Dr. Daniel Simone (PhD history, 2009) recently sat down (figuratively) with the blog to talk about his career track leading to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. More and more graduate students are considering professional possibilities outside academia. Dr. Simone found his in a museum close to his heart.

Dan Simone


What is your current position and duties?

Curator, NASCAR Hall of Fame

-Select artifacts and design exhibits

-Conduct research and oral histories

-Write articles and exhibit text

How did you end up in the PhD program at UF and what was the focus of your studies and work, as well as the years of your tenure at UF?

After deciding to pursue a PhD in 2002, I sought out professors who might be interested in my proposed dissertation topic, American automobile racing.  A handful of scholars expressed enthusiasm, one of which was Dr. Jack Davis at UF.  Although I was accepted into a few other institutions, I believed UF was the best option—still do.  Dr. Davis and the rest of my committee (Sean Adams, Betty Smocovitis, Julian Pleasants, Paul Ortiz, and Stephen Perz) supported my work throughout my time at UF.

At UF I taught for one semester and served as Coordinator of the Proctor Oral History Program for over four years.

Did you come to UF intending to follow the traditional track into a teaching position?

Yes, I planned on seeking a tenure-track position.   Aware that the job market for American historians was limited, it mattered little to me if a position came at a community college or a large university.

What did you do after graduation?

I served as an adjunct and taught American History and Western Civilization “survey” courses at schools in New Jersey.  I also co-designed and taught an environmental history course in 2015.

Can you discuss the road you followed to NASCAR? As a historian might ask, what were the push and pull factors involved in this professional direction?

As I worked as an adjunct and sought a full-time position, I occasionally presented a few motorsports-themed academic papers and wrote some book reviews.  I hoped an opportunity would present itself in either environmental history or sport history, but prospects for a tenure-track job remained bleak.   I decided to look more broadly, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame position opened up in 2015.  I thought the position would be a good fit and, fortunately for me, so did the NHOF Director of Exhibits, Kevin Schlesier.

How did your training and experience at UF prepare you for work outside academia? What attributes, in other words, do you bring to the NASCAR museum, and what specific contributions do you think you’ll make to its direction and future?

Dr. Davis demands excellence from his students—particularly when it comes to writing.  His high expectations forced me to work hard at the craft.  I utilize the writing, teaching, and research skills I obtained at UF on a daily basis at the Hall of Fame, whether I am writing yearbook articles, giving tours, or investigating the sport’s history.

Do you have advice for current PhD students who may be looking at a professional future outside academia? If you were in the PhD program now and knew you’d end up where you have, would you approach your studies differently?

As they consider courses to take and internships to pursue, students should consider various ways in which to utilize and market their advanced degree outside of academia.  I would have taken a few additional courses in museum studies.