MA in History

Robert Orrison, 2003

Robert Orrison

Why did you decide to pursue an M.A. in History?

With a B.A. in Historic Preservation from Longwood College, I learned early that I really wanted to work in the public history field with a museum or historic site. George Mason University had a well-rounded program and the ability to be involved in hands on projects through their internship program. I felt that it gave me the best opportunity to get a degree and reach my goal of a career in public history.

What was your most rewarding class? Why?

I really enjoyed my historic content classes, but the most through provoking and rewarding was HIST 693-Historic Preservation. National Park Service Chief Historian Dwight Pitcaithley taught the class and we studied the “art” of public history and how difficult it can be working in public memory. I did not always agree with some of the view points, but it made me think outside of the box and see how heritage and memory can be perceived from other viewpoints and communities.

How has the M.A. program helped you with your career or your personal interests?

The M.A. program taught be how to manage my time and find a balance between research and writing. Many times historians can go down “rabbit holes” when doing research for a book or project. Writing papers for the M.A. program provided a hard deadline and taught me to be diligent in my research and writing. The internship component of the Applied History program was a great way to gain relevant skills outside the classroom, which is crucial in establishing a career in museums. 

Any career advice you would give to students in the program?

Network, network network! You need a strong resume and obviously a well-rounded education, but it is important to network as much as possible with those in the field you want to be involved in. Attend conferences, symposiums, lectures etc… get to know the people in the field. This will go a long way when it comes time to apply for jobs. Sometimes employment opportunities will come to you not through searching for jobs online, but through a colleague or professional acquaintance.

Tell us something that people would be surprised to know about you.

I am a member of the Emerging Civil War blog and have recently founded, with co-Mason Alum Phil Greenwalt, the Emerging Revolutionary War Era blog. Both are meant to bring history to a broader audience and reach out to casual fans of history.