JJ Ong '97 has worked for the CIA and Congress and is now employed in the private sector.
After graduating from Wheaton, I went to graduate school at San Diego State University, where I earned a Master of Arts degree in Asian Studies in 2000. I then moved to Washington, DC, where I worked for a business consulting firm for 3 years before joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 as an Intelligence Analyst, covering China. I spent 7 years at the CIA before going to work on Capitol Hill as a Professional Staff Member for the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Five years later, I left Congress for the private sector, going to the energy company Chevron and working for their international government affairs team in Washington, DC, with responsibility for the Asia-Pacific region (my current position). As you can see, my career path has been focused at the intersection of Asia-Pacific foreign policy issues and the U.S. government. My main vocational "passion" has been Asian foreign policy and I knew I wanted to work in this area during graduate school, but I could not have envisioned the exact career path that my life has taken since graduating from Wheaton in 1997. I feel like God has presented vocational opportunities that were best suited to my interests and skills, opening and closing doors along the way.
Majoring in history, along with the broader faith-based, liberal arts education that Wheaton provided, really gave me the skills and abilities that have served me well in my professional career. These won't be surprising, but they include things like critical-thinking, deep analysis, strong and clear writing and speaking, the ability to learn quickly, and perhaps most important, being well-rounded in knowledge and intellectual interests. My senior seminar capstone class with Dr. Mark Noll stands out in my memory as THE class that challenged me to utilize all these skills during the course. My history classes and Wheaton education were the foundation upon which I was able to build greater specialization in graduate school and, eventually, my professional life.
My advice for history undergraduates: First and foremost, take as many history classes from the great Wheaton profs! Second, if there's an area of history that interests you, don't be afraid of pursuing an independent study course on the topic if there are no more classes available. This is what I did when I wanted to study in-depth modern Chinese history: I did two independent study courses with Dr. Charles Weber, where I formulated the reading list and met with him weekly to discuss the reading and topic. Third, take advanced courses in other departments: I took a Modern Literary Theory course in the English department with Dr. Roger Lundin. The course was very challenging and engaging, and while I often felt out of my element compared with the English majors, taking this class further honed my critical thinking and writing skills. Fourth, try to travel or do an internship in the history field that interests you. This will not only boost your resume, but you'll get a supplemental education to your classroom learning. Finally, try to obtain proficiency in a foreign language that's related to your (non-American) history major.
Regarding graduate school: As mentioned earlier, I pursued a Master's degree in Asian Studies after Wheaton. Majoring in history and doing the independent study courses during undergrad started my "passion" for Chinese history and later the focus on Asia-Pacific foreign policy issues in my professional life. Also, the skills I learned at Wheaton were further honed and developed during graduate school.