Student Feature: Cullen Smith

By Cullen Smith, ’17

20160618_142412I believe that looking into the past gives the observer a chance to understand what was then little understood.

This summer, with the help of the Mellon Scholars and the History Department (and with my advisor Dr. Natalie Dykstra from the English Department), I had the opportunity to look at Expo 76, a proposal by Boston’s city planners in 1976 to create a massive “urban experiment” along the banks of Columbia Point, to celebrate the nation’s 200th birthday and the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. It would involve filling in over 400 acres of the Boston Harbor for thousands of new housing units, building a 1400-foot-long by 60-foot-high bridge across the harbor. The revenue from the Bicentennial celebration could have run past a billion dollars.84150008A

What led me to this project was an initial interest to look at Vietnam Era society on a grander scale than I had done in Holland the summer prior. By comparative means, I thought my research last summer had prepared me for looking at Vietnam Era America on a grander scale.

Because when I was knocking on the door of a Special Forces veteran in the summer of 2014 for my first Mellon Summer research project, I had little knowledge of what a veteran community looked like, and in a reciprocal sense, what that community meant to a veteran. This was especially noted when a very large German Shepard who answered only to “Fang” came to the door to greet me.

As a whole, my summer research from last year resulted in a four-part YouTube series on Dave Fetters, the Special Forces veteran I interviewed, who had served in the Vietnam War near the Cambodian border. I had utilized several software applications, mot notably iMovie and Audacity, to produce the video series. It took hours going through 6 hours of interviews, and hundreds of pictures that Dave had given me permission to use for the series.

84150030_SmallAVideo production and interviewing, as it turns out, are completely separate from hardcore archival research.

My time in Boston, spread out from June 10th to June 24th, was an absolute whirlwind of a process, none of which involved any form of iMovie or Audacity. The best thing about Boston was that I worked in a different library every day, often doing something completely different that day than I was the last. I hopped from the Boston Public Library to Harvard’s Houghton Library to the Schlesinger Library to Northeastern Library, all within the same week. I would dig through mounds of papers related to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (Boston’s city planners), Mayor Kevin White and his personal papers, and issues of the Bicentennial Times from 9am to 5am, come home, analyze it, and then wash, rinse, and repeat.

At the same time, I was also working as a webmaster for Professor Dykstra’s Boston Summer Seminar, where teams of researchers from the intercollegiate Great Lakes College Association travel to work in various Boston archives. We would often be discussing what needed to be done with the seminar’s website, and then “switch hats” to talk about the what story I was developing with the archival materials I had found.

During my time in Boston, I was often confused as to the story I was writing. I think I found my best piece of solace when I found a 1969 letter from a middle schooler from Delaware asking about why the Bicentennial Expo was not to be held in Boston. For his conclusion: “Boston is where the fighting took place (during the Revolutionary War), so why not?”

It was from letters like this, expressing the confusion of the times and seeking simple answers, that I found my own story.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 3.37.56 PMThe story I wrote was partially about failure. Boston’s city planners proposed the megastructure thinking it would solve the social ills of their day, and instead received the disapproval of the entire city, especially South Boston, on the grounds that it would negatively impact the status quo.

In another sense, however, the story that I found was about redemption. In the midst of race riots and a recession marred with massive inflation, Boston’s leadership turned the entire city into an exhibit called Boston 200. Independence Day in 1976 would see over a quarter million Bostonians flood the Charles River Esplanade to watch fireworks and activities on a perfect summer day.

With my paper and accompanying website in the final stages, there is still much of the story about Boston’s bicentennial that I have yet to fill.

20160620_153910What I can say thus far is that Boston has given me the chance to work with exceptional staff, live and laugh with an exceptional host family, and study in some of the nation’s top archives, all the while completing work that I (literally) spent hours dreaming about.

I understood little when I came to Boston, and still recognize that my job as a historian is not done. There are always stories to tell, and the bicentennial has many more. What I can say is that as a historian, it is both a pleasure and a privilege that I am able to step outside my own existence and into someone else’s. It is only then when you can begin to understand.

