Concentrations

BA in History

Susan Brubaker, 2014

Susan Brubaker

Why did you choose History as a major?

I chose History as a major because history, more than any other major, offers applicable courses that span time periods, topics, and places, giving me the opportunity to pursue my many varied interests while still fulfilling my degree requirements. I was also drawn to History because I’ve lived in many places during my life and learning about historic local places and events helped me adjust and feel at home wherever I went. This was especially true when I lived in Okinawa, Japan. Learning about the Okinawans and who they consider themselves to be was eye-opening. Before living there, the only thing I knew about Okinawa was that it was the place of an important battle in World War II. Taking the time to go to historic Okinawan sites and to see things from their perspective gave me a completely different understanding of Okinawa. My most important discovery was that Okinawans consider themselves a different people, with a different heritage and history from the mainland Japanese—much like native Hawaiians in the United States. Understanding that key truth helped me interact with the local population on a different and deeper level. Without my love of history, I may never have truly gotten to know and love Okinawa or understand many of the underlying tensions that affect US policy and interaction with both Japan and Okinawa.

What was your career path after graduation?

After graduation I was offered a paid fellowship at Marine Corps History Division. As a research assistant, I help the History Division historians respond to requests for information. The requests range from gathering information for the Commandant of the Marine Corps for a speech, to helping a family understand more about the war their loved one fought in, to helping a veteran find out what happened to his unit after he was wounded and sent home. These quests for answers continue to put personal faces to textbook events and are deeply rewarding—both personally and intellectually.

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

I was offered a summer internship at Marine Corps History Division as a direct result of the War of 1812 class I took at Mason and then offered a fellowship after graduation as a result of the internship.  

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

I would advise Mason students to learn to write well, whatever their major. Every career requires good communication skills. A scientist can make the most amazing discovery but if she cannot articulate clearly what she found and how she found it, the discovery will go unnoticed. I firmly believe that one of the best ways to learn to write well is to take history classes. Writing a history paper teaches a student to ask questions, research for answers, collate all the information gathered, and then present the information in a clear and documented way. These skills are invaluable, whatever profession students are hoping to pursue.