BA in History

Alexis Frambes, 2019

Alexis Frambes

Why did you choose history as a major?

I loved stories. I originally started as a creative writing major, and the work I was most proud of producing was a poem about my grandfather's experience in Vietnam. After being encouraged to minor in history by Dr. Elzey, I took War and American Society with Dr. Hamner. At the end of the semester he talked a bit about war and memory and work he did with the American Battle Monuments Commission. Sitting in his class, I realized that I didn't want to make up stories, I wanted to tell true stories and help remember people long after they were gone. I actually ended up doing an internship with the American Battle Monuments Commission that combined my love of history and creative writing. In the internship, I wrote stories based on ABMC's institutional history. I would go to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and find primary sources in the ABMC files to turn into narrative history stories that illustrated moments from the organization's past. I also interned with the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, working with the Division of Military History to inventory and catalog items in their collection. I transcribed letters from the Vietnam War during my time at NMAH that became the basis of both my honors history project and a narrative history project. 

What was your career path after graduation?

After graduation, I originally lined up a contract position with the folks I interned with at the National Museum of American History doing a lot of the work I did as an intern. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit and that job was postponed indefinitely. I was lucky enough to continue working as a research assistant for Dr. Stearns and as a research associate with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. I eventually went back to Mason to get my MA in Applied History during the pandemic. It took me a while to find a full-time job after I graduated with my master’s, and I volunteered at the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum to continue gaining experience in the field while I looked for a job. I still volunteer as a collections manager for the museum, and I became a board member this year! For my day job, however, I currently work as a junior content developer for The Design Minds, Inc. We are an exhibit design firm based in Fairfax, VA, and we work on designing museum exhibits across the country. We do a lot of work with the National Park Service (I recently wrote about dinosaurs for new exhibits we're designing for Dinosaur National Monument), but I have also been working on projects for Arlington National Cemetery, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, and more. 

How do you think being a history major at Mason prepared you for your career?

My job puts everything I learned as a history major to work. Not only do I do historical research every day, but I am also able to balance multiple different projects that vary wildly from each other that have similar tight deadlines. It's not unlike having to turn in assignments for multiple classes in the same week. The time management and organization I learned during my time as a history major have been just as important as my ability to write cohesive narratives and perform thorough research. 

Any advice to give to current Mason students?

Make friends with your fellow history majors. The friends I made during my time at Mason have been amazing and incredibly supportive. We've often been references for each other on job applications, usually with great success. Being able to explain why my friend deserves a job because of their time as a history student at Mason has made me a better advocate for myself, as well. Having a network of people you can rely on is also extremely important for your personal well-being. Just because you can do everything yourself doesn't mean you should. You also get to laugh at a lot of British Museum memes together.