Alumni Feature: Lou Canfield

By Lou Canfield

LTCI graduated from Hope College with a double major in History and Political Science in 2001 and have worked for the City of Grand Rapids since 2006. I manage the Design & Development Department, which is responsible for planning and zoning, development review, permits and inspections. My work responsibilities are wide ranging including finance and budgeting, human resources, communications, technology administration, policy development and supervision. This is a busy time for our department. The fabric of Grand Rapids is changing rapidly.

I enjoy my work. I think I am an effective organizational leader and our department has a significant role in our community’s success.

My study of History at Hope College helped to prepare me for my career in government administration.

Explaining how it did so isn’t straightforward. I didn’t study local government at Hope. I didn’t learn my day-to- day work activities at Hope. Much of that I learned on the job–from mentors, or by figuring it out, or by creating my own way of doing things. And all of that is built on the foundation of my Hope education.

As a History major, I developed cognitive skills, insights and an understanding of our shared humanity that have served me well in my work. I learned how to ask good questions. I was challenged to consider a broader range of answers than I had before. I learned how to select a tentative answer, how to test it and how to advocate for it. I learned that I could change my own opinions–even long-held ones–based upon new information and insights. I learned how to communicate my ideas persuasively in writing. History professors challenged me to improve my skills in all of those areas. In doing so, they thought me to think differently–and better–than I had before.

This has led to better insights in my work. I accept that the professional challenges I face are not unique. People in similar roles have faced similar challenges for centuries. What are our priorities? How do we motivate people both inside and outside the organization? How much regulation is right in our context? How do we use our current technologies to meet individual, organizational, and societal needs? There is no “right” answer to such questions, but continuing to wrestle with them helps to keep my work interesting, leads me to better insights than I would otherwise have and keeps me focused on serving people rather than just completing a checklist of daily tasks.

If all of this sounds rather general, it is–in the best possible way. Our world needs generalists and I’m proud to be one. Some careers demand and are enhanced by a relentless focus on a single discipline, but government administration isn’t one of those. I am regularly involved in hiring decisions and am consistently drawn to candidates who demonstrate critical thinking and creativity, regardless of their specific training. Employers can easily teach tasks and skills, but we can’t teach employees how to think–colleges are supposed to do that. Hope College does! And the History Department does that particularly well. My experience as a Hope History major prepared me to be a better person and a better administrator and I remain grateful for the History Department faculty members who had such an important impact on my life.

Student Feature: Jonathan Tilden

By Jonathan Tilden, ’17

wedding (2)I researched for the department in the summer of 2015. I heard about the opportunity while in an American history class with Dr. Petit and was immediately interested. Dr. Petit, the faculty member who would be overseeing this project, was interested in constructing a website about the United War Work Campaign of 1918, an interdenominational effort to raise funds for American soldiers abroad and at home. The topic intrigued me and I had a few conversations with Dr. Petit about what the position of (paid) summer researcher entailed.  I filled out a brief application and was accepted into a four-student research team.

uwwc-studentsBy June of 2015, we were on campus doing preliminary research on the different organizations involved in the United War Work Campaign. Each of us took a certain area of the research and dove into finding and reading all of the secondary sources about that area we could. In late July, we flew out to Washington D.C. to meet up with Dr. Petit. We spent a week at the Library of Congress, analyzing primary sources about the United War Work Campaign we couldn’t access elsewhere.  We spent the next few weeks building, editing and tweaking the website.

I’d recommend the experience. Being a researcher meant spending quite a bit of time by yourself, reading and writing. At the same time, we frequently met throughout the day for quick meetings about where the research was leading us and what was next in the process. I really enjoyed the combination of solitary research and teamwork. Naturally, the Library of Congress was the highlight of the trip, for a variety of reasons. For one, the primary sources allowed us to really get a “behind-the-scenes” look at our topic. I particularly enjoyed seeing some of the propaganda posters that we had seen online prior. I realized after seeing these posters in person just how effective of tools they really were. And that’s something that books or the internet can’t convey.

