Why did you choose History as a major?
I have always been interested in history and could read books on nearly any topic. History was also a way to connect with my father, with whom I visited Civil War battlefields, and to my grandfather, who served in World War II. I also liked that history is not absolute and is open to interpretation as new resources are discovered and/or made available.
What was your career path after graduation?
After graduation, I took a job working as a historical interpreter at a historical state park in Connecticut. I worked there for several months before getting a promotion to work at the headquarters in Hartford, where I oversaw tour development and exhibits and managed the department’s historical photo archive. I learned two things working there: (1) I really liked working with and talking about history, and (2) if I didn’t go to graduate school, I would not go very far.
After graduate school, I worked with a travel company in Washington, DC, where I researched, wrote, developed and conducted historical tours. Although I had the opportunity to talk about history on a regular basis, I aspired to delve into more depth and engage in more meaningful discussions. So, I took a job at a private middle school, where I now teach 6th and 7th grade history. As a teacher at a private school, I do not have to teach to a test; I am given a basic list of topics, but I have the freedom to teach them any way I wish. So, I encourage research and discussion in my classes and limit the amount of time I lecture. I employ in-class simulations, thus creating scenarios that mimic historical events, essentially putting students in the driver’s seat so they can see how events unfolded from a different perspective. I have found that discussion and interactive simulations are the best way for students to learn, engage and retain knowledge.
How do you think your History major at Mason prepared you for your career?
The history courses I took at Mason developed my passion for Cold War history, the history of nationalism and oral history. I took these lessons to graduate school and now actually employ them in my own classes. Also, some of my professors had careers outside of teaching, giving me a good idea of the variety of professions History majors could access, which led me to my first job in public history.
Any advice you’d like to give to current Mason students?
Always keep your eyes open for new opportunities and try to explore as many different options as you have available to you. Finally, make sure to use all the university resources at your disposal.