History Alum 2014: ‘Many fellowships & opportunities … for recent graduates’

TimeInquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered: #11 in the Series~

…FOR THE SERIES INTRODUCTION, CLICK HERE.

Michael Perry, Class of 2014

Current Job: Youth Programs and Initiatives Associate at Coro New York Leadership Center, small nonprofit in NYC, I educate teenagers in policy and leadership.

1.How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

I use writing and critical thinking skills I developed as a history major daily in my work.  I am constantly reading and synthesizing information and using analytical writing skills when developing curriculum or program evaluations. My job consists of developing educational programming and facilitating experiential workshops to diverse groups of young people, so knowing the history of immigration in America, the history of African-Americans, and the history of how cities have developed is all very important to my daily work.

2.Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts; science; journalism, for example?  If so, please describe how history has informed your work. One specific example would be very helpful. 

I work in youth development and work closely with government agencies, schools, and community based organizations.  I have found that knowledge of history is critical to understanding public service and working with a multiplicity of diverse peoples.  Knowing history and having skills from studying history  helps when navigating city policies and developing programs to meet needs of people.

3.What career advice might you have for history majors wishing to work in a public forum, for example, a museum or national park?

Something I did not know at Cornell is how many pathways there are to and in public service.  You can intern at a cultural institution or in government, but there are also many fellowships (New York City Urban Fellows, Coro Fellowship…) out there and opportunities to get your foot in the door as a recent graduate.  For me personally, I joined New York City Civic Corps, a branch of AmeriCorps, and that opened me up to a bunch of jobs in public service, and I ended up working where I was originally placed through that program.

4.Students believe history is an important basis for understanding what is happening now in the world.  People draw on history to understand the present.What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history?

One thing I studied at Cornell was the lingering effects of imperialism in the contemporary world.  Understanding historical systematic and institutional racism and applying the lens of imperialism allows us to look critically at issues of poverty, gentrification, de-facto segregation and redlining.  Studying history and developing critical awareness from studying history is a first step in approaching many of these issues.

5.Have you lived to see new interpretations of history, can you provide an example?

Well I’m only two years older than the current seniors, so I have lived to see many of the new interpretations that they have.  Some more recent interpretations that have been applicable in my work include, the discourse of slavery being intertwined to the foundation of USA’s economy (which Professor Baptist has been a part of) and the changing understanding of the nation-state and borders as western constructs that so not apply equally everywhere.

 

To read 10 other Alumni Student Dialogues, click here.

Student~Alum Dialogue Post #10~History Skills inform Writing Career

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered: #10 in the Series~

…FOR THE SERIES INTRODUCTION, CLICK HERE.

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Diana Aydin, Class of 2005

Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts;science; journalism, for example?  If so, please describe how history has informed your work.One specific example would be very helpful.

Yes, I started as a history major, studied journalism in grad school and now work as an editor at a national inspirational magazine. My history degree comes in handy on a daily basis. I often write and pitch historical pieces for the magazine and conduct in-depth interviews with experts. I recently wrote an article about a toy pig that survived the Titanic disaster. Instead of relying on what was already written about the subject, I threw myself into research. I contacted the National Maritime Museum in England, interviewed a curator, got access to the personal handwritten accounts of a Titanic survivor, read books on the subject, watched old interviews with survivors, found the court testimony of a survivor and interviewed a Titanic historian. It felt like I was back at Cornell. All those years I spent at Cornell researching, uncovering sources, digging for clues at the library and writing endless papers has given me a real edge in my work and has helped bring my stories to life. Although I’m a writer now, I’m still very much a history major at heart!

Student~Alum Dialogue Post #9: History Major Informs Career in Software Design of Expedia

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Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered: #9 in the Series~

…FOR THE SERIES INTRODUCTION, CLICK HERE.