Reading Teddy Roosevelt’s personal papers was an experience I will never forget. We also had the opportunity to get to know several other research teams that were also at the Library of Congress through a Great Lakes College Association grant. I roomed with two guys from Pakistan. They took me to a Pakistani restaurant in the area and we talked a lot about Pakistan and their research on Islamophobia in the U.S. This was an experience I wouldn’t have had without signing up for this research opportunity.

Research also gave me the opportunity to develop a close working relationship with a professor. At the end of my summer research, Dr. Petit asked me to be her Teaching Assistant for a seminar. This was yet another opportunity I wouldn’t have without my time as a researcher. I think one of Hope’s greatest attributes is the potential for close relationships. This extends to all members of the campus, but faculty-student relationships can be really rewarding. Working closely with professors is extremely rewarding and a lot of schools don’t allow undergraduates to work under a professor’s guidance. My research experience was very worthwhile and I’d encourage any undergraduate to look into summer research.

New Department Chair: Introduction

By Jeanne Petit

JeannePetitAs a new chair of the Department of History, I feel that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I have worked under three fabulous chairs during my time at Hope College: Dr. Albert Bell; Dr. Janis Gibbs; and Dr. Marc Baer. Their leadership elevated our department in many areas, particularly the expansion of student/faculty research collaboration, the globalization of our curriculum and the consideration of the relationship between teaching, scholarship and faith. All of these chairs have participated in creating a strong historical community at Hope College, and I look forward to building on their achievements.

I wanted to convey some of the priorities we have as a department over the next few years. One of our main goals is to be more intentional in helping our students think through their vocations, both as history students and in their lives beyond Hope College. We have always talked with students about how the skills of a historian—critical reading, clear writing, and thorough research—are building blocks for a wide variety of careers. We are working on ways to have our students do more intentional reflection, both in the classroom and out, on the ways their historical training relates to their calling in life. Moreover, we want to help students find more opportunities to explore their calling through internships, job shadows, and independent research projects.

At the same time, we want our students to see the study of history as valuable beyond building a career. Historical thinking involves understanding the complexity of change over time as well as the importance of understanding multiple points of view. It makes us better citizens, community members and people of faith. During these stressful times, we hope our majors can bring much-needed historical perspective to understanding the challenges of our nation and world.

I hope you will read our blog over the next year and see the wide variety of experiences and ideas in which our faculty, students, and alumni are engaged. I would also like to put out an invitation to our alumni. If you have insights about the value of your history major or minor that you would like to share, please contact me. We would love to have you write a blog post for us.

Alumni Feature: Rachel Syens

By Rachel Syens

rachel colorI’ve always loved history. I was the kid who made her friends watch Gladiator over the latest rom-com, stayed up way too late devouring novels like The Scarlet Pimpernel, and insisted on taking summer vacations to historic Williamsburg. I made it all the way to the State level of National History Day with a one-woman play I wrote and performed about Spartacus (yes, you read that correctly), and I helped create a film for my eighth grade algebra class about time travel.

I have always loved to read about history, write about history, and especially see history, but I didn’t know how to translate that infatuation with the past into a career.

My time at Hope College helped me to dig deep into my passion, and I’m proud to call myself a historian today.

You may be asking yourself at this point: what do you do as a historian? I’m a Public Historian. I specialize in researching and presenting history in the nonacademic realm – think museums, historic sites, and cultural heritage. When I first started at Hope, I was in love with all of history – I hated when my friends would ask about my favorite time period because I just couldn’t choose one! The History Department at Hope was wonderful because I was able to take so many classes on different time periods and places in history. I studied the Reformation in Europe, 1930s Latin America, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and Reconstruction-era America.

Rachel Syens on a study abroad weekend trip to London with fellow Hope grads Molly (Mead) Towne and Maggie Almdale.
Rachel Syens on a study abroad weekend trip to London with fellow Hope grads Molly (Mead) Towne and Maggie Almdale.

