From lawyers and CEOs to librarians and researchers, our History Alumni flourish in their fields.

Expand to Hear Their Stories

Lincoln Brennan is an Event Coordinator for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, where he works to manage events in one of the major event spaces on the University of Wisconsin at Madison campus. 

The similarities between my former role in the History Department and environment (overwhelmingly academic, liberal office) are remarkable, and made me feel immediately at home. I will likely pursue a graduate degree here in Madison, either Library Science, teaching, or further History. I think of the History Department often and how fortunate I was to be part of that family. Though my work doesn't involve history (outside of understanding historic departmental antagonisms), not a day goes by that I don't find myself using those skills. I wouldn't be where I am without the History department training and guidance. 

Favorite/Most Impactful Classes: Smaldone's Bolshevik Revolution, Petersen's Women in Medieval Europe, and Cotlar's Historiography.


Reid Bagley '16


I am currently a 2nd Lt., and more specifically a Logistics Officer, in the United States Marine Corps. I’m a reserve officer and my unit is in Alameda California. I will also be going to Okinawa for a year on active duty orders shortly.

I quite enjoyed all my history class at Willamette but was always drawn to ancient history in particular and took as many classes focused on that as I could. I also minored in classics and took a number of classes that applied to both. Professor Chenault, Professor Bachvarova and Professor Boring in particular were great Professors and mentors, especially when it came to my thesis in history and the historiography course before it.

My history degree and experiences at Willamette also certainly prepared me by teaching valuable research and analytical skills that I apply to my job in the Marines Corps all the time when it comes to sifting through and distilling large amounts of information. Additionally the emphasis that was placed on preparing presentations and public speaking, both in my thesis and in many Willamette history classes was very valuable. Knowing how to write in a professional manner and compose my thoughts well on paper was another key if basic skill that is vital to writing orders and other documents that are well organized, clear and concise.

I think the history department at Willamette was quite encouraging of public service and the values that come with it and was quite supportive of my application to officer candidate school. Professor Chenault, Professor Boring, and Professor Bachvarova all wrote letters or recommendation and encouraged me to pursue the path I’d chosen.

I have served as the Chief Operating Officer at Metro since 2011. Metro is the only regional government in the United States with a home rule charter and an elected council. It was created in an era of civic innovation in Oregon, a very unique time in our state's history. I've worked in public service in some of the coolest places in the Northwest since graduating from Willamette, including Ashland, Milwaukie, Albany, and Portland. I also had the chance to work for the Columbia River Gorge Commission and for U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield. I have a passion for working on what I call the "quality of life dilemma." In other words, the things that make a community a great place to live and work attract growth; and population and employment growth bring new energy but also change the quality of life. History helps me look at the events and decisions that have brought us to where we are. It helps me analyze the stories we tell about who and what we are as a people, as communities, and as organizations. Those stories frame our world view, our choices, and our future. I still avidly read history, although now I mix it up with fiction, current events, and a few management books.

fritz holznagel

"Willamette's high writing expectations, far higher than those at large state universities, prepared me well for writing standards in a doctoral program."

I am an assistant professor of political science at the University of Tennessee. As a Willamette University history major, I gained great analytical and writing skills that served me in graduate school and also in my future profession. Willamette's high writing expectations, far higher than those at large state universities, prepared me well for writing standards in a doctoral program.

I am an educator at Youth Progress Association in Portland, a non-profit alternative school that serves youth who have been involved in the juvenile justice system or removed from their homes by DHS. Our youth have experienced much trauma; however, we give them access to all the services they need, including a place to live and an opportunity to catch up on their schooling. We offer a safe and supportive school environment that bridges the gaps in education that most students come with to YPA. I have the privilege and opportunity to create and teach my own curriculum (based on PPS guidelines) that allows students to become critical thinkers and transition into traditional schools or work force.

My time at Willamette, especially with Professors Ellen Eisenberg, William Duvall, Leslie Dunlap, and Rebecca Dobkins, taught me an historical perspective and critical thinking skills, as well as helping me tap into my abilities as a lifelong learner, teacher, and mentor. I think fondly of my time at Willamette and have great appreciation for being given the opportunity to grow as a student but also as a person. Professor Eisenberg, Duvall, and Dunlap gave me insight into historical avenues I never imagined. I truly enjoyed pouring over primary sources and extracting from secondary sources as I wrote my final thesis. My passion for history has helped me become an enthusiastic educator of Social Sciences but also English Language Arts and Fine Arts because there are so many crossovers among these subjects and endless opportunities to teach multidisciplinary courses.

While working with Professor Dobkins, as a student in her class, but also as a tutor/mentor at Chemawa Native American Boarding School, I learned about the cultural and historical impacts on populations of people. That understanding motivated me to learn the skills needed to work with at-risk minority students. Professor Dobkins and the students I worked with at Chemawa taught me the greatest lesson and skill that I use every day with students: patience and silence. Giving students a safe environment where they can share their experiences or vent their frustrations is critical. Creating this safe environment is an on-going process of community building, modeling kindness, patience and humility; it's okay to admit when we are wrong or don't know something. I am so grateful for that lesson.