Name: Mark Stepich

Graduating Class: 1975

Five questions from inquiring Cornell History Seniors:

1.How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

Thinking broadly and ignoring minutiae were critical. You can get easily bogged down in details day-to-day. But taking an approach that provides an overview, supplemented with details, allowed me to present ideas that were understandable to an international airline audience.

2.Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts;science; journalism, for example?  If so, please describe how history has informed your work.One specific example would be very helpful.

Software design.

I worked for Airline Tariff Publishing Co, Wash, DC for 18 years and designed a product that enabled airline reservation systems to automate fare rule restrictions in their pricing. This led to a 2 year position implementing that product in a French airline reservations company. The most relevant next step was my being hired by Microsoft to implement that same product into a revolutionary internet site called Expedia.com.

Utilizing a historical thought process, I was able to explain to a bunch of ‘rocket scientists’ how airline pricing had grown over 30+ years, and the WHY behind the design. Without the historical thinking, they would never have understood or accepted the relevance of many of the arcane details included in the design.

3.What career advice might you have for history majors wishing to work in a public forum, for example, a museum or national park?

Sorry I have little to say other than a History/BA degree allowed me to consider any industry.

4.Students believe history is an important basis for understanding what is happening now in the world.  People draw on history to understand the present.

What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history?

I think WW2 and the Vietnam War are extremely relevant today as international economic and military conflicts grow.

NB – IMO, religious conflicts typically originate from economic stress.  Eg, do we have enough water and arable land to support our group. If not, go take some.

5.Have you lived to see new interpretations of history, can you provide an example?

Hopefully legalization of marijuana will take the same path as alcohol.

 

 

Student~Alum Dialogue Post #8: What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history?

Student Alumni Dialogue

Student Alumni Dialogue

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered: #8 in the Series~…FOR THE SERIES INTRODUCTION, CLICK HERE.

Name: Beth Horowitz

Graduating Class: ’79

1.How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

I have used research/analysis, writing, and critical thinking skills throughout my career, beginning in non-profit and then moving into the corporate arena, and think that my Cornell education and history degree have been invaluable.   Also, today, with so much information available online, strong research and critical thinking skills are important not only to find what you are looking for, but also to ensure you aren’t misled by information sources that are not reliable or legitimate.  With respect to writing, the ability to organize thoughts and present coherent and persuasive arguments backed with facts/data is becoming something of a lost art, and yet is so critical to success in business.

2.Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts;science; journalism, for example?  If so, please describe how history has informed your work.

One specific example would be very helpful.

I will give two examples.  One is when I was interviewing for a corporate marketing job after receiving my MBA.  With my undergrad history degree and non-profit work experience, I was at a disadvantage competing with those who had business, engineering or economics degrees undergrad, and who had consulting or investment banking work experience.  However, I used my creative and critical thinking skills to emphasize how my history degree would be useful in a marketing role.  I said that historians had the challenge of taking facts that may have been around for hundreds of years and analyzing and interpreting them to come up with new ideas and theories that had not been discovered by preceding generations of historians.  I then said that these same skills could be used to look at facts and data that may have been only been around for a short time, but that had to be analyzed and leveraged to create new ideas before one’s competitors could do so.  This seems to have been helpful in getting me into a corporate career despite the competition.

Second, as noted in response to the first question, the ability to organize thoughts and present coherent and persuasive arguments backed with facts/data is becoming something of a lost art, and yet is so critical to success in business.  I have many times used my analytical and writing skills to construct presentations that have persuaded my superiors to agree to invest in projects and programs I have proposed.  So much of success in business is persuading people to invest in your ideas, and the skills I learned as a history major at Cornell have been very helpful.

3.What career advice might you have for history majors wishing to work in a public forum, for example, a museum or national park?