Hope also provided me with the incredible opportunity to study abroad. I spent a May term learning and living music history in the heart of Vienna, Austria. This kind of cultural learning was so impactful on my life – I wrote a paper on Mozart and less than one week later, I visited his birthplace in Salzburg. I also spent a wonderful semester at York St. John University in York, England, where I took courses on British history, Revolutionary Europe, and Shakespeare. York is one of the oldest cities in Britain, founded in AD 71 by the Romans. Every day, I would step out of my door and into history. It was here in York, running my hand along the Roman walls, walking on cobblestone streets traversed by the likes of Constantine, and attending a church where Guy Fawkes was baptized, that I finally began to discern my vocation.

Seeing history makes it come to life, painting pictures of the past and creating connections between people of the 21st century and those who lived thousands of years ago.

My varied coursework at Hope and my opportunity to study abroad taught me one of the most important lessons in history: all people are connected. We have lived on the same earth, wondered at the marvel of the same moon, felt joy, sadness, love, and loss. I desperately wanted to work in an arena where I could help create those deep connections. This passion led me to pursue a graduate degree in Public History at Western Michigan University. I’m so thankful that Hope pushed me to read, research, and write at such a high level because I felt very prepared for my demanding graduate work. More than that, Hope shaped my love of history into a passion, and that passion carried me through countless late nights, paper deadlines, and projects.

At a recent event Rachel coordinated at the museum called "From Malaysia to Michigan."
At a recent event Rachel coordinated at the museum called “From Malaysia to Michigan.”

That passion connected me with my fellow graduate students and professors, and allowed me to make a difference as a Teaching Assistant for undergrads. That passion led me to graduate with a Master’s Degree in Public History, officially cementing my title of “Historian,” a dream since I was young. Finally, that passion led me to my job at the Holland Museum as the Volunteer and Tour Coordinator. In this position, I have the privilege of sharing history with volunteers, students, and visitors, both inside the walls of the museum and out in the community.

Alumni Feature: Jackie Huss

By Jackie Huss

Jackie headshotWhen I arrived on Hope’s campus in the fall of 2001 the thought of becoming a history major had never entered my mind. Like many people, I discovered new things about myself during my freshman year and knew I needed to find a new focus. My parents encouraged me to look back on my high school work and volunteer experiences for inspiration for what I would like to do with the rest of my life. The thing that immediately came to mind was my time spent as a volunteer tour guide at the Hackley and Hume Historic Site in my hometown of Muskegon, Michigan. I realized working in the museum field was something I found enjoyable and fascinating as a volunteer, so making it my career path seemed like a no-brainer.

At the beginning of my sophomore year I declared as a history major and started my journey. Although Hope doesn’t have a Museum Studies program, Professors Marc Baer and Albert Bell helped me mold my own learning experience through internships. The first semester of my junior year, I interned at the Holland Historical Trust Museum under the Curator of Education. I didn’t think I wanted to work with elementary-aged children, but this internship started me on a path of sharing Michigan history with the public in easy and accessible ways, which has become my passion.

Leading group of students at Hackley & Hume Histoirc Site
Leading a group of students at the Hackley & Hume Historic site.

The spring semester of my junior year, I took my Seminar class with Dr. Fred Johnson, which was an amazing experience. The topic was the Civil War and Dr. Johnson allowed me to focus my final paper on the Underground Railroad in Michigan, since I had such a passion for Michigan history. I conducted research on campus, at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, and through a series of “field trips” to various locations of historical significance to the Underground Railroad. The paper I wrote has continued to serve as a base of knowledge in my professional career. For example, I have used the paper and the materials I cited in writing the paper as a resource for writing exhibit label text and speaking about the Underground Railroad to various groups in West Michigan.

I applied for a competitive Historical Resources internship at The Henry Ford in Dearborn and was selected as one of seven interns from over 30 applicants. I was placed at their Benson Ford Research Center for the summer between my junior and senior years. I learned a lot about research and working for a large history institution. That internship confirmed that my passion was not just in doing the research, but in sharing it with the public.

My final internship in the fall of 2004 was a turning point in my life. I knew I would graduate a semester early, so I applied for an internship back where it all began, the Lakeshore Museum Center (the parent museum to the Hackley and Hume Historic Site).

