“What are you Gonna Do with That?”: Undergraduate History Majors Find Top Placement for Post-Graduate Study
Quite possibly more than any other undergraduate major, history students have to hear the question “So what do you want to do with that?” after they tell interested family members, friends, and curious acquaintances what they are studying. While the number of jobs associated with a degree in history are too long to detail in this short article, three undergraduate history majors from Auburn have very interesting and impressive answers to the above question that are sure to spark discussion in their next encounter.
Meagan Frenzer was a very academically inclined undergraduate at Auburn who seemed to have nothing unusual about her, except for the fact that she is one in a set of identical triplets who all attended Auburn. Finding a way to stand out in a group of identical others can be difficult, but Frenzer believes that studying history at Auburn helped her do this. Frenzer stated that studying history allowed her to more fully understand and express her own personal identity, while providing her with the insight necessary to view fissures between past and present identities of other cultures. She cited the expertise and encouragement of Auburn professors, including Eden McLean, who proved a particular source of inspiration. Frenzer recalled that Dr. McLean’s 20th Century Europe course introduced her to a “fresh approach to history, particularly in the study of visual sources.” McLean’s commitment to student success inspired Frenzer to become a history professor and pushed her to pursue graduate study. Great instructors, faculty encouragement, and the unique experiences of Auburn history majors were cited by Frenzer as her biggest reasons for receiving an assistantship to the University of Florida’s PhD program. Although a rival within the SEC, the University of Florida boasts a noted history program with top faculty in the field, including Auburn Alumnus Benjamin Wise (’02), who will no doubt guide Frenzer to academic success. She wanted to thank Drs. Kelly Kennington and David Carter for their helpful suggestions regarding her writing sample, a key component of the graduate school application, and expressed her gratitude to Dr. McLean for helping her with the portion of the application where she described her interests and aspirations. Frenzer further stated that she would like to thank the entire history department for creating “a rich, thought-provoking environment where students can develop their interpersonal communication skills as well as their creativity.”
Unlike Frenzer, Richard Burks did not experience a profound moment where he wished to become a professor, but did find the history courses he took at Auburn fundamental to his post-graduate success. Burks is heading to Durham, North Carolina in the fall of 2015 to study law at Duke University. While at Auburn, Burks double majored in History and Political Science, a choice that stemmed from his belief that “both subjects require their students to be well-read, good public speakers, and skilled writers…three things necessary to succeed in law school.” The emphasis Auburn professors placed on critical reading and analytical thinking encouraged Burks reevaluate his other academic pursuits. He remarked that having the ability to analyze historical documents and pinpoint an argument greatly helped prepare him for the LSAT, a primary determinate of law school admission. He also pointed out that “many of my history professors expected their students to participate and cite information they learned from the readings in class,” which Burks believes motivated him to not only complete the assigned reading and remember it, but to think critically about what he was assigned as well. “Auburn did a whole lot in helping me realize what my personal and professional goals are. I know that the emphasis on hard work that came from my professors will go a long way in my career and my life.”
Understanding the fundamentals of Organic Chemistry might seem like an unlikely beginning for a history major. Hannah Ontiveros began her undergraduate coursework at Auburn as a pre-med major, shuffling through pages of biology and chemistry textbooks before she realized her love for the subtle “science” of history. Like Richard Burks, Ontiveros will be headed to Durham this fall to pursue graduate study, but unlike Burks, Ontiveros will be a PhD student in Duke’s History department. Duke is ranked as one of the top institutions in the nation for graduate study in this subject. Three of Auburn’s faculty received their PhDs from there -- David Carter (’01), Kelly Kennington (’09), and Mark Sheftall (’02) -- and the university consistently produces some of the most promising scholars in a number of historical fields. Duke’s strong program in 20th Century United States History and Ontiveros’s interest in labor and social issues during that period drew her to Duke’s graduate program. She cited her experience in honors Technology and Culture during her freshman year as being the class that converted her to a disciple of history. As she wrote her senior thesis, she came to realize that women are not as fully represented in the historical profession as they should be and this furthered her desire to become a historian. “After all,” she remarked, “it can't just be guys telling the stories of other guys.” Ontiveros recalled that the recommendations from Duke alumni on Auburn’s faculty as well as apt guidance from Drs. Ken Noe and Tiffany Sippial helped steer her towards Duke and perfect her application. Ontiveros thanked all of the above for writing her letters of recommendation and for being “knowledgeable and encouraging educators.” She also wanted to specifically thank Dr. Kennington for advising her about graduate schools during her junior year. When she graduates, Ontiveros hopes to teach at the college level and possibly work on labor issues at the community level. The Auburn University History Department is proud of its undergraduates and wishes them well on the next leg of their academic journey.
Last Updated: September 02, 2014