BA in History

Nick Shumate, 2013

Nick Shumate

Why did you choose History as a major?

I think I always loved history throughout grade school, I just didn’t realize how much until partway through my Mason career. I came to Mason as a transfer student with an undeclared major and great indecision about which path to take. While fulfilling my general courses I took an Art History class with Dr. Christopher Gregg and fell madly in love with the coursework and study. That semester I spent a lot of time contemplating what I wanted to study and do with my life. I quickly realized how much I found the history in the art to be awe inspiring. The further I delved into the historical discipline and the more I learned, the more I loved it. I realized then that I would feel incomplete without pursuing a future somehow tied to historical study. I wanted, as Robert Townsend puts it, to be a "history worker."

What was your career path after graduation?

Upon completion of my degree, I realized that I had no idea what to do next. I think many graduates come across that bridge as well. I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school, though not immediately. I set my sights on looking for an internship. It just so happens that during this period I received an email from the Mason History and Art History department detailing an internship with the U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian. I was extremely excited and applied to it along with several other internship opportunities. I got an interview and although they were currently taking on only one intern, I got the position. After working for them doing exhilarating and intellectually stimulating research on Congress ranging from pre-Revolutionary America through 2013, they took me on as a paid contractor. My contract lasted several months and after the time had come to say goodbye, I was lucky enough to get a position with a different department where I was hired as a Public Information Specialist. I am currently a graduate student at Mason studying American History while working full time.

How do you think your History major at Mason prepared you for your career?

George Mason’s History program helped me hone my skills as a "history worker" and simply as an intellectual adult. I learned the necessary skills to think critically, analyze, and approach subject matter from an objective standpoint. I gathered a great understanding of the historical discipline and methodology as well as vastly improved my writing ability. Mason’s History program provided the crucial platform of my adult career. I personally decided to continue my education in the field of History as well as integrate it into my career. My degree and studies have proven to be invaluable to the path I have taken. Many of my colleagues didn’t wish to continue their careers in the field, yet found all the resources and tools they had learned in their studies to be invaluable to their careers as well.

Any advice you’d like to give to current Mason students?

Be patient, study what you love, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Like many fields of study, there are plenty of people out there who will challenge the utility of various degrees. I wholeheartedly reject such comparisons. Every day I put to use what I learned in my undergraduate History program and every day I am so thankful that I made the choices that I did. Simply understanding the importance of history both as a concept and a discipline will provide you with an immeasurable lifelong resource.

Also…don’t be afraid to intern. Sure working for no (or very little) pay isn’t ideal, but it will pay off in the long run, trust me.