Exposing Notre Dame history students to a diverse array of career options and connecting students to successful alumni are the goals of the Department of History’s successful “History 20/20” speaker series.
“The alumni we invited back to campus represent well the wide spectrum of vocations pursued by history graduates: investment bankers, social entrepreneurs, lawyers, sports journalists, political consultants, and teachers—and that’s really just the tip of the iceberg,” says Director of Undergraduate Studies Daniel Graff, who launched the series in fall 2012.
“In the history department we don’t train students for particular professions; instead, we teach them to develop a historically-informed understanding the world that will make them better at whatever paths they choose to follow.”
History 20/20, which continues this academic year, was the first formal effort to connect students and alumni for career discussions and networking—an opportunity that both groups appreciated.
“The best part about 20/20 was having an honest, face-to-face conversation about career development,” says Tony Rivera ’13. “When I met the South Bend mayor’s chief of staff—Notre Dame history grad Mike Schmuhl—he was happy to share both the ups and the downs about his work, as well as things he felt he learned from the tougher parts of his career path.”
The series also brought unexpected benefits, Rivera adds, noting that his talk with Schmul was the first step toward obtaining an internship.
“The 20/20 program was the factor that connected me with my internship at the Mayor’s office. I’m very grateful that the department took the time to bring alumni and students together to talk about the future—and that everyone was willing to help us students out.”
The internship, Rivera says, inspired him to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on the links between education/economic development and city policy.
While History 20/20 offered great professional perspectives for current students, the series was equally valuable on a personal level for the alumni involved, says Colin Rich ’11, a consultant at CAST Management Consultants, who spoke at an event in fall 2012.
“Given today’s rugged job market, it’s important for undergraduates to see the breadth of career diversity that continues to stem from a history education at Notre Dame,” Rich says. “Hopefully students walked away understanding that they can apply their abilities to almost any post-graduation path they choose.
“Professor Graff and the department’s leadership tee up a lot of great opportunities for their students, and it’s a privilege for the alumni to contribute. It’s very rewarding to speak to an eager, bright audience, but also rewarding to give back to a department dedicated to the growth of its students. I think we’re all very grateful for the invitation.”
Graff looks forward to another rewarding year for the History 20/20 series, which will feature discussions on Friday, September 27, and Friday, October 18, as well as other more informal events throughout the year.
“Notre Dame is known for the loyalty of its alumni, but I was not expecting to see such an attachment to the history department itself,” Graff says.
“I am impressed by the generosity of our history alumni, who are showing a real commitment to current history majors by willingly sharing their time, experiences, and insights.”