Skip to content

Myths and facts about history and careers

The latest Perspectives on History, the magazine of the American Historical Association, published a very good article using an extensive household survey to see where History majors stand in occupational map. It is titled “History is not a useless major: fighting myths with data.” (Open here.) While it is meant for an audience of history professionals it has relevance to students. It is based on the American Community Survey, a dataset collected periodically with more than three million participants and that is the gold standard of socioeconomic and demographic information. Using the major reported by the respondents, this study shows that history majors are doing very well in the job market. They have a low unemployment rate, they tend to work in many walks of life, and they earn good money. The secret to the good career paths of History majors have a very broad arch of career options. Careers with a higher remuneration involve graduate school, which is a strength of History majors. 

This information is consistent with other evidence. The Hamilton Project’s compiled salary evidence from student loan repayments and reports them in its “Careers Earnings by College Major” page (open here). History majors make as much as other college majors, even a little more than typically career- and business-oriented degrees. Our own study of the alums of the BGSU history major, shown in our webpage, also indicate that the career paths are quite varied. Business, government and law are our main careers. (In BGSU, teacher education is in the College of Education’s Integrated Social Studies major.) Our alums most commonly refer to their occupation as analyst, specialist, researcher or manager, among a large variety of job descriptions.

One may say that the take-away for those interested in doing a history major is that it pays off to study what you are passionate about. Studying for the love of knowledge will pay your bills, and also make you a wiser and more empathetic human being.

Ohio History Day 2017 a Labor of Love

2017 - History Day Photos

Vintage Polaroid Photos of Ohio History Day taken by CAC staff member Megan Goins-Diouf

Last month members of the History Department and the Center for Archival Collections orchestrated Ohio History Day. Since 1974 the Ohio History Connection has hosted this competition among junior high and high school students in affiliation with Nation History Day.  According to their website, Ohio History Day is “…an exciting program that makes history come alive for students. Students learn history by doing history. Students conduct historical research that leads to imaginative exhibits, documentaries, original performances, websites and scholarly papers” (you can read more about this competition and the Ohio History Connection at this link).

A lot of preparation goes into Ohio History Day when it is hosted at BGSU.  Libby Hertenstein, rare books and metadata librarian at the Center for Archival Collections was one of many that helped to organize this annual competition. This was her second year. “The most challenging part was amount of people involved,” said Hertenstein. “We had over 260 students register [for history day]! That’s a lot of people to plan and be prepared for.” Not only did the preparation include over 200 students, but it also included organizing volunteers to judge these projects. History professionals and enthusiasts all gave their time to evaluate projects and pass students onward to the next round. Two of these judges were Dr. Rebecca Mancuso, a professor in the BGSU history department and Kaysie Harrington, a current history Graduate student.

For Dr. Mancuso, this was her first year as judge. “Throughout my own education, I never thought much about doing history competitively!” stated Mancuso.  “I think the competitive element makes the event exciting and encourages students to do their best. There are competitions urging students to excel in sports, business and even art, so why not history?” Kaysie Harrington had been a judge in years previous, first hearing of the competition through fellow history student, Lizzy Hile. When asked about her favorite part of History day, Harrington said that she enjoyed seeing students becoming as excited about history as she is. “I also love that it brings together so many different levels and types of historians” stated Harrington. Dr. Mancuso judged the exhibits and websites, as well as offering to be a runoff judge for the second round. “The websites were quite impressive” when asked about her favorite project. “I honestly can’t pick a favorite.” stated Harrington who had judged a research paper, a documentary and several websites.  “Both times I’ve judged I’ve been impressed with the quality of research conducted by many of the students, and the enthusiasm they have for their topics is just contagious.”

Some of the many projects presented at Ohio History Day 2017

Some of the many projects presented at Ohio History Day 2017

For these women involved, they all commented on how rewarding the experience was. “The kids work really hard all year and it’s wonderful to see how much they’ve learned” said Libby Hertenstein. “You won’t regret it,” said Kaysie Harrington when commenting on her experience as a judge. “It’s a wonderful day to spend a Saturday. It’s a chance for you, as a judge, to learn as well as the students.” For students interested in participating in history day, the judges had advice to give. Kaysie Harrington encourages students to “Pick a topic that will hold your interest. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to ask challenging research questions.” Dr. Mancuso suggested that students explore the world of sources. “The more you read, the more you know. I firmly believe that reading history books and researching has enriched my own life beyond measure.”

