Why did you choose History as a major?
I grew up in Stafford, Virginia surrounded by history. As a kid, some of my favorite places to visit were the Fredericksburg battlefields, historic homes like Mount Vernon and Lee family homes, the many Smithsonian museums, and Colonial Williamsburg. These trips with my family initially sparked my interest in history. When I started at George Mason University, I took my first history class and fell in love with the lessons and readings. From there, I was a hooked-for-life History major. The professors at George Mason added to my passion, particularly Dr. Zagarri and her American Revolution courses. In addition, I took advantage of the winter study abroad programs for History to Ireland, Greece and Turkey, which further confirmed my decision to pursue a History major. I am so happy I took advantage of these programs at George Mason and continued to pursue my passion for history.
What was your career path after graduation?
After graduation, I started working at the Autism Speaks National Capital Area office. Between a personal family connection and the volunteer opportunities available through my sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, I embraced this position. I worked at Autism Speaks for over five years, while also pursuing my Master’s Degree in U.S. History from George Mason. In June 2015, I changed career paths and moved to the Northern Neck of Virginia, where I started working with the Menokin Foundation. Menokin, an 18th century house built for Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his wife, Rebecca Tayloe, is a National Historic Landmark now in ruinous condition. The Foundation’s mission is to preserve and interpret the home and life of patriot Francis Lightfoot Lee, as a focus for better understanding the fields of history, architecture, archaeology, ecology and other areas of the humanities, by developing innovative scholarship and new practices in conservation. My experiences in development at Autism Speaks helped to prepare me for this position. We are currently in a three-year, $7 million capital campaign to save Menokin in a revolutionary way and create an internationally recognized learning center for heritage and natural resource conservation through innovative practices and technology.
How do you think your History major at Mason prepared you for your career?
Being a History major at George Mason opened the door to exciting opportunities and helped prepare me for a career in history. The professors were full of knowledge and enthusiasm. The courses and projects helped to improve my critical thinking and analytical skills and my writing and speaking and encouraged me to pursue further research in the Lee family history (I am now at a Lee family home) and further research in Virginia history, which have all helped me in my careers. In addition, while at George Mason I volunteered at George Washington’s Ferry Farm in the archaeology laboratory. This opportunity, combined with my class research, continued to inspire me and help expand my knowledge of Virginia history and applied history fields.
Any advice you’d like to give to current Mason students?
I would advise students to follow their dreams and take advantage of the many opportunities George Mason University has to offer. The educators are phenomenal resources, there is a wonderful variety of courses available, and the study abroad programs are unique opportunities that helped me to expand my understanding of history and cultures further. I also recommend looking into the great range of campus organizations to further involvement at the University. I was involved with the campus’ intramural sports and Greek life, where I met wonderful people and had the opportunity to volunteer with so many great organizations I may not have known about before. These organizations also provided great networking opportunities, which helped me advance my career. In addition, George Mason is closely located to Washington, DC, which opened the door for a wide-selection of internship opportunities. Keep your eyes open, ask questions, and do not be afraid to try something new and take advantage of the programs and internships available to you.
I really value the experience I had at George Mason and the opportunities I received thanks to my education. I am constantly being asked where I received my BA and MA, and I am proud to say I received them from George Mason University!