Well, I did begin my career in non-profit, but not in a museum or national park. I do think that in addition to strong research and writing skills, an interest in other cultures and in the world at large would be important in these roles, and history majors certainly possess these attributes.  Also, pure smarts and initiative (which all Cornell history majors should possess) are very prized by non-profits.  They are often looking for inexpensive talent that can take on more and more responsibility and grow into larger roles.  That was my experience when I worked in non-profit after Cornell.  When interviewing, make sure you emphasize that you are flexible and hope to be able to take on more responsibility over time once you get into an organization and prove your capabilities.  I think that non-profits like people who take initiative, work well in teams, and are problem solvers.

4.Students believe history is an important basis for understanding what is happening now in the world.  People draw on history to understand the present. What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history? 

  1. Climate change and the potential of renewable energy — not the science, but the matter of persuading policy makers to take action;
  2. Income inequality:  This challenge has occurred before in history at different points in time and in different cultures, and usually with very bad outcomes if not addressed;
  3. The importance of educating girls and women:  This is still an issue in many parts of the world and history proves that education for all creates economic growth and opportunity.

5.Have you lived to see new interpretations of history, can you provide an example?

Yes, I think I have.  Not all have been in a positive direction, however.  There are now movements, e.g., in the Southern US, to whitewash the impacts of slavery in the South, and to erase the historical impacts of racism in textbooks.  In addition, there is the anti-evolution movement, which has given rise to the notion of creationism.  When I was growing up, this was not even discussed. And, of course, there are holocaust deniers as well.  These are all negative examples.

On the more positive side, I think there is a better appreciation of the benefits of blending cultural influences.  I think each cultural heritage used to be appreciated in isolation of other cultures, whereas today, there is a great deal of creativity in mining cross-cultural influences.

 

 

 

 

Alum Writes to Seniors: “History Degree is Timeless”

http://history.arts.cornell.edu/

Make History, Take History

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered: #7 in the Series~…FOR THE SERIES INTRODUCTION, CLICK HERE.

Name: Randall Nixon

Graduating Class: ’78

1.How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

The history skills I learned at Cornell have made me an important figure in my community. My ability to write and articulate ideas have led others to seek me out on issues affecting my county and my state. I am often asked to speak publicly on topics of the day, I have sat on more non-profit boards than I can count (which helps my professional profile), and I have been asked more than once to run for public office.

2.Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts;science; journalism, for example? If so, please describe how history has informed your work.One specific example would be very helpful.

My first job out of Cornell as a legislative assistant to a US congressman. At 21, I was the youngest “LA” on Capitol Hill. As the staff’s historian, I was often asked by the congressman to find poignant quotes and references to historical events. Above all, I wrote a great deal, and Cornell taught me to write well. My congressman relied on me to draft speeches, do research, and develop the historical framework for legislation that he wanted to introduce.

3.What career advice might you have for history majors wishing to work in a public forum, for example, a museum or national park?

As my early experience demonstrates, public service is a natural for history majors. But don’t be afraid to go into the private sector as well.

4.Students believe history is an important basis for understanding what is happening now in the world. People draw on history to understand the present. What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history?

I never cease to be astonished at how quickly historical knowledge and historical analysis is “lost”, and how it is taken for granted. I sit on the Maryland Transportation Board, and my knowledge of the 19th century industrial development of the port of Baltimore is now proving valuable in how we develop plans for a new community in an old industrial park. As a Cornell historian, you can be seen as a repository of invaluable information.

 5.Have you lived to see new interpretations of history, can you provide an example?

In my career and lifetime, I have seen the decline of the Marxist dialectic as a means of evaluating intellectual and social problems, while seeing the near-hagiographic adherence to the theory of the free market. In a real-world example, in a room with very bright, accomplished lawyers and business executives, I mentioned a prosopographical approach to dealing with fund-raising in a political context. No one else knew what that meant. Simply knowing about different interpretations of history and articulating that knowledge in a straightforward, non-jargon like way makes your opinion valuable, both in the public or the private sectors, and raises your credibility.

