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Hear from some of our recent alumni!
Megan Benjamin '10
I chose to study history because I realized that almost every class I took at Cornell focused on the past—even my science credits. (Yes, that’s totally possible.)
Post-graduation, I am the editor in chief at Equestrian Vaulting magazine, a quarterly publication distributed to the American Vaulting Association’s 2,000+ person membership. In my free hours, I am a contract copywriter and social media marketer for Sidemark, a corporate furniture dealer based in the Silicon Valley. Studying history has taught me to be a researcher, a writer, an editor, a time manager, a deadline follower, and an all around versatile human being.
History is so much more than dates and wars. If nothing else, studying history showed me that what we see as truth is subject to perspective, that clear, concise writing is the best form of expression for any discipline, and that petty historical arguments between elite scholars (Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, anyone?) make history both entertaining and accessible.
Eric Blair '10
Coming into the History program, I was engaged in and excited by the discipline, the courses, and the professors, though I knew that I wanted to enter the financial services industry after graduation. The major in History, especially if taken to its fullest extent with the Honors Program, teaches students as it taught me unparalleled analytical, research, and writing skills that are applicable each and every day, to a wide range of professional fields including but also far outside of academia.
Needless to say, the skills learned and perspective gained by pursuing the History Major at Cornell are unparalleled throughout the College and are requisite for the truest understanding of the world. The field of History indeed breeds great citizens but also great friends. I was educated by the Department in ways that have enhanced my personal, professional, and academic endeavors, but what it gave me equally importantly was the opportunity to be mentored, advised, and befriended by some of the greatest individuals of my life.
Katie Engelhart '09
Aspiring journalists often seek to hone their skills at journalism school, or opt for trendy degrees in political science. But if I wasn’t convinced before, a year spent reporting for Canada’s largest news magazine (Maclean’s) and a new gig as a Huffington Post columnist has assured me that a degree in history is the best preparation for ambitious writers. Knowledge of current affairs and political theory has
its place, but the most successful writers are those who can ground their work in a deeper and purer understanding of historical context. (The largest project I worked on as a journalist was a Maclean’s cover story about the rise of Nazi-inspired political groups in Europe and South Asia.) This is why so many top journalists began their careers as history majors.
Here is a link to the Maclean's article: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/04/21/the-return-of-hitler/
Here is a link to an article about WWII trials that I just posted in the Huffington Post:
Justin Granstein '10
Though many people think of history and medicine as two disparate fields, where others see a contradiction in terms I see two disciplines that complement each other perfectly. While in other subjects there is often only one correct answer to a given problem, in the study of history the focus is not solely on the final answer but also on the evolution of thought used to arrive at that answer.
My training as a historian helps me to examine the bigger picture, to effectively analyze data, and to communicate challenging concepts and novel ideas to others.
The study of history is crucial not only for the sake of knowing what has happened in the past, but also for the ability to apply that knowledge towards a greater understanding of the present and future.
Only by appreciating where we have come from can we prepare for where we are going next.
Career Path: Emergency Medical Technician (2006-present); Medical School Applicant for the Class of 2015
Education: Cornell University, BA History Magna Cum Laude 2010; Dartmouth College, MPH 2011
Molly Lauterback '10
I became a history major because I loved the discipline, not because I thought it would lead to the most lucrative career. The skills I acquired from being a history major, however, are invaluable as a paralegal for the Immigrants’ Rights Project (IRP) at the ACLU. My
job now certainly does not frequently require using JSTOR or Interlibrary Loan, but it does necessitate critical thinking, a mindful and thoughtful approach to talking and thinking about minority and marginalized populations, and solid writing and research skills. Working for IRP is a continuation of the education that started when I first declared my major my freshman year.
Christopher Smith '06
When I was assessing my career options upon graduation - I always thought that a liberal arts education (and, in particular, being a history major) was particularly valuable in business/finance because an education in the liberal arts teaches you how to synthesize a lot of conflicting data into a cohesive argument. I regularly prepare reports for prospective financing relationships, which can often be 15-20 pages in length. Each report includes a thesis (the business rationale/strengths of the deal) and the risks (sources of conflict). Elegantly and efficiently navigating your way through lots of information and lots of uncertainty is what I believe good students, and savvy businesspeople, tend to do very well.
Nathaniel Weiss '09
My business experience has been both as an operator and a consultant. While studying at Cornell, I was the President of a $2.5M portfolio of small businesses at Student Agencies (www.studentagencies.com). Since graduating, I’ve worked at Bain & Company, a management consulting firm (www.bain.com). My clients have been in a variety of industries, including higher education, financial services, broadcast media, and healthcare.
In both of these roles, the skills and characteristics I developed studying history have been integral to my performance. Three characteristics stand out in particular:
- Judgment & decision making. Understanding the “big picture” is central to good decision making. This becomes even more important in the business world, where decisions are often made quickly and with limited information. Drawing relationships between historical events, people, and ideas—as one often does studying history—is a terrific way to develop this skill.
- Conviction & communication. I assert and defend ideas every day. Doing so requires the ability to speak and write clearly and concisely about (often complex) topics. Wrestling with research essays and discussing complicated ideas in seminar prepared me well for this.
- Unique perspective. Most of my colleagues come from more technical undergraduate backgrounds (business, policy, engineering, and the physical sciences). Bringing a different perspective to problem-solving
is a huge asset to whatever team you are on. And you’ll never know when Thucydides or Machiavelli will give you the answer you’re looking for.