excellent — not merely good — professors in my department, my advisor David Holland has been my favorite. He has been the perfect role model for me as a young scholar. From his teaching strategies during lecture to his research accomplishments to his affable personality, David has been nothing but a pleasure to work with. I can’t imagine a better mentor.

What can’t you work without?


Who is your hero?

I recently saw a mother feeding her adult son who was in a wheelchair. She was talking to him, laughing, and smiling. She said hello as I walked by. As she smiled, she was cleaning up the food that dripped down his chin because he did not have the motor skills to clean himself. That wonderful woman and everyone like her — those who put on their best smile and have a pleasant disposition, despite the difficulties they face in life — are my heroes.