Graduate Student Alumni

Jennifer Reidel

Headshot of a smiling woman wearing a jacket, a pink shirt and a strand of pearls.

Our featured alum is Jennifer Reidel (MA History 2007). She is a civics and social studies teacher at Options High School in Bellingham, Washington. During the 2019-20 year, she is in Washington, D.C., as the Library of Congress’s Teacher in Residence.

How long have you been a teacher, and what is your favorite part about teaching?

I have been teaching Social Studies for 23 years. What energizes me is when I am able to connect content to a previously disengaged student who then begins to ask questions and ultimately is invested in their learning. I am most passionate about teaching Civics, US History, and Law. Collectively, knowledge of these three subjects have the power to effectively equip students to positively impact their world.

Congratulations on being the Library of Congress’s Teacher in Residence. What are you going to be doing during your year in DC?

Thank you, I am still pinching myself wondering if it is real! My position entails several duties. First, I will be digging into the Library collections and curating digitized primary sources educators can use to illustrate civic principles. I am writing lesson plans developed specifically for Civics and US History teachers and blogging monthly in Teaching with the Library of Congress to highlight primary source activities centered on Civics. Secondly, I will assist with teacher professional development sessions at national conferences and teacher trainings at the Library. And lastly, as Civics educator, I will contribute to the work of the Library in determining how its collections and resources can effectively and intentionally support civic literacy.

How did your graduate work in history at Western help prepare you for your work?

During my time as a graduate student in the History department, my paradigms and narratives of history were broadened. Our cohort was pushed to consider how class, race, gender, and sexuality influenced the recording and telling of historical events. Those discussions were not always comfortable, but they gave me a foundation to teach in today’s political climate and a framework to view my work here at the Library. In addition, as a master’s student in the History department, I drastically improved my researching, writing, and editing skills. Each of these I use on a daily basis as the Teacher in Residence.

What is the coolest thing you’ve learned or seen while in DC?

Hmm, where to start? The fact that I have easy access to original artifacts of history daily blows me away. But, so far, I have had two lasting experiences I will never forget. The first one occurred at the end of the National Book Festival on Labor Day weekend. I had bought the most recent young adult book written by Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson. I had the chance to meet, hug, and be encouraged as an educator from a voice of history! The other amazing experience was that I got a tour in the closed stacks of the Manuscript Reading Room at the Library of Congress and was able to see an original copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech. The next day I visited his memorial and stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his vision for a better America. Life for a history teacher doesn’t get much better than this!

Learn more about Ms. Reidel’s work.


Jeffrey Meriwether

A man stands in front of a shelf of library books

What year did you graduate?

BA 1995

Where did you get your degree?

WWU

What was your major?

History

What year did you get your MA History from Western?

MA 1997

Why did you pursue an MA in History at Western?

Familiar with the program; very comfortable at Western; worked well with faculty.

What are you doing now? How did you end up where you are?

Professor of History and Associate Dean of Humanities, Arts, and Ed; Roger Williams University. Applied at RWU in 2001 after finishing PhD at University of Exeter.

How did your MA in History help you achieve your goals?

Truly animated my passion for History and learning. Also helped me develop a taste for the academy.

What advice would you give students considering an MA in History?

Think historically; focus on what energizes your love for History.

What do you think we need to know to improve our program for future MA students?

Target transferrable skills.

If we contacted you, would you consider having your story shared on our website?

Yes, of course! I would be honored.


Wes Ricketts

A man with a close cropped beard and trimmed mustache smiles at the camera

What year did you graduate?

BA 2001

Where did you get your degree?

WWU, College of Arts & Sciences

What was your major?

History

What year did you get your MA History from Western?

MA 2006

Why did you pursue an MA in History at Western?

As an undergraduate in WWU's history department, I enjoyed reading and writing about topics that interested me. I didn't know exactly how I wanted to turn my education into a profession, but I loved the work. After earning my BA, I decided to pursue my MA to further my research, analysis, and communication skills and dive deeper into my intellectual interests.

What are you doing now? How did you end up where you are?

I'm currently semi-retired, i.e. I consult part-time for two online media and marketing companies and build my own websites on the side. After finishing my MA in History, I marketed my skills and talents as a researcher, writer, and editor. This helped me land my first post-WWU job as an editorial associate for a Silicon Valley-based online media company. From there, I earned a position as the company's managing editor and then editorial director. After five years, I branched out with two colleagues to start my own online media and marketing company, serving as vice president and senior vice president for 6 years. We recently sold our company to a Seattle-based first, after which I retired and decided to consult and travel.

How did your MA in History help you achieve your goals?

Three things really stand out here: Research, intense writing, and verbal/presentation skills. The foundation of good writing and editing is research. As I entered into and progressed through my editorial career, being able to track down and use primary and secondary sources was invaluable. It helped me stand out from the other editors at the company, most of whom focused on copyediting and prose. The intense writing of the MA program also helped tremendously. Learning and honing my skills with argumentation (theses and support) and crafting a coherent and engaging narrative set me apart from the journalists I worked with after grad school. And finally, the lengthy presentations, while painful at first, were key to helping me develop as a presenter and leader.

What advice would you give students considering an MA in History?

Focus on the skills you obtain! Over the past decade, I've seen so many resumes from history graduates that simply list the courses they took and their areas of interest. If a graduate is continuing his or her academic track to a PhD or trying to earn a teaching position, that's great. But if they're leaving academia and trying to land a position in business, marketing, media, etc., hiring managers want to know what they can actually DO. Highlight research skills, writing/editing skills, presentation ability, etc. Companies want to know how a candidate can help them improve the bottom line now, and that usually comes in the form of specific skills.

What do you think we need to know to improve our program for future MA students?

Similar to #5, focus more on the skills. When I was in the program, primary focus was on the materials, with secondary focus on the skills. With more emphasis on skills learned, I bet the department would increase enrollment.

If we contacted you, would you consider having your story shared on our website?

Sure.