"My time at Willamette, especially with professors Ellen Eisenberg, William Duvall, Leslie Dunlap and Rebecca Dobkins, taught me an historical perspective and critical thinking skills, as well as helping me tap into my abilities as a lifelong learner, teacher and mentor."

James Cuno

"History makes me see events in context and better understand that things change over time."

I am President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, a large cultural institution dedicated to the greater understanding and preservation of art, architecture, and archaeological sites around the world. It comprises an art museum with two sites, a research center and library, a philanthropic foundation that advances art history and conservation around the world, and a conservation center that (1) scientifically examines the material properties of works of art and architecture and the effects of the environment on them and (2) trains conservators internationally. I enjoy most the chance to work with interesting and smart people and together make a difference in the greater understanding of the world's artistic legacy.

History at Willamette provoked my curiosity about the world over time and, with great teachers like George McCowen and Bill Duvall, it challenged me to think and write clearly and realize that historical truths are many, changing, and always more complicated than they at first seem. History makes me see events in context and better understand that things change over time. It also helps me understand difference in the world as being contingent on circumstances, most of which are made by humans and can be unmade or changed. Above all, history makes me suspicious of simplistic statements about why things are as they seem to be.

Chris Foss

"Without my History degree I would not be where I am today."

Chris Foss worked at Portland's famous Powell's Books for two years after graduating from Willamette, from 2007-09.

He then attended the University of Colorado for graduate school, completing his Ph.D in history in August 2016. Chris has taught at the University of Colorado, Willamette University, Tokyo International University of America, and at the University of Portland as an adjunct instructor of history. He has written for a variety of scholarly journals, including Oregon Historical Quarterly; and served for two years as assistant editor of Diplomatic History. Chris is currently working on a book manuscript about the relationship between politics and the globalization of the Pacific Northwest during the Cold War.

Yesenia Gallardo is currently mentoring and advising student-led startups as an adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at the PSU School of Business.

"I sometimes wish I had majored in Business or Economics instead of History. But then I think about how hard skills like accounting or statistics are actually pretty easy to learn. What is difficult is the critical thinking: how to be a big picture and big solutions thinker. History at Willamette made my mind both expansive and sharp. It has helped me enormously in all the work I currently do. I am an entrepreneur and build businesses with a triple bottom line approach--businesses that do good for the planet, people, and also make a profit. Often, my projects also focus on equity and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups. It is challenging and rewarding to hold these seemingly oppositional ideas (capitalism and social justice) move each forward together. But this sort of thing is exactly what the History degree set me up to do! I can use a lens of critical race theory to examine a project: is it perpetuating justice or reifying racism? Who is served and who is (isn't) being represented? And then also think: Will this make money? If so, how much and when?"

I graduated from WU in 2016 and went to graduate school immediately after, ultimately receiving an L.LM in International Affairs from Peking University and an MSc in International Affairs from the London School of Economics. Now, I'm working as the Communications Director to the UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, Forest Whitaker. My history major has been very helpful, both in my graduate studies and in my current work, because it helped me hone research skills, an ability to critically analyze texts, and write in a succinct manner.

I loved many moments and classes, but if I had to pick a handful of particulars, I'd have to note that I took every class I possibly could with Professors Smaldone and McCaffrey. I really appreciated how much they pushed me academically and helped me think critically.

Fritz Holznagel

"History isn't really the study of the past at all -- it's the study of the future."

I write web and marketing copy for Google and other high-tech companies, and in my spare time run the biography website with fellow WU history major Paul Hehn ('82). History at Willamette is where I learned to think and learned to write clearly, and it's where I learned that the study of history has real-world applications. Indeed, since I graduated in 1983, the whole of American political discourse seems to have been devoted to re-fighting the Federalist battles of the 1780s about just how strong the federal government needs to be. For me, reading about history is always a pleasure and never gets old. History isn't really the study of the past at all -- it's the study of the future.

I am working on my PhD in Literature at the University of California, Davis. My dissertation research focuses on eighteenth-century writings about unsettled climates and their relevance to current models for thinking through the global climate crisis. My interest in environmental literature can be tied directly to Professor Wendy Petersen Boring's classes on medieval Europe, which helped me grasp the real-world applicability of historical research. Willamette has cultivated a special interdisciplinary community for environmental studies, and the history department is a big part of that.


When I graduated from Willamette in 2015, I took a job at as a marketing coordinator at a nonprofit here in Salem. After working there for two years, I decided desk work wasn’t for me, and began training as a birth doula in Portland. As a doula, I provide emotional, physical, and informational support to people through pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. I’ve been working as a doula since 2017, and loving every sweet minute of it.

