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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.