I am a successful attorney and businessman, and I want to make to clear to anyone who will listen that a liberal arts degree has great value, especially one from the Ivy League. Even if you secure a technical degree later, you will possess a range of knowledge and skills that others lack. Remember that, as you climb the ladder of most organizations, the people at the top are very well read, well researched, and have a great appreciation for those who have a broad range of general knowledge at their fingertips. This is precisely what a history degree personifies. In large organizations, this skill-set will be recognized by the brightest people.

Anyone can acquire technical knowledge, but not everyone earn a history degree from an Ivy League school. You will be trainable for professions that don’t yet exist, because – as my mother said to me when entering Cornell — you will learn how to learn. A history degree is therefore timeless and eternal.

To find out more about History course offerings: http://history.arts.cornell.edu/courses.php

Find out more Tuesday, May 3, 2016:

Interested in doing Honors, want to know more….join us at 4:30pm on Tuesday, May 3rd, in 365 McGraw Hall for an INFORMATIONAL DISCUSSION on History’s Honors, and a CELEBRATION of the accomplishments of our 2016 Honors Students and Cornell Historical Society!

How have the history skills of analysis & writing been useful in your career?

This is Post #6 of our series, Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered. Read the Series Introduction here.

Anne Dierckes Kirkpatrick from the graduating Class of 1990 responds to:

How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

For the first few years after I graduated, I worked in sales and a number of short-lived jobs.  I then stayed home with my kids for 17 years.  In that 17 years, I was a “professional volunteer,” to borrow a phrase.  Anything needed at school, call me.  I held every office in the PTO, founded an art auction, founded an extra-curricular club for gifted students, raised corporate donations for the big fundraiser, served as secretary and/or treasurer of music boosters at the middle and high schools, etc.  Writing was important because I learned to write grants for my projects.  I had to analyze past activities and choose what worked and what needed to change.

When I rejoined the professional world, I was hired at a large farm.  Within 15 months, I was office manager and farm manager.  I write every day – complaint letters to the IRS, communications with tenants, status reports, government reports, applications for a variety of things, HR documents, handbooks, policies, legal documents, etc.  I have to be clear, concise and persuasive.  If I don’t write well, we lose the case, lose the appeal, open ourselves up for future difficulties, etc.  Most of these negative outcomes cost us money.  It is surprising how much writing is required in the operation of a farm!

Analysis is entirely different.  Most of my analysis is numeric, not conceptual, but with the same goal as in my volunteer work – what worked in the past, what needs to be improved.  I analyzed sales in the nursery half of the farm over ten years to determine an ideal inventory.  I have to analyze vendors constantly – insurance, workers’ comp, suppliers – according to cost, benefits, safety, certification, etc.  Most recently, I analyzed a new accounting system to determine if we should switch to a system designed for farms.  This required talking to current users of the new system, hours on the demo, processing comparisons, and cost/benefit.

For courses offered in Fall 2016, visit the Department of History website.

Follow us online at any of these sites: Twitter: @CornellHistory; Instagram: Cornell History15Cornell History ~ A Resource Blog; Tumblr: Cornell History Facebook Page:  Cornell History Department.

Seniors Asked; Alumni Answered~Post 5 in our series

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered Post #5~…For The Series Introduction, click here.

Paula Petrick, class of 1969 answers

Five questions from inquiring Cornell History Seniors:

 1.How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

I was lucky. I have been employed as a professor of history at 4-year universities for the whole of my career: Montana State University, University of Maine, and George Mason University. I suppose you could say that I have used the skills that I learned both as an undergraduate and undergraduate every day as I teach the next generation of young historians.

2.Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts; science; journalism, for example?  If so, please describe how history has informed your work. One specific example would be very helpful.

Oddly enough, I have an MFA and have used the skills that I learned obtaining that degree also. I have been able to keep up my art practice in photography and been able to sell several of my works. More to the point, I also teach a digital history course in which part of the work centers on historical images. I have been able to place an article simply because I could handle the journal’s spec for images. Moral: You never know what might come in handy.

