Anne Morgan ’03
When you arrived at Lake Forest College, did you know you wanted to major in history?
Yes! I had no real idea what I wanted to do with a History degree but I knew that was where my interests were. I figured if I focused on what I loved the rest would follow.
What was your area of focus in history?
One of the first History Professors I took a class with was Pericles Georges. He showed me that studying history was not only about the story behind a person or event (although that was important), but it was about asking questions and thinking critically. The idea that we could have all kinds of information on a person or event and still find new ways to look at it really intrigued me and inspired me to look at things differently – both in class and in life.
Was there a particular piece of work that you remember as especially rewarding or challenging?
My senior thesis combined my History major and Religion minor by looking at historical adaptation and development of ancient religions and modern practices. It was really rewarding to me because it allowed me to take the idea of questioning history and the story behind something to the next level. I also presented my research at the annual LFC Student Symposium and learned that I didn’t have the problems presenting to groups that I thought I would. Every time I do a presentation at a conference or at work now, I still imagine being at LFC about to give a talk to friends and colleagues, and many nerves I have settle down.
How did your history major prepare you for advanced studies?
It took a few years and some conversations with LFC professors I’ve remained friends with over the years but I did go for my graduate degree. I knew I wanted a similar experience to Lake Forest – small school, involved professors. I’d really been spoiled for anything else! I ended up going to Simmons College in Boston and earning my Library and Information Sciences degree with a concentration in archives.
Many of our students worry that traditional liberal arts majors (particularly in the humanities) will not translate to job skills. Share your advice.
I think the big thing to remember about Humanities majors are that they focus on teaching you how to think. That was especially true of my experience at Lake Forest. The Humanities are about flexible thinking, applying that flexibility to any situation that comes up, and trying to take it to the next level. A good Humanities major leaves college with the ability to look at things and see possibilities, not limits. In many ways History, or any Humanities major, is preparing you for life because you will be able to look at any problem, any job, any project and say confidently: I may not instantly know the answer, but I know something better. I know how to arrive at the answer. Show employers that skill, enthusiasm, and flexibility. That’s how any Humanities major translates to job skills and that is, above anything, what employers want.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
First off – I’d say go for it! Following your interests and instincts will never steer you wrong when it comes to careers. Ask questions of people already in the field – you at least know a few librarians at school you can talk to! Volunteer or do an internship in the area you think you’re interested in to get a better feel for the reality of the field. But also make sure to try something a little out of your comfort zone. Whether that’s a class or an internship, something that you don’t think you can use or are interested in can surprise you by turning into exactly what you want to do with your life. No matter what, be open to new ideas and don’t limit yourself to one path or one vision. I never thought I’d be interested in working in a museum – I wanted to be at an archive at a school or historical society. Then I started working in a museum and thought I’d never be interested in (or good at!) designing an exhibit. Now I’m the Head Curator at a museum, responsible for designing and building exhibits, and I can’t imagine being happy doing anything else.