Friday I had the opportunity to speak to Missouri S&T history majors and faculty. I am a 1999 graduate of Missouri S&T, although at the time of graduation, the name was the University of Missouri – Rolla.
I arrived about 15 minutes early to figure out where I was supposed to go and set out some books and business cards. Four students attended the talk and I had the opportunity to chat with three prior to speaking. One student started his college life in one major and switched to history because he had a calling. Another student was set on the path he wished to take which is teaching. Another student walked in just before I began so I am not sure what he wishes to do, although he mentioned writing on his way out. And the coordinator of the event told me she was graduating next month and still unsure of her plans. From what I gathered, she has some options and some ideas and was interested in genealogy.
I spoke to the students and faculty about my business and how I went from point A (college) to point B (life as I know it today.) I said I had two take-aways for them. First, that there are many jobs for history majors even if you do not pursue a Masters or Ph.D. after your Bachelors degree. Second, you can, with a lot of hard work and creativity, make a living in alternative jobs, such as what I am doing. Connect the dots, follow that voice in your head that is pushing you to do what you love, and seek out opportunities. Based on the questions and discussion at the end, I accomplished that.
We did briefly talk about the fact I stand in two camps – Genealogy and History/Scholars – at this time with the work I do. There was some concensus that there are two camps and they do not always see eye to eye. The argument is Historians tend to be upset that genealogists do not dig deep enough or cite sources and Genealogists tend to be upset that Historians want so much from us or do not include us in records discussions like one that was held by those at NARA recently. I suspect I will be continuing this discussion with the history faculty at some point. I think there is a lot that can be done to bridge this divide.
Dr. Larry Gragg, the department chair, made a comment that one job of historians is to bring the dead to life and do it with respect. He said, after I read from my new book, that I am doing just that. I feel blessed to be able to have a career that allows me to research the lives of military personnel and write their stories. I am blessed to have opportunities to share my passion with others. Dr. Gragg also asked me to write an article about my talk and business for the fall Missouri S&T History newsletter. That is on my to-do list this week!
Prior to this opportunity, I had not thought about trying to talk to history majors about what I do, the research I conduct and the writing and where it takes me. I think I will be seeking other opportunities to talk to history majors and youth about my career. I feel sharing what we love, the mistakes we’ve made getting where we are as well as the successes, can benefit the younger generations preparing to start college or careers.
So I ask, what will you do this year to reach out and inspire the younger generations? In what ways can your experience help others? How can you be a mentor or role model?
© 2014, Jennifer Holik