3.What career advice might you have for history majors wishing to work in a public forum, for example, a museum or national park?

Internship, internship, internship. Get as many different experiences as you can in the world beyond the university. The national park service always looks for summer employees, for example. The Smithsonian museums have internships as do many of the federal agencies. My research is in banking and finance, and I know that the Comptroller of Currency offers a paid internship. It has gone begging for the last few years. Last but not least, pay attention to the bulletin boards in your department. If the department has undergraduate research opportunities, get on board.

4.Students believe history is an important basis for understanding what is happening now in the world.  People draw on history to understand the present. What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history?

This one is difficult. As part of the generation that opposed the Vietnam War, fought for civil rights, and supported feminism, we tried to change the world. And I suppose, after a fashion we made some progress, but recent years suggest there is much more to be done. As Edward M. Kennedy said: “ The work begins anew. The hope rises again. The dream lives on.” A knowledge of history means that you are never surprised by demagogues and that you can differentiate bona fide arguments made from history from those that are built on error and misinterpretation. So, a problem for the next generation that would benefit from a knowledge of history, especially Middle Eastern and Central Asian history, would be peace. Working for peace and justice, however, need not be a national effort; it is a task that each person can contribute to on a daily basis.

5.Have you lived to see new interpretations of history, can you provide an example?

As I have indicated, my research centers on banking institutions that failed during the Panic of 1893 in the trans-Mississippi West. As a result, I became a de facto historian of the West. Certainly, in the history of the West there has been an entirely new (now about 20 years-old) interpretation that overturned Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis.” Patty Limerick’s Legacy of Conquest along with others’ work argued for a multi-cultural interpretation that took into account far more people and the importance of place. Similarly, Richard White’s Railroaded has offered an opposing argument to what has generally been a “whiggish” interpretation of the railroads in the West.

 

 

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered Post #4

…For The Series Introduction, click here.

Jeffrey, Class of 1988…a global management consultant speaks about his history degree and his career

Cornell History pic of clock

count down to Giving Day..April 19

How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

My history major and the analytical and writing skills I developed at Cornell were the foundation of developing a successful career with leading global management consulting firms. As a junior consultant I focused on analysis, then crafting complex results and recommendations into insightful, concise messages.

The analytical skills learned as a history major provided a starting point for further development of my ability to structure hypotheses, recognize patterns and create analytical frameworks.

I did go back to school for an MBA and I had to pay special attention to ensure my quantitative analysis was rigorous. I worked closely with many engineers during 20 years in the consulting industry and never felt that my history major was a handicap. If anything my history major was an advantage when it came to written communications and allowed me to approach problems from with a slightly different perspective.

Perhaps most fundamental to my consulting career was the area focus of my history studies. I studied Chinese/Asian history and Chinese language intensively at Cornell which supported building a 30 year career in business in China and Southeast Asia.

Two lectures, Next week:  April 21:  The Harold Seymour Lecture in Sport History

Rob Long (Writer & Film Producer), “The End of Hollywood and Why That’s a Good ThRob Long (Writer & Film Producer)

Follow us online at any of these sites: Twitter: @CornellHistory; Instagram: Cornell History15Cornell History ~ A Resource Blog; Tumblr: Cornell History Facebook Page:  Cornell History Department.

What a difference a day can make:  Cornell Giving Day April 19, 2016.

To Cornell History Students Class of ’16

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered Post #3~…For The Series Introduction, click here.

I was a history major, class of 1966… My response to question #1

“How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?”

They have been essential. It’s no accident that so many executives are trained in history. The skills of analysis in causation, in understanding responses to problems, analyzing behavior and decision making….all were central to my education at Cornell and all were used throughout my career in education and management….and my skills as a writer, however good they may have been were in no small part due to the critical assessment of many writing assignments by the faculty at Cornell.

