Miles, class of 2015, was a double-major in History and Business/Economics and was also involved in baseball (for three years) and a ministry called Students for the Homeless. Here, he reflects on the skills a History major has taught him.
When it came time for me to survey the different majors at Wheaton, I did what most students probably do and researched as many majors as I could think of. I love talking to people, particularly those older than me, and this seemed like a great excuse to get to know some of the faculty at Wheaton. As I worked through the different departments, I loved hearing what the different professors had to say about each major’s academic program and career options following graduation; what particularly intrigued me was what differentiated each of the different majors on campus. I will never forget my meeting with Dr. McKenzie of the History Department, in which he told me that the history major would “change how I thought.” I had always enjoyed studying the past, and I enjoyed my conversation so much with Dr. McKenzie that I decided I needed to take a history class. I started with History 295 (Introduction to Historical Inquiry – Dr. Edith Blumhofer) and History 351 (American History to 1865 – Dr. Tracy McKenzie) and my experiences in these classes cemented that I did not want to pass up the opportunity to be a history major. I have not looked back.
At a very basic level, the History major has helped to develop three fundamental skills: the ability to take in information and pull out what is important, the ability to argue logically, and the ability to write effectively. As a History major, you will be responsible for large amounts of information, and a large component of your success will be your ability to extract the important pieces out of this swell of information. From what I can tell, experience practicing this is the best way to get better at it; the history major will provide plenty of practice. From my experience this is a skill that employers look for; the majority of entry-level jobs are research heavy (often titled “analyst” or “associate”).
Another skill that the Wheaton History major has taught me is the ability to argue logically. Almost every writing assignment that I have had in the major has been some variation of “make a point about the past and provide evidence to support your claim.” The major has taught me to consider the impacts of any leaps in logic that I make, and to base any claim that I have in evidence that carries equivalent weight. I recently interviewed with a large management consulting firm, and a component of the interview was multiple “case studies” where I was given a business problem and asked to articulate a solution. This problem solving test requires interviewers to support assumptions with evidence and draw conclusions off given information. I cannot think of a better major to give a student these skills than a History major.
Finally, the History major teaches its students to write effectively. Like most things in life, acquiring the skill of writing seems to just take practice. The History major has given me plenty of practice, with everything from 2 page papers to 15 page papers. The History Professors that I have had have all been very instrumental in teaching me how to write effectively, and my peers have noted a change in my writing abilities from sophomore to senior year. I think that I can guarantee to anyone who decides to major in history that they will walk away from their college education with an enhanced skill in and appreciation for written communication. My experience in historical writing was very helpful to me in my internship in technology sales.
At a deeper level, the History major can change the way that you think. More than anything, my History Professors have taught me how to think. For example, I was taught in Civil War and Mary in Christian History class the value of empathy when viewing other people; put simply, I was shown the need to view others reflectively and not judgmentally. In my Nazi Germany class, I was taught the importance of context in understanding other people’s lives and the evolution of world events. In my Atlantic World class (that I am taking now), I have been taught the importance of exploring the nuances and complexities that are not readily visible when examining a situation. The Wheaton History major has not only introduced me to these ways of thinking, it has ingrained them in my mind. I often do not need to consciously think about examining context when looking at a historical event, or trying to see the world through the eyes of someone in the past. This has had far reaching implications in my life. The ingrained habit of seeing the world through other’s eyes has since led me to start a homeless ministry for those in need in Chicago, and has deepened many of my personal relationships as I have learned to empathize with my friends. The ability to empathize with other people seems to be important in almost every human interaction, both in one’s career and their personal life. Similarly, an understanding of the need to know context has helped me tremendously in sales; one of my first goals in a “cold call” is to gain a picture of the other person’s needs and goals. Without this image, I have no chance of being successful.
Above is just a sample of how the history major has uniquely prepared me for life after Wheaton. If you want to hear more about why I am a firm believer in the ability of the History major to prepare students, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The History professors at Wheaton are all very kind, and I’m sure they would be happy to talk to you more specifically about what the History major looks like."