Hess Lecture to Focus on World War I

Lloyd Ambrosius

The Department of History cordially invites you to attend the Gary R. Hess Lecture in Policy History: “The Paradox of Wilsonianism: World War I and American Internationalism” by Lloyd E. Ambrosius of the University of Nebraska.  The lecture, scheduled to coincide with the centennial of America’s entry into the First World War, will take place at 4:00 pm on Thursday, March 30, in Room 228 of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union.  At the initiative of Professor Hess’s former students, this annual lectureship is held to recognize his contributions to the profession and university during his forty-five years of service from 1964 to 2009.

Lloyd E. Ambrosius is Emeritus Professor of History and Samuel Clark Waugh Distinguished Professor of International Relations at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which honored him with the Louise Pound-George Howard Distinguished Career Award in 2015.  Professor Ambrosius is one of the leading scholars of the Wilson Presidency.  He is the author of Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition: The Treaty Fight in Perspective (1987), Wilsonian Statecraft: Theory and Practice of Liberal Internationalism during World War I (1991), and Wilsonianism: Woodrow Wilson and His Legacy in American Foreign Relations (2002).  His forthcoming book on Woodrow Wilson and American Internationalism will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.

Book Cover

Book Cover

Professor Ambrosius has participated throughout his career in the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) in various ways, including membership on its Council and the Editorial Board of Diplomatic History. He also served as member and chair of the SHAFR program committee and the selection committee for the Norman and Laura Graebner Award.  His historiographical essay on “Woodrow Wilson and World War I” will appear in the April 2017 issue of SHAFR’s newsletter, Passport.  He was president of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era for two years in 2015 and 2016, having served the previous two years as vice president.  He continues as a member of its Council.

Internships lead to great opportunities

2017 Alyssa Kapelka at the CAC

By Alyssa Kapelka, History B.A. alum and current M.A. student

By the time I had reached my senior year of my undergrad, I was finally sure of where I fit in with the field of history. I wanted to be a public historian and deal with history first hand. As I did my research, I found that many museums and archival enters required experience before being hired (the case with many professions). So I began applying for internships, the best way I could receive field experience all while being a full time student. I applied to any local archive and history museum I could think of and was accepted by one, the BGSU Center for Archival Collections (CAC).

I was given many different projects at the CAC, but my largest and most time consuming was the task of processing MS-254, also known as The Engels and Krudwig Winery Collection. Our former CAC director, Steve Charter, was going to deaccession and throw the collection away, but after I had looked through some of the first few boxes, I felt that there was potential. So in February of 2016, I began the 6-month processing project for MS-254. In an archival setting, processing is when a person, or archivist, goes through the collection, getting rid of unnecessary papers and documents. This process is not as simple as it sounds and can take much time.

Once this process was competed, the collection was narrowed from 40 boxes to 21. By this time, I was in the middle of my first year of Grad school here at BGSU and had been hired on at the CAC as a part time student assistant. I had also been enrolled in a Local History course and had chosen to write about the winery and its business during World War II for my final paper. The paper I wrote for Local history is one that will be taking to a history conference in March and is a possible area of research for my upcoming MA thesis project. All of this had come to me from one simple undergraduate internship.

Processing is when a person, or archivist, goes through the collection, getting rid of unnecessary papers and documents. This process is not as simple as it sounds and can take much time.

The step that I am currently working on is putting official labels on each folder in the collection. Once this step is completed, it will be time to write the finding aid; my goal for this project. The finding aid is the online resource that lists the collection, it’s history, scope, and its holdings for patrons to search online (see here for a guide of a similar collection). My research into this collection and analysis of documents while processing will be of great help when I begin to compose. MS-254 will be an official collection at the CAC one I finish the finding aid. Patrons can come in, look up my finding aid on our website, and then can request the collection for research. Not only is it great practice for my future career as an archivist, but this wonderful piece of history is now preserved for research and enjoyment.
My experience shows that a lot can come from becoming involved in volunteer work or an internship in your respective field. Experiences like mine can lead to jobs, thesis topics, networking opportunities and so much more. My advice to all undergraduates and incoming grad students is to take these experiences when you can. They can be time consuming, but they can also lead you down paths that will aid you in your future academic and professional careers.

