History Alumni Success Stories

Western Washington University Alumni

Cecily Janzen, History BA 2013

I felt compelled to share about my degree experience even though it may not be what 20-year old students expect to hear...

I graduated in 2013 and then did a Master's in Teaching, intending to teach history for my career, but due to some serious life events shortly after graduation, this just wasn't possible and I had to shift my priorities away from my career for a few years. Without any connections or meaningful experience, pursuing that line of work was just not going to happen. 

However - today I am working in healthcare as a patient care coordinator. I have been in the medical field now for 5 years and am now working on my MBA to pursue clinical leadership. This may not sound like it has anything to do with a history degree but my degree serves me EVERY day at work and as a graduate student. A degree in history teaches you to be a pro communicator because you have to read and write so damn much. You must be able to describe your position with clarity and evidence. You must be able to read large amounts of material in a limited amount of time and actually understand it. History also teaches you critical thinking of course! Understanding your own bias, and that of others, and picking out what information is useful and what is chaff you can ignore. At its core a degree in history may not be a hard science or a professional program that will give you a license for hire, but the academic rigor of WWU's program means that its graduates are set up with skills that will help them be successful in ANY career that they choose to pursue, and also any further studies. The two master's programs I have done in my time since graduating have been LESS rigorous than my BA in History and I think that's a real compliment to the program, and means that its students will thrive in graduate school of any type if they so choose, as well as in their working life. 

Thanks for reading. Always grateful for everything I learned at WWU.

Cecily Janzen
Becky Richardson standing in front of bookshelves. Becky is wearing glasses, a blue top, and a black cardigan sweater.

Becky Richardson, History BA 1996

I graduated from Western with a BA in History in 1996 and completed the coursework for my MA in History with a Certificate in Archives & Records Management (ABT) between 1996-1998. I am currently a public librarian managing a branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library but have spent time as a Research & Instruction Librarian, Assistant Professor, at Murray State University, KY, where I was the liaison to the Departments of History, Sociology, Political Science, and Psychology. I was also the Government Documents librarian, and I spent over a year as the interim University Archivist. I would say that my degree laid a definite foundation for my love of research, and those first couple of deep delves into census materials has cumulated into an ability to decipher the information needed when conducting the quantitative studies, I wrote about for publication while pursuing tenure. A whole world of data science has opened up, and I have jumped in with both feet using the foundation built within my history classes at Western. As I mentioned, I am currently working in the realm of public librarianship, but I find that the ability to decipher census results are just as important in this role as it was prior because it helps me to better understand the community I serve and to provide them with the services they need.

Becky Richardson