BA in History

James Wells, 2022

James Wells

Why did you choose history as a major?

I chose history as my major because I wanted to become an educator, and because I’ve always loved learning about how our ancestors lived and the choices they made in difficult situations. Sharing that passion and helping others learn about the past felt like a good way to have a positive impact on the world. 

What was your career path after graduation?

During my last semester at Mason, I was hired as a tour guide at Woodlawn and Pope-Leighey House, a historic site in Alexandria. After graduation, I continued to work there part time, alongside substitute teaching and freelance work. I was given some unique opportunities at Woodlawn and have had a lot of support there. Today, after about a year, I’m at Woodlawn full time as a part of their interpretive team, helping run the museum’s day-to-day operations and researching the people who lived there. 

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

At Mason, I had the opportunity to learn from experienced historians and educators, who introduced me to the public history field. With their guidance, I was able to find what I was interested in and consider perspectives that I had never been exposed to before. I also learned a lot about studying the past with empathy, which is always important but especially relevant to where I work today, which was a site of enslavement. 

Any advice to give to current Mason students?

When you work from a place of love and openness, it can help you find community, passion, and the things you enjoy in life. 

If you are passionate about history and thinking of becoming a teacher, consider a career in the museum field. Working in historic interpretation has been interesting and rewarding.