A Look at Our Scholarships: The Mary Ellen Keil Scholarship

By Nicole Farley, History Senior

Mary Ellen Keil was a Bowling Green native, born in 1915, with strong roots to her home town. After attending elementary and high school in Bowling Green, she continued her higher education in the then “Bowling Green State Normal College.” By the time of her graduation as a Bachelor of Arts, the normal college became a university. Mary Ellen attended Ohio State University for her master’s degree. She then taught high school in Powell, Ohio and elementary school in Massachusetts. In 1943, Mary Ellen joined the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots. After the disbanding in 1944, she and a few others bought an airfield in Michigan to sell airplanes and teach flying until 1950. She eventually went back to teaching until her retirement in 1976 and was active in the Women’s Movement during this time as well. She passed away in 2002 and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Bowling Green.

Photo of Mary Ellen Keil in the International Women's Air & Space Museum

Photo of Mary Ellen Keil in the International Women’s Air & Space Museum

We are fortunate to grant every year two Mary Ellen Keil Scholarships for Ohio-native female students who are majoring in history. All incoming history majors meeting the criteria are referred to the History Department automatically. Keil scholars typically receive the scholarship in the first year and keep it for two years.

You can check the departmental scholarships on our website.

“The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks.”  By Jeanne Theoharis

This past Tuesday January 24, distinguished professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College spoke about her book “The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks.” She begins began her talk recounting a story of Rosa Parks’ youth when she decided to stay up late with her grandfather, who sat armed on the family porch to protect the family while they slept from white violence. Young Rosa said that wanted to seetheoharris him shoot a ku kluxer. Theoharis argued throughout her talk that the “national fables” constructed about Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement are “dangerous” and comfortable.” Comfortable in that they reduce a lifelong radical activist like Parks to a tired woman on a bus and dangerous because they are used to silence contemporary movements for social justice such as Black Lives Matter. She believes today peple need an example like Rosa Parks, but that we must accurately understand her life. Later in her life, Theoharis states that Rosa Parks described Detroit as the “Northern Promise Land that wasn’t,” illustrating another one of those national fables: that racism was isolated to the South. When finished, Theoharis was awarded a round of applause by the audience and then proceeded to take questions.

By Nicole Farley, senior, and edited by Dr. Nicole Jackson

Gain Professional Training in the History Major

In the fall of 2016 I took on the responsibility of coordinating professional internships for History majors, a task I find rewarding and one that helps our students find meaningful work in the world. There’s no doubt it can be hard for students to find a career path, and this is the case for graduates with many types of degrees, not just history. One of my goals is to show students that there is not only a good deal that they can do, but that they can find work they want to do. I’ve found that serving as internship coordinator has brought back the memories of my own rather clumsy start in the professional world.

I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do when I graduated with my degree in French and History from BGSU in 1987. Never mind all the talk about the “Go-Go Eighties,” I felt pretty Keep Calmdiscouraged when my applications for all kinds of positions went nowhere. To be honest, I had not taken the time to research job possibilities, to go to job fairs, or even to talk to working people about possible opportunities out there. My job applications were like shots in the dark, we might say. But just when I thought I’d never find anything better than working at the local soda fountain (I served ice cream at Rogers’ Drug Store, now Tubby’s Tavern in downtown BG), I got a call back – from none other than the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS was hiring, and the human resources office in Toledo liked my resume. My meagre savings were dwindling and I figured I didn’t have much to lose; I said “yes” to an interview, and then “yes” to a job in the collections department. I was thrilled at first, because this proved that humanities majors can get jobs, but whether I would like it or not was another matter.

I started by helping people file basic tax returns, and after four months I graduated to a field position, which meant knocking on people’s doors to tell them it was time to pay the Taxman—er, Taxwoman in this case. I was a full-blown tax collector, and considering my interests, it was about as fun as it sounds. I quickly learned that I didn’t like the job and the public certainly didn’t like me, so the lesson was clear: I had a sense of the kind of work I did not want to do. Within a year, I was glad to land a job in a university library where, believe me, I worked all the harder because I realized the importance of giving real thought to my career path. I clearly remember wishing I had had the opportunity to serve as an intern to help me figure out what I wanted, and did not want, as a career. Now, as internship coordinator I’m happy to be in a position to help others do just that.

It’s often said the university environment isn’t the “real world.” This is of course not true; the university is the real world, but just one facet of it. An internship gives students opportunities to apply what they are learning, and to learn even more. In institutions like the Wood County District Public Library, the Hayes Presidential Center, the Wood County Historical Society, or with city government, students put classroom knowledge and skills to work, but in new ways. For instance, classes at BGSU provide broad knowledge of World War I or the Great Depression, while an internship demonstrates how to restore and catalogue valuable artifacts from these eras, how to win grants for education programs, or how to design a museum exhibit. Our students have done all of these things!