I am so very grateful to all my Cornell teachers: Walter LaFeber, my advisor, and L. Pearce Williams, Donald Kagan, David Brion Davis, Paul Gates, Clinton Rossiter, and Curtis Nettels. The standards they set were so high that I never felt unprepared when I went off to graduate school and the world of work.  Thanks for giving me this chance to share these thoughts and good luck to all you seniors in all your endeavors. I hope your memories of Cornell will be as positive as mine are.

With warm regards,

Ralph Janis ’66                                                                                              Director Emeritus Cornell’s Adult University

Cornell Ho Plaza

Cornell Ho Plaza

Two lectures, Next week:  April 21:  The Harold Seymour Lecture in Sport History

Rob Long (Writer & Film Producer), “The End of Hollywood and Why That’s a Good ThRob Long (Writer & Film Producer)

Follow us online at any of these sites: Twitter: @CornellHistory; Instagram: Cornell History15Cornell History ~ A Resource Blog; Tumblr: Cornell History Facebook Page:  Cornell History Department.

What a difference a day can make:  Cornell Giving Day April 19, 2016.

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered Post #2

This is Post #2 of our series…The Series Introduction here.

McGraw Home…current home of the History Department

 

from Matt, Class of 2005

1. How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

The ability to read, process and prioritize large quantities of data was crucial to me as an analyst for the Department of Defense. Writing is useful anywhere, for anyone. I sincerely believe that my writing skills, many of which were developed during my 4 years in Ithaca, are the cornerstone of my professional accomplishments and success. Whether you are a software developer or an intelligence analyst, the ability to write well is always going to set you apart and open doors.

2. Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts;
science; journalism, for example? If so, please describe how history has informed your work.
One specific example would be very helpful.

I joined the Navy after graduating from Cornell and served as a Naval Intelligence Officer for the US Navy Riverines. I used the analytical and writing skills I honed during my time at Cornell to analyze multiple sources of intelligence to track and locate terrorists and insurgents, as well as to advise senior leaders potential enemy courses of action, enabling them to make informed decisions regarding upcoming operations. I wrote hundreds of intelligence summaries, analytical papers, and after-action reports as well. After leaving the Navy I worked as a defense contractor where I supervised a team of analysts conducting research and report writing. A critical responsibility I had during that time was reviewing and editing many papers and reports before our organization delivered them to the highest levels of the US Government.

4. Students believe history is an important basis for understanding what is happening now in the world. People draw on history to understand the present.
What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history?

The old adage “history repeats itself” hit home for me very recently. I spent most of 2008 in Iraq, along the Euphrates River (anyone remember 10th grade Western Civ? It was surreal being deployed to a place of such historical significance). The insurgency used the river for several years as a transportation and logistics avenue. A lot of our work helped take back control of the river (Most of the credit has to go to our close friends the Marines.) In the last couple years since ISIS has emerged, the same region is again a flashpoint, and I see many intelligence briefings that look all too familiar to the ones I produced in 8 years ago. A strong understanding of the history of a region or a culture may be able to better predict and prevent these types of events from reoccurring so quickly.

 

For courses offered in Fall 2016, visit the Department of History website.

Follow us online at any of these sites: Twitter: @CornellHistory; Instagram: Cornell History15Cornell History ~ A Resource Blog; Tumblr: Cornell History Facebook Page:  Cornell History Department.

What a difference a day can make~April 19.

What a difference a day can make~April 19.

Inquiring History Majors Asked: Cornell History Alumni Answered Post #1

McGraw Hall

McGraw Hall

Inquiring History Majors Asked:  Cornell History Alumni Answered

Introduction

Our History Students expressed an interest in hearing from History Alumni.  We met with a group of seniors and asked them what types of questions they would have for alumni.  Narrowing it down to five questions, the Department of History received over forty responses from Cornell History Alumni.  With the end of the semester in sight, we will be posting excerpts of some of the Alumni responses in frequent blog posts.

