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Casey Reid ’08
When you arrived at Lake Forest College, did you know you wanted to major in history?
History was always one of my favorite subjects prior to matriculating at Lake Forest College. However, as a freshman, I wanted to keep my options open and consider all of the different possibilities for my major. Thus, I chose to take a broad range of courses during my first year.
If you did not originally intend to major in history, what changed your mind?
It quickly became clear that my English and History classes were the ones of greatest interest to me. Specifically, my History courses not only allowed me to write extensively, but also gave me the opportunity to learn about how today’s world came to be. As September 11, 2001 took place within a couple weeks of my arrival at Lake Forest, my history courses were helpful in gaining a greater perspective on the world.
Even before the end of my freshman year, it was obvious that a double major in English and History was the right decision for me.
What was your area of focus in history?
As a history student, I took several European History courses with Professor Dan LeMahieu who also was one of my advisors. Professor LeMahieu’s classes were my favorites, as he presented the material in a compelling way with a fantastic dry sense of humor.
One thing that I particularly appreciated was that he tried to expose us to the material in a range of ways. In what I believe was a 20th Century British Culture class, in supplement to readings, we were asked to watch a number of films, as well as to listen to music (e.g.the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album). In addition to making it fun to learn about history, this way of learning gave us a broader and more vivid understanding of Great Britain in the 20th century. When considering a particular issue, we were encouraged to draw our thoughts from a range of sources. We learned that a single source can’t provide you with a full understanding of a particular topic.
Was there a particular piece of work that you remember as especially rewarding or challenging?
To fulfill my History major requirements, I took a senior seminar on World War II with Professor Carol Gayle and wrote a 30+ page final paper titled, “Women in the American Workforce During World War II.” I remember having a difficult time selecting my topic, as we covered so many interesting topics in the course.
Although my paper was not as long as a thesis, I remember this project being a work of endurance. It was a fun challenge to strike the balance between reading so many primary and secondary sources about the topic and trying to organize my thoughts in an organized and somewhat succinct way.
How did your history major prepare you for advanced studies?
After completing a summer internship in the Publications department at the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum) before my senior year at Lake Forest College, I knew that I wanted to go into the non-profit sector. I wanted to work for a museum, but was willing to keep an open mind in order to secure a good entry-level job.
Immediately after graduating from Lake Forest, I began working in the fundraising field in a behind-the-scenes role. Initially, I worked for a health care system in the Northern Chicago suburbs. After that, I joined the University of Chicago–first the medical center in 2008 and then the Booth School of Business in 2011. I’ve now spent over six and a half years with the University. I also earned my MS in Public Service Management from DePaul University in 2009.
Many of our students worry that traditional liberal arts majors (particularly in the humanities) will not translate to job skills. Share your advice.
Some of the skills that have been the most helpful to me in terms of marketing myself during a job search are having strong writing skills and the ability to advance multiple complex projects efficiently. Both of these skills can be directly linked to my History degree.
Majoring in History undoubtedly helped me become a better writer. It also helped me learn to work and think quickly. When you have a huge reading assignment to complete for a history course, as well as assignments for other courses, you learn to get through dense materials and pick out the key points quickly. In today’s fast paced world, employers like candidates who have experience completing tasks correctly and swiftly.
How do the skills and knowledge you acquired in your history major inform your day-to-day work?
A significant portion of my current role involves writing, which is something that I did a great deal of as a History student. Often, I’m asked to develop fundraising materials by drawing from a range of sources with a very brief turnaround time. This requires me to be able to read quickly and understand the key messages from the sources–another area where my History degree helps me. Based on my professional experience, having the ability to quickly digest a large amount of information and then communicate it in an articulate and succinct way is something that employers value.