By: Chris Oliver, Vanguard Staff Writer
History isn’t just a focus on the past, but rather an understanding of how and why things happen in today’s world.
Brad Jarvis, associate professor of history, said that an understanding of the past explains a lot in the present.
“In order to get a true understanding of today’s world, current affairs, the politics and why things are the way they are, knowing the history is a must,” he said.
“History is a door-opener,” he said. “You learn important skills such as writing techniques, critical thinking skills that might not be occupation specific, but are traits that all employers are looking for.”
Most students looking for a job regarding history look to the K-12 teaching positions open and often go through the history education major. However the demand for K-12 history jobs across the country has been weak in recent years, with Michigan being exceptionally low on demand for such positions.
Some students also choose to go to graduate school and pursue a career in academia.
Thomas Renna, professor of history, spoke about the importance of having a strong faculty in the history department for students who wish to continue their education.
“The quality of our faculty is what really makes this program stand out,” he said. “It is very important for letters of recommendation to come from quality scholars, and we have a number of senior scholars here on staff.”
Jeremy Killion, history junior, also spoke of how the courses have been very helpful in preparing him for both graduate school and his career goal of being a history professor.
“The courses themselves involve quite a bit of research and writing,” he said. “In grad school and as a professor, you will be involved in a lot of research and writing, so the history courses and faculty really help prepare you for this.”
Each faculty member has a specified knowledge of an area of history. For example, one professor may focus in ancient history while another may concentrate on U.S. Civil War history.
Renna said that the faculty are willing to assist those students who are thinking about pursuing post-bachelor’s studies.
“Our staff is aggressive in helping students who are serious about going to grad school,” he said. “The faculty has a huge commitment to this school, and I am always impressed with amount of help that is given to students.”
Killion also spoke of the help students receive from the history faculty.
“I get pretty good career advice from the professors as well as advice on choosing and getting accepted into grad school,” he said. “A couple of years ago, we even put together a discussion panel for graduate school where students and some faculty talked about grad schools and how to get accepted into them.”
There are a number of internships in the Great Lakes Bay region that look for students in the history program.
Public and private organizations look for students to fill internships at museums, libraries, historical sites and archive management settings.
Jarvis spoke about the importance of internships and how they open doors for students while still in school.
“I have had students who have gone on to do internships at libraries or museums and they get hired into a full-time position while they are still in school,” he said.
Renna said that internships are the best sort of experience a student can have going into the job field or going into graduate school.
“There is nothing better than an internship,” he said. “Any kind of internship even loosely related to your major greatly improves your resume.”
Renna also spoke extensively on the benefits of a history minor.
“A minor in history shows that you have a broader perspective than just what you major in,” he said. “And I recommend students speaking to their faculty advisers to see if it’s right for them.”