What’s particularly important to me is that students are given a placement in an institution that interests them. It’s important to understand that in any organization there will always be mundane work to do, like filing or stuffing envelopes, but I try to ensure that students’ interests fit with an institution’s mission. Each student seeking a placement has an initial consultation with me where we discuss the student’s goals as well as the requirements of the internship program. Internships are best undertaken after a student has achieved junior status, and can be done in the summer or during one’s junior or senior year. Fitting the internship into the student’s schedule is often quite easy.

Come April, don’t ask me to help you with your tax returns, as I’m not so good at it. But if you’re looking for a great internship – that I am willing to do!

Please find information on internships in the History major on our webpage.

Click here for Dr. Mancuso’s profile and contact info.

My Experience in the Undergraduate Symposium on Diversity

Jake Householder

Jake Householder, left, showing the poster

By Jake Householder, a History senior

Last January 20th, 2017, I presented a poster at the Undergraduate Symposium on Diversity, organized by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. The poster was about the discrimination, suspicions, and questions of loyalty most Americans had for German-Americans and German immigrants during the First World War. I looked at many newspapers from both general publications and German ethnic newspapers in midwestern states like Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, etc. I found out that paranoia was everywhere in many communities throughout these states where the majority of people living there were of German descent. German ethnic newspapers voiced many responses to these questions of loyalty that the majority American public had for them.

Seo & Wright

Seo (right) and Wright (left) showing their posters to visitors

My experience was very enriching in many ways. I previously wrote a research paper on the topic, but the poster presentation allowed me to delve deeper into it. The symposium was a very well done event. Two speakers opened the event with provoking thoughts. Still, my favorite part was seeing all of the posters. Posters were varied and well executed, in my opinion. Overall, I’m very glad that I decided to be a part of this symposium and I recommend to others to do the same.

Connecting to the past with bread soup

IMG_8916 IMG_8920Last Sunday it was cold and snowing in Bowling Green. The weather invited to stay inside, savor a cup of hot cocoa and fill the house with the smells of a stew or a soup. I’d been thinking a lot about soup in the last couple of months. A student in the History-Spanish dual MA, Nanosh Lucas, is writing a thesis on food culture and social distinctions in 19th-century Mexico under my supervision. As he started his research on cookbooks, one family of recipes stood out: the sopa de pan or bread soup. There were many variations; in some early cookbooks virtually all soup included bread—often old bread. In its most common form, sopa de pan was one slice of bread covered with vegetables (probably boiled), and covered with a cup of hot broth. The word soup, in fact, originally meant bread dipped in broth. A mix of expensive spices and toppings, or just fresh bread, made this an appetizer on the table of the wealthy; but newspaper articles often described it as a poor family’s everyday meal.

The sopa de pan doesn’t sound very enticing for our present-day taste, but Nanosh and I have joked for a while about trying out the sopa de pan. And last Sunday it was the perfect storm: I had plenty of vegetables and chicken leftovers to make a broth from scratch, a day-old loaf of bread, a bag of spinach that was screaming to be cooked right away, and a couple of mozzarella balls that I bought impulsively from the supermarket’s new “olive bar.” Add to the mix the actual snow storm outside.

Some hesitation ensued. I can do my own variant of sopa de pan, but is it going to be authentic? I had some ingredients that often pop up in the sources I consulted in my research on food supply: carrots, onions, parsley, tomatoes. My bread was day-old, whole-wheat and homemade. Not your typical Mexico City bread, which was bought in bakeries. (The added tablespoon of chia seeds in the dough do not make up for its lack of Mexican authenticity.) Ovens were a luxury, and there were no communal bread ovens as in the Middle East. And finally, spinach and cheese. I have not found any mentions of spinach in the sources I’ve worked with. In the wonderful online collection of 19th-century newspapers run by Mexico’s National Library, the term spinach (“espinaca”) appears only very late in the century, and I suspect it wasn’t a popular fixture in produce markets. Cheese was more frequent, although I suspect only a few consumed it regularly. Mexico City residents bought a quantity equivalent to an ounce (the weight of my mozzarella ball) every five days, according to trade statistics of the eighteenth century. Sopa de pan was defined not by the ingredients, but by its simplicity and flexibility. To me it was a sort of edible compost of leftovers. What is more historically authentic than the constant adaptation of the old to new circumstances?

