Alumni Night Round Up
History Beyond BU
On October 11, the Undergraduate History Association and the History Department hosted “History Beyond BU,” an event which brought back former BU history majors to discuss how they have used their history degrees in various fields, including business, law, consulting, and medicine. An outstanding success, this event highlighted the important analytical, writing, and conceptual skills that history courses teach students and inspired students to think outside the box in searching for careers that value an education in the liberal arts.
Jana Sico discussed her work as an Investment Analyst at New Providence Asset Management in New York. She told students how having a history major made her interesting to employers, ultimately separating her from the traditional job applicants who all had finance or management degrees. Moreover, she explained that history taught her to think about the development of broad conceptual themes, something essential to succeeding in business. When a student asked about if she felt she was “behind” when she started the job, she told students that even studying finance would not prepare you for the first couple weeks of a new job. She learned the ropes in the same manner, with the same success as those with a business background. She actually excelled because of her ability to write clearly and consider the context, something her history classes always emphasized.
Frances Wade, formerly of White House Records Office and now at a consulting firm for environmental policy, also joined the panel. She discussed the importance of making contacts through internships and offered advice on how to take advantage of networking opportunities. The one lesson that stuck with students in the audience: write thank you notes after an interview or meeting a potential contact. While working at the White House, her knowledge of American history helped her understand the bureaucracy and think about how to organize and categorize records from the presidential libraries. Now as a consultant, she continues to see how her ability to discuss current events from a historical viewpoint allows her to connect with older co-workers.
Craig Heeren, formerly an instructor in the Teach for America program and now an attorney at Wilmer Hale in New York City, articulated how he continues to rely on his research skills to succeed in the courtroom. His first case required him to research shipping laws in the 1790s to establish legal precedents for a particular case. He frequently finds himself immersed in archival work, as he needs to be able to develop an argument and construct support for that argument. Writing a research paper for a history course, he told students, was in fact very similar to arguing a case in the courtroom.
Kyle Pronko, a current medical student at Boston University, talked about how his history background helped him in his medical school interviews. Similar to Jana, he said it made him different, and admissions counselors eagerly recruited him. While they discussed medicine during the interview, the conversation quickly took a turn toward subjects like his favorite Roman emperors. The personal connection he developed through this conversation turned into a concrete offer for medical school. Kyle also noted how in very practical ways, history taught him how to communicate with patients and write cohesive and succinct patient notes on their charts. Those current students with a biology or strictly scientific degree lacked the writing skills needed to thrive in all facets of medicine. He claimed he would be a much better doctor because of the important verbal and written communication skills he acquired while studying history.
Finally, Lucia Marconi, a development officer at Historic New England, discussed how she works for a non-profit organization and focuses on fundraising and developing programs. While the historical knowledge she acquired on New England history drew her to the job, she ultimately finds that her strength in writing proposals and organizing fundraising programs came from her history major. She also stressed the importance of work experience and internships during school for students to learn how to translate skills of the classroom to various professions before they graduate.
These diverse BU history alumni not only showed students the practicality of a history major in the professional world, but they inspired them with their stories of professional success. In the words of Jana Sico, study what you love, and you will not only succeed in the classroom, but you will learn practical stills along the way.