My internship with the LMC allowed me to work in all departments of the museum as well as attend my first professional museum conference.

When a position as the Assistant Curator of Education was available I knew that museum education and programming was the direction I wanted to go. I applied, was interviewed just a few weeks before my December graduation, was hired the day before Thanksgiving, and started my career immediately following graduation.

Interested students at the Old Indian Cemetery.
Interested students at the Old Indian Cemetery.

Over the last 11 years, I have grown in my position and am now the Program Manager for our main Museum Center. In addition to creating and overseeing programming for schools, families, and adults, I also have the opportunity to serve as project manager on various exhibits. The largest was a two year complete remodel of our Fire Barn Museum, during which I relied heavily on the research skills I gained while a student at Hope College.

I can honestly say that without the guidance and opportunities I had as a student at Hope, I would not be in a career that is ever-evolving and rewarding!

Student Feature: Alexandra Piper

By Alex Piper, ’17

Ever since I was a kid, museums have been a point of fascination for me. I used to beg my parents to take my across the country to a certain museum or explain to my friends in nauseating detail about my favorite museums and exhibits. When it came time to look for an internship in the Fall of 2015, Dr. Baer directed me towards the Gerald R. Ford museum. As a History and Political Science double major, this internship program played to both of my interests while providing important and necessary work experience.

Like many people, I had a limited knowledge of Gerald Ford and his rise to the presidency in the mid 1970’s.

Working in the museum gave me a hands-on way to learn about President Ford and the historical context of the country he presided over while also learning the technical side of museums.

At the museum, I worked as a Collections Management intern under the Registrar, Jamie Draper. Jamie had an extensive knowledge of how museums work, but also knew so much about Gerald Ford and his life. One of my favorite parts of the internship was my ability to openly ask questions anything in the museum and learn so much from Jamie.

IMG_5242The main part of my internship consisted of doing behind the scenes work in Artifact Collections. This included basic photography, artifact cleaning and numbering, encapsulation, building custom storage mounts, accessioning, and cleaning up old records.

One of my favorite projects included handling a donated collection of over 150 Bicentennial items. This collection included lunch boxes, cooking supplies, pop cans, toys, and other objects celebrating America’s 200th birthday. IMG_5080Prior to working with the artifacts, I had not realized how significant the Bicentennial was for Americans at the time. Jamie helped me to understand that it was important for Americans to celebrate two hundred years of freedom and democracy, especially after the distrust that followed the Watergate Scandal, Vietnam, and a series of economic problems. I love the feeling of contributing to the museum’s collection and protecting a part of history.

I was also very fortunate to work in the museum during a few exciting times. The ArtPrize competition was happening in Grand Rapids at the beginning of my internship, and I was able to participate in setting up the museum to host the art. I learned how long of a process ArtPrize is, but it was exciting to see how the entire competition comes together.

IMG_5209I was also lucky to work in the museum while it closed down for renovations. This created a special project for the interns because we helped take down the entire core exhibit in the main part of the museum. This exhibit included artifacts that had not been handled in years like Watergate break-in tools, Betty Ford’s inaugural dress, Nixon’s pardon, and various head of state gifts. Working with these artifacts and experiencing that part of history in a tangible way was certainly an amazing experience.

When I started the internship, I was not sure how my education at Hope would apply to the job. I had never worked in a museum, but my job went beyond just technical skill. I worked on researching and writing about artifacts, a job aided by the historical writing skills my professors taught me. When writing about an artifact, I knew how to put it within a historical context. This ability made the entire learning experience richer.

IMG_5152This museum internship is a job that I will remember for a long time. I learned so many lessons, skills, and how to balance a school semester and work. Most importantly, however, I learned about Gerald R. Ford and the American presidency. Handling artifacts created a real approach to history, and helped me understand Ford a president, but most importantly, as a human.

I was privileged to work with people who understood and cared about the Fords as people, but also cared deeply about history. My supervisor, Jamie, and the curator, Don, taught me more than just the tactical side of museum work, but instilled important lessons about American history that I will be able to use in my future. I am fortunate to have worked under a relatively unknown President, and I hope that I can take this new knowledge and apply to both my History and Political Science majors, as well as teach others about President Gerald R. Ford.