As I put the pot to boil and then simmer for a couple of hours, I couldn’t help thinking of that other element of modernity in this sopa de pan: the gas burner. In these two hours at low heat I burned close to 15,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). And I did not care. Gas is an abundant and relatively inexpensive fuel today. But in the nineteenth century, this was certainly a different calculus. To generate this heat, a cook would burn almost one pound of charcoal. The cost of fuel was a major consideration in working-class families. This use of energy represented up to 5 percent of the budget of a working-class family in Mexico City. It is no surprise that meals in a pot (such as beans, soups and stews), and the quick heating of tortillas on a flat clay or iron pan were the typical ways of cooking. Mexican cuisine was optimized for a relatively high cost of fuel. Today cost is not such a major consideration in our American life and gas (or electricity) is instantly available, but excess use of fossil fuel contributes to global warming. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe I cooked my broth too much; maybe 90 minutes was enough. A family cook in 19th-century Mexico City would have optimized their methods to deal with a scarce world, burned the coals slowly to maximize the heat output; I feel that I (and others like me) should recover that ability.

How did the soup turn out? While the ingredients were my own unique mixture, I preserved the format. On a flat bowl I placed a crunchy slice of day-old bread, topped it with sauteéd spinach and the mozarella balls, and served a soup laddle of broth on top of it. The bread did not lose its consistency, but I found myself using a spoon and a fork. I figured, if this was served in a house of no means, the bread was probably dipped in the broth to save on utensils. It tasted OK; better than I expected. The little amount of broth made a good contrast against the bread, and the layer of spinach and mozzarella added flavor (and nutrients). In all it was a good experiment: a simple, humble meal that connected me to the past.

Dr. Amílcar E. Challú, Associate Professor, History Department, BGSU. Dr. Challú studies the history of living standards and nutrition in Latin America. Some of his publications can be publicly accessed via https://works.bepress.com/amilcar-challu/ and http://bgsu.academia.edu/AmilcarChallu 

Passion for Scuba Diving Meets History

Some time ago we asked, “Where will history take you?”  In our map in Williams Hall, students and faculty have marked tens of places in four continents. This post, by Mike Horton, a History M.A. student, shows us how sometimes history takes us well beyond the beaten path.

Diving PhotoOver the course of this semester I have been involved in developing a historical narrative for the production of a television show. Titled “Pirates & Privateers The Quest For The Mother Lode,” the show is set to premiere on the Discovery Channel in 2017. I became involved in this project through a chance meeting with the show’s producer over the summer and learned that they’re searching for lost Spanish shipwrecks in the Caribbean dating back to the 17th century. This show was sparked by the desire to tell the story of the 1985 discovery of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita. These two ships were part of a Spanish treasure fleet which sank in 1622 during a fierce hurricane. The two ships were discovered off the coast of Key West, and the show begins by telling this story before launching the topic of lost wrecks.

PhotoThe work being conducted for this show combines two of the greatest passions in my life: history and scuba diving. During the course of my graduate studies, European colonization of the Americas has become a focus of my research, so this show peaked my interest immediately. I am also an avid scuba diver; I’ve been been diving for nearly twelve years now, earned my instructor certification and spent a year teaching people to dive in the Florida Keys.

The combination of these two passions led me to become a part of this show. It has been my job to create a general outline narrative explaining the rise of the Spanish empire in the Americas in order to set the stage for 17th century life in the Caribbean. During the rise of the Spanish empire, the stretch of ocean between the Florida Keys and the Bahamas became the main travel route for ships to and from the Caribbean. Thousands of ships traveled this route and those that have sunk now litter the ocean floor. This area has been the principal location for my research: its history and prime location for the search for shipwrecks. I have also been involved in the research of other potential shipwreck locations and developing the backstory of famous shipwrecks throughout the Caribbean. Conducting this research has been a rewarding experience and I have really enjoyed it. Ever since my chance meeting back in May, I have wanted to get out there on the water and dive in search of these lost wrecks. In December, I’ll finally have my chance, when we travel to the Bahamas to investigate three potential shipwreck locations. Our goal is to locate and identify these wrecks as well as recover any cargo that might have survived. During this expedition we will record our search and develop the story of these wrecks to inform viewers why these ships are here and possibly discover how they were lost.

Written by Mike Horton. Mike is a History M.A. student and an alum of our undergraduate program, who is writing a thesis on Christopher Columbus and intends to pursue a PhD in history.

Skip to toolbar