We are grateful to History Alumni for their generosity and insight.  The classes represented ranged from the Class of 1947 to the Class of 2015.  We will compile  the responses for our website so that their wisdom can be accessed by our future History majors as well as our current history students.  We are also grateful to our students who took the time to meet with us during a very busy semester.

 Horace “Tal” Day
Graduating Class:: 1959; Hawaii Ph.D. (Political Science, 1974); Univ. of Penn. J.D. (1985)

1. How have the history skills of analysis and writing been useful in your career?

…I graduated sometime ago so mentioning a particular faculty member may be only so meaningful. But, later in my studies, I enrolled in a modern European history course taught by Edward W. Fox. The subject, while interesting, was less significant than Fox’s encouragement that class members read multiple books, not page by page to the end, but sufficiently to gain an understanding of the writer’s point of view, sources, and interpretation. The various books written on Bismarck over the years were a particularly illuminating example commending that approach. The comparison between a biography by Erich Eyck and one by A.J.P. Taylor still sticks in mind. Guided by that approach, I worked with more than 70 books during the course of one semester in that class alone.

2. Have you used your history skills and knowledge in a field other than history: creative arts;
science; journalism, for example? If so, please describe how history has informed your work.
One specific example would be very helpful.

Yes, as a bankruptcy lawyer, I was in one case examining a tax priority issue that was coming before the Supreme Court. The experience I had had in looking at sources and grounds for differences in point of view was helpful in projecting (accurately) how the case would turn out.

My background in history was similarly helpful in identifying conceptual support in other bodies of law (e.g., admiralty law) that could be relevant authority for developing novel legal theories that could apply in difficult bankruptcy reorganizations, e.g., the channeling injunctions that were entered by courts in the mass tort bankruptcies of the 80s to resolve future claims, e.g., asbestos (Johns-Manville), Dalkon Shield (A.H. Robins), that were not known as of the date of the debtors’ bankruptcy petitions….

3. What career advice might you have for history majors wishing to work in a public forum, for example, a museum or national park?

Look for opportunities to get experience in public speaking to an interested general audience. Historic house museums have a chronic need for docents. Find a location where you can volunteer. See what opportunities there are to use museum resources for a research project that will help the museum’s interpretation and lead to a publication as well, or more than one. Consider writing versions for both popular and academic audiences.

4. Students believe history is an important basis for understanding what is happening now in the world. People draw on history to understand the present. What problems might our generation help solve using our knowledge of history?

I don’t think history alone can be more than one (important) basis for understanding what is happening in our world. As a current example, the conditions in the United States now have no significant parallel to the Thirties in real economic terms, but the parallels of extremism are disturbingly close. The more relevant perspective for understanding the current climate of extremism left and right is reference group theory, and other related bodies of social science theory.

A better example of where an appreciation of history can particularly help, I believe, is as a source of perspective on the current efforts to blot out unpleasant aspects of history by altering the built environment, e.g.. removing Civil War statues, renaming buildings, etc. Better understandings of how history establishes context can, I believe, point a better path for reconciliation and healing by promoting a more nuanced social and ethical framework for understanding and creating a common past.

5. Have you lived to see new interpretations of history, can you provide an example?

Rather than interpretations what I have seen change are questions and methodologies. As an example, quantitative historical research as it has developed since the 1970s is one approach that has greatly informed our understandings of slavery and its social and economic impacts. As such, it has, among other things, cast into invidious relief the substantially greater harm to African American family ties effected by 20th Century social welfare policy.

Genomics is informing our understandings of human migrations and prehistory, e.g., the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies 8000 years ago in modern Europe, the validity of fairly recent, now questioned understandings of the Celtic migrations, etc.

David Hackett Fischer’s cultural histories of migrations into North America and out of Virginia are splendid examples of work that has, among other things, provided context and new ways of thinking about genealogy and personal/ancestral history. With the growth of online databases, these new ways of thinking are stimulating in personally enriching practical ways, as well as academically.

 

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What a difference a day can make~April 19.

What a difference a day can make~April 19.