If you are in the Grand Rapids area, go check out the newly renovated Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum!

Vienna Summer School, 2016

By Janis Gibbs

Janis in Vienna 1I am writing from Vienna, Austria, where we have just finished six weeks of May and June classes, and celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Hope College Vienna Summer School. I have spent my summers teaching in Vienna since 1998, under the directorship of my colleague, Professor Stephen Hemenway of the English Department. He has just finished his forty-first summer as the Director of the Summer School. The Vienna program was founded by the late Dr. Paul Fried, who was chair of the History Department for many years, and was Hope’s first Director of International Education.

450px-Holy_Roman_Empire_Crown_(Imperial_Treasury)2In Vienna, I teach the interdisciplinary humanities general education course, which combines history, philosophy, and literature. We focus on the theme of empire, and we take advantage of many of the cultural opportunities available in Vienna. Together, we visited Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial Habsburg tombs, the imperial treasury (where we saw the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, pictured here), and the Museum of Military History. Because this is the 100th anniversary of the death of the Emperor Franz Joseph, there were lots of chances to see exhibits focused on his life and times.

Janis Gibbs and John Knapp Vienna 2016This past weekend, we had a wonderful celebration in the Vienna Woods, attended by this year’s Hope Vienna students, as well as alumni, family, and friends of Hope College. President John Knapp also joined us for the festivities. We had a lovely buffet dinner, with orange and blue decorations supplied by Board of Trustees member Brian Gibbs, who has also been a participant in the Vienna Summer School for more than thirty years.

I always enjoy teaching in Vienna because I can see students discover all kinds of things about European history and culture.

The opportunities in Vienna are rich and varied. In May, we all went to a German-language production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” (called “Anatevka” in German), which took on special significance in light of the current refugee crisis in Europe. For a few days in May, the regular routes of public transportation near our classrooms were disrupted because many world diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry, were meeting in a nearby hotel to discuss possible responses to the Syrian civil war.

When we visited Prague, we saw the memorial to the Bohemian nobles executed at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War in the 1600s, as well as more modern sites associated with the life of Franz Kafka, whose work we read in class. Many of us attended a free, outdoor concert at Schönbrunn Palace by the Vienna Philharmonic.

Last week, we were shocked, as were people around the world, by the Brexit vote. Studying (and teaching) in Vienna gives all of us, I think, a more immediate sense of history, and of the importance of world events occurring right now. It always gives us pause to realize how much Austrians know about American history and politics (and how little we, in return, know about Austria, at least at the beginning of the summer.) We hope, by the end, that we all have a better sense of the history of our host country.

Studying (and teaching) in Vienna gives all of us, I think, a more immediate sense of history, and of the importance of world events occurring right now.

It’s a treat to introduce students to Vienna. I’m happy to be a part of Hope’s long-standing Vienna Summer School, and I’m looking forward to many more successful summers in Vienna.

Alumni Feature: Cory Lakatos

cory_lakatosStudying history at Hope College helped keep me from becoming a snob. It turns out that this gives you a greater advantage in the world of work than you might realize. What do I mean? Well, before I get into that, let me give you some background on how I got where I am today.

I graduated from Hope in 2012 with a double major in history and English literature. At the time, I thought my history major would serve me well as I went on to graduate studies in English, in addition to its great intrinsic value.

To make a long story short, plans change.

God in His providence often doesn’t work the way we think He will.

For a variety of reasons, I didn’t end up going to grad school. I moved back to Holland to be close to my girlfriend, a history minor with another year to go at Hope (we got engaged soon thereafter, and are married now). I started hunting for a job, and I ended up landing a part-time retail job I frankly would have avoided if I’d had my druthers. However, one shouldn’t be too proud to work a menial job when necessary, and it did help make ends meet.

