BA in History

Mary A. Kavanagh, 2011

Mary A. Kavanagh

Why did you choose History as a major?

As a rising freshman pouring over my orientation and registration emails, I discovered Dr. Randolph Lytton and his penchant for teaching Roman and Greek history classes.  Although I entered Mason as only a history minor, I quickly sought out Dr. Lytton for special permission to take his upper-level courses as a first-semester freshman.  From then on, I took Dr. Lytton's courses each and every semester on top of my Math and Computer Science classes.  Not only was he an excellent teacher of facts, but he provided insight into classical history and connections to modernity that I hadn't expected.  It took until my junior year for me to realize that my "fun classes" were the ones that truly inspired me to think outside the box and to change my major to History.      

What was your career path after graduation?

After Mason, I entered the Masters of Library Science program at the University of Maryland: College Park as a part of their first entirely online MLS cohort.  Thanks to the wildly active History department staff and listserv, at Mason I’d had had the opportunity to intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History multiple times.  It was at the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology that I met Smithsonian librarians and had yet another "ah ha" moment which led me to library school.  Since UMD, I started a career at Strayer University and recently advanced to the role of Assistant University Librarian.  I'll partner across academic departments to embed library resources and information literacy development in course assignments and learning outcomes. 

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

My History coursework and the Mason faculty prepared me for my career in more ways than one.  My knowledge of classical history and early American politics presents a context for today's culture which impacts my decision making in an increasingly diverse workplace.  I have a broadened creativity in which to learn more about the learning styles and behaviors of others to then apply when designing instructional activities.  Not unsurprisingly, the writing practice I had as a History major led to becoming my manager's go-to for emails to upper management, handouts for students, and technical writing.

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

Work during college.  It doesn't matter where, or for how much (or none at all), or for how long - just work.  Once you graduate college, you'll realize your resume has suddenly become bare without your high school accomplishments on it.  As much as college coursework and academic achievements are vital, it's just as important to show that you can apply those skills outside of the classroom.  Whether you want to go to graduate school, join the Peace Corps, or enter the work world - all work is honorable and valuable and will help you reach your dreams.  Become a regular at University Career Services, take advantage of your work-study funds, and especially watch the History department listserv for positions.