“What narrative might you help give voice to by your curiosity and thoughtful research?“
Class of 2002 (History MA 2003)
Thesis topic: Piety, Politics, Plague, and Planetary Motion in Galileo’s Florence.
Current Job: For the past four years, I’ve worked as a public 7th grade History and Literature teacher at Ronald McNair Middle School in East Palo Alto. My school is closing at the end of this school year though sadly, so I’m not quite sure what’s next! I’m also a candidate for ordination as a pastor with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and enjoy volunteering at Memorial Church.
First Job after Graduation: My first job title right after finishing up my History co-term was “Fixed Term Administrative Associate” with Residential Education, not a very glamorous title but work I was very grateful for! I’d really enjoyed working as an RA for two years in Toyon as an undergrad. When ResEd needed someone for only a few months to help with the RA interviewing and hiring process, I was excited to help students explore how they might become caregivers, encouragers, and community life organizers for their peers. I apologize though if you happened to call ResEd during those months and I disconnected you--the phones in our pre-remodeled Old Union office were really tricky!
How did you end up pursuing your career? Do you have any advice for students contemplating similar career paths? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were an undergraduate?
Two things I wish I could have told myself as an undergrad are:
1) Try as best as you can to claim your own history as an ongoing narrative—taking risks professionally and interpersonally, rebuilding from mistakes and losses as best as you can, choosing to grow new communities and engage with others wherever you may be, listening and learning from those who’ve gone before you, and always being open to discovering and sharing that yet to be wonder in yourself.
2) Your career path might not be as linear as you might initially imagine. As an undergrad maybe it’s more helpful to try and envision what values are most important to you to live out in your work rather than one specific lifelong career, realizing that at different points in your life you may need to or choose to live out those values in different specific jobs. If someone had told me junior year when I declared History as my major that I would end up years later teaching middle school History down the street from the school I was volunteering at each week then as an undergrad, but by the way that would be after working as a chaplain in Yosemite and in the ER of a trauma center, and after building many a Lego creation while teaching preschool, and after packing groceries and wrangling carts at a Whole Foods when I really needed work, and after apprenticing in sustainable farming for a season while living in a tent cabin on UC Santa Cruz’s teaching farm, I would have laughed. (Sometimes I still do, especially as I try to imagine what’s next!) But knowing what values were most important to me helped me to try and be resilient amidst the realities of life.
Has your History training helped you along the way - and if so, how?
I’m grateful for my History education especially the training it offered in developing inquiry and research skills, sparking critical thinking, refining writing skills, always requiring claims to be supported by reasoning and evidence, and cultivating deeper empathy for our world. These skills are invaluable to me as a teacher, in ministry, and just as a member of today’s world.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of the History Department?
One of my fondest memories of the History Department is actually from before I was as a student when I was just a ProFro and visiting my older sister who was a History major as well. Her honors thesis class was having a special class on Stanford’s archival collections that day, and Professor Gregory let me tag along. I was entirely fascinated by the vast array of items assembled and accessible to students! When I was a History major myself years later, I always looked forward to when my advisor, Professor Findlen, would thoughtfully pick out special manuscripts for us to go to visit in Special Collections and examine together in her classes. So even in this digital age, please take the time to walk over and explore the archives and Special Collections! Whether sifting through World War I love letters and trench poetry or ultimately spending many hours attempting to translate a 1634 chronicle of the Plague in Florence, I was so grateful for the chance to actually touch pieces of history as an undergraduate. What narrative might you help give voice to by your curiosity and thoughtful research?