Around the same time I was talking to a connection at church, a local business owner and history buff who happens to be friends with Dr. Baer, the outgoing chair of Hope’s history department. He asked me if I had any editorial experience, and I mentioned my work at Hope’s student newspaper, in addition to my two writing-focused majors. Pretty soon I had picked up a second part-time job as an editor at his company, and before too long I worked my way up to a full-time position.

That’s how I came to be the office manager and chief copywriter at Black Lake Studio & Press, a strategic communications, marketing, and publishing company on 8th Street within sight of Hope’s campus. My designer colleagues and I like to say that we “help good people do good things,” working collaboratively with entrepreneurs, businesses, nonprofits, ministries, authors, and thought leaders to help them articulate their message and engage their audience. My role is mainly concerned with project management, writing, and editing.

lakatos-graduationBut what does my job have to do with being a history major and not being a snob? Well, there’s nothing like studying history to cure a person of “chronological snobbery,” which the great C.S. Lewis describes in Surprised by Joy as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” Young, twenty-first-century Americans are perhaps even more prone to this error than most, so I could have easily fallen prey to it. Learning to understand and appreciate people who lived in different times and places is one of the hallmarks of an education in history, and when done properly it eliminates chronological snobbery. It also kills other forms of snobbery and fosters many transferable skills.

Understanding that people think differently than you and being able to learn from them and communicate with them on their own terms whether you agree with or relate to them or not is essential in my work. I learned to do it through history research and writing. Sure, I didn’t communicate directly with the people of the past, but I listened to them in their writings and joined a conversation they had started. I do something similar when I listen to our clients and their customers, figure out what messages resonate with them, and write accordingly.

Earning a history degree has also given me research skills that are helpful during the discovery phase of projects.

The ability to read a cultural artifact verbally and visually has also been useful. And after four years of writing history papers, I am able to effectively structure an argument, back it up with solid, convincing evidence, and explain a concept clearly and succinctly. I need to do that every day in my job. On top of that, learning to play by the Chicago Manual of Style’s rules has also been to my advantage, since it serves as Black Lake’s go-to style guide.

In short, whether the Lord leads you down the path you were expecting or some stranger trail, and whether you end up working in the academy, the business world, or somewhere else entirely, you’re going to need communication skills, and you can’t afford to be a snob. There’s nothing quite like studying history to form you in this way.

June 23: an historic day

By Marc Baer

EUUN0001Next week, on June 23, British voters will participate in an historic event, the United Kingdom European Union (EU) membership referendum, popularly known as Brexit. At this moment polling reveals a razor-thin margin in favor of leaving.

British membership in the EU has been controversial since 1972, when the UK joined what was then the European Economic Community. In 1975, 67 percent of voters voted yes in a referendum on remaining in the EEC. Currently, “leavers” (also known as Eurosceptics) believe that a UK outside the EU would be better able to control immigration. There’s also hostility directed toward un-elected EU bureaucrats in Brussels making too many decisions for the UK, thereby undermining national sovereignty. As one leaver commented, “All that money we’re sending to Belgium and them telling us what to do.” Many people seem ready to vote for a Brexit even though polls show they also think that leaving will be risky for the British economy.

UK-Union-FlagBritons who want to remain in the EU believe that departure would not only undermine their country’s economy but as well marginalize the UK’s role in Europe and globally. Younger Britons are generally comfortable with a multicultural society and prize the ease with which they can travel to or work in the 28 EU nations. A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of those 18 to 34 years old in Britain had a favorable view of the European Union, compared with 38 percent of people 50 and over.

Labour party voters favor Remain, while a majority of Conservatives prefer leaving the EU. Support for EU membership is high in Scotland, with 60 per cent backing Remain. There is talk that if Brexit passes, Scotland will vote to leave the UK and as an independent nation join the EU. Voters in Wales slightly favor Remain, while those in Northern Ireland are more pro-EU than any other British region—by something like a 3 to 1 margin. All this suggests how divided the United Kingdom is at this historic moment.

You can go to British Media Online to follow developments. Recommended sources include The Times; The Independent; The Guardian; The Financial Times; BBC News; The Telegraph; EU Observer.