To skeptics, history may not be the ideal field of study for college students. But to senior Nataliya Malaydakh and Alena Buczynski ’18, those skeptics couldn’t be more wrong. History majors are some of the most creative professionals, shaping careers in a variety of areas rather than following a distinct career path.
“With a history degree you can go in so many directions, like law school, teaching or working in higher education institutions,” Nataliya said. “It’s a major that offers so many opportunities.”
Alena’s pursuit of a history major has often been discouraged, but she maintains that her choice is valuable to her future.
“I was always told that I couldn’t get a ‘real’ job as a history major, but I knew by becoming a historian I would never be unhappy,” Alena said. “I didn’t want to fall into a major just for a good paycheck. I followed what I knew I would enjoy. Plus, there are about a million things one can do with a degree in history, which makes it a very flexible field of study with a large amount of career opportunities. Being a history major is not a dead-end major, rather, it is a major that you can take hold of and use for a variety of different careers.”
Around the World
Craig Korpela, Ph.D., associate professor of history and political science, explains the benefits of OC’s history program.
“In the history major, students have the opportunity to develop a general knowledge base of United States, European, Asian, African and Latin American histories as well as investigate areas of interest to them with the possibility of earning departmental honors,” he said. “Overall, students gain a greater breadth of knowledge of history and the world around them. Students also learn how to construct a research question, develop a literature review, analyze research data and draw conclusions.”
Not only will students explore the past in this program, they are also preparing for the future. They will develop communications and critical thinking skills and gain a greater understanding of the administrative, archival and public relations processes. But Olivet’s history program doesn’t stop there.
“Students have the opportunity to engage in travel study and work in Olivet College’s archives,” Professor Korpela said. “They also benefit from faculty members who are able to provide one-on-one attention.”
Plus, the program is full of unique learning opportunities such as weekend trips to Chicago, Mackinac Island and Detroit. There, students learn from primary sources and extend their knowledge outside the classroom.
Delving Into the Past
To Nataliya, history is an incredible journey.
“History, to me, is a collection of stories — events that are full of adventures and mystery,” she said. “Each story is inspiring and compelling. And through my classes, I’ve learned that history repeats itself. In seminar, we share current events and connect them to historical events.”
Alena stresses that skills outside of historical information are just as important as the historical knowledge itself. With the help of her professors, she’s improved her technical skills as well.
“Like with any major, history majors are expected to give quality presentations about their research,” Alena said. “By doing this for three-and-a-half years, I gained great public speaking skills that I did not have before, and I now feel extremely comfortable explaining my own research in front of an audience. History majors also do a large amount of reading, which was something I was very bad at my freshman year. Reading wasn’t my strong suit, but it is now. There is no way around reading as a history major. Researching through primary and secondary sources is a big task and it takes a lot of reading comprehension to fully process what is helpful to your topic. Of course, along with the research comes the massive amount of writing that is required of a history major. We have to tell the world what information it is that we find and explain why it is relevant and important.”
Teacher Knows Best
Nataliya agrees that the history major offers so much more than what one may think, and she credits her professors with her growth.
“History gave me opportunity to develop great research skills as well as analytical thinking,” she said. “My professors, in particular Dr. Korpela and Nancy Beers, adjunct professor, inspired me to constantly learn more.”
Like Nataliya, Alena believes in the wisdom of her professors and has grown throughout the years due to their expert guidance.
“Aside from the mass amount of history they have taught me, the most valuable lesson I have learned is to trust the professors and their curriculum,” Alena said. “The professors, especially those who have taught for quite a while, know what works and what does not for the majority of students. They will not make you do ‘busy work’ or meaningless assignments. Even though an assignment may seem that way to students, it is always important to take it seriously because they are always meant to help you, not hurt you. This lesson was so valuable to me because it taught me to change my mindset about things that I viewed as less than helpful and turn them into something I can actually learn from and enjoy.”
Nataliya and Alena are already on the road to making history as they plan for their careers post-graduation. Nataliya plans to attend graduate school and study international law or student affairs. Alena will be attending Western Michigan University this fall to pursue her master’s degree in North American History with a specialization in the 19th century. After earning her master’s degree, she hopes to pursue her Ph.D. in North American History at the University of Michigan. Following her continuing education, she aims to teach part-time at a university while also serving as the director of a museum.
With the knowledge they’ve acquired from the history program, Nataliya and Alena are more than prepared for their futures.
Alena sums up the program concisely.
“History is a blast, and OC’s program is like no other.”