As of 2019, I embarked on the pre-midwifery student track and plan to attend midwifery school in the next couple of years. Many of the people I work with in the medical field have history degrees. Having an educational background in history allows you to understand human experiences (like birth) in a broader, more compassionate way. I believe my time as a history major opened up my mind to the reasons the world around me functions the way it does, and why we learn the things we learn. Professor Bianca Murillo and Wendy Petersen-Boring were especially fundamental in teaching me to be a critical thinker. Professor Petersen’s class on Women in the Medieval Era was essentially my introduction into the wild ways of birth work, I just didn’t know it yet!

Ryan Johnston news clipping
I am currently working in the Alaska State Legislature as a Legislative Aide for a Rep from Anchorage, AK.  Willamette's History department taught me that as a historian you must be able to empathize with the past. You don't have to agree with it, but you must be willing to see the world from another person's mindset. Working in politics requires me to use empathy every single day. I have learned that especially in politics there is not enough empathy shared between groups. Being uncomfortable is a part of this job and life in general. The history department taught me that I should always try to be learning and that you cannot live in a vacuum.
There are two memories that sum up my time in the Willamette History department. The first was during my HIST 131: French Revolution class. The class started at 8:00am three days a week, which led to some rather low energy class participation at times. One particularly slow morning, out of nowhere Professor Duvall slammed the desk and yelled, “How are you all not interested? Come on! There’s sex, prostitution, political corruption and violence!” I was sitting rather close to him and I was wide awake after that! Professor Duvall was always pushing us to look for the deeper meaning, to ask "Why?" Willamette's history department did that as a whole -- pushed us to ask questions and come to our own conclusions. There was no spoon feeding in Eaton. 

I am in my fifth year of teaching high school History and English in Tacoma, Washington. I work with diverse and low-income students, and teach a blended humanities course in addition to advanced placement world history.

I decided I wanted to teach as soon as I took my first history class at Willamette from Ellen Eisenberg. Realizing that history class could be about stories, about people, about things that surprise you, made me want to tell those stories to kids. As I continued my history major at Willamette, I was exposed to more stories and was able to develop serious critical thinking, reading, and writing through the fascinating and engaging history courses taught by Wendy Petersen Boring, Cecily McCaffrey, Bill Duvall, and many other Willamette professors.

As a teacher, I love telling the wonderful, unexpected stories that I learned at Willamette. I continue to research new aspects of history and investigate new unexpected anecdotes about women, people of color, and under-represented groups. I use the skills I gained at Willamette to make history engaging for my students, to help them gain skills to become ready for post-secondary education.


I am a high school humanities teacher at a very cool charter school in Redmond, Oregon. Every day of work is an opportunity to help young people develop their understanding of the world around them. I earned a Master's of Arts in Teaching right out of Willamette. The program was only 10 months long, so I was teaching a year out of my undergrad.

My History education at Willamette had a profound and lasting impact on how I view the world, understand my place in it, and choose to live my life. I sincerely believe that every Willamette History major should seriously consider a career in elementary or secondary education. In many ways the profession encapsulates the teachings of the department and the ethos of the school’s motto. Sure, your excellent Willamette University History Department education prepares you to talk about History to young people, but more importantly it prepares you with the social consciousness, perspective, and empathy to connect with the diverse populations that make up the 21st century student body.

It took the encouragement of professors like Seth Cotlar and Wendy Petersen Boring for me to feel good about my decision to pursue teaching. It is very easy to look up to your professors and want to be like them, but there is an incredible amount of opportunity to do amazing things in a high school classroom. Social studies education, especially on the West Coast, is rich with awesome and compelling ideas to work through with students, all it takes is engaged teachers to make the world a better place.

Aubrey Means.jpg

I am in the middle of a graduate program through the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, where I will obtain my Masters in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies in 2020. I am focusing on nuclear nonproliferation policy, and currently am taking a leave of absence from school to work as a nuclear researcher on the VR-1 research reactor in Prague, Czech Republic.

I am extremely thankful for my WU History degree, which regularly applies to my graduate work and career. A knowledge of world events, particularly throughout the 20th century, is integral to my work in other countries and cultures. The world my generation faces is a very different one than that of our parents; I think that knowing where we came from, and how society came to the place it is today (for better or worse) is required in order to be able to improve our future. In my case, studying the nuclear arms race and political dynamics of the Cold War greatly influences how I am approaching nuclear policy in my own career. I am particularly grateful for the mentorship and support I received from Professor Smaldone throughout my Willamette education, and his awesome classes on Russia, Germany, and eastern Europe which are proving very relevant now that I live in the Czech Republic!

I know that one course in the History department impacted my life forever.  During my final term, I took Professor Eisenberg’s “History through the Archives” course for my thesis credit.  This class opened my eyes to the world of archives and museums. This class we toured local archives and learned about the kinds of materials stored there and how to ask for them.  These tours and the countless hours spent researching at them for my thesis caused me to discover my love of behind the scenes work at archives and museums. After graduating, I started volunteering at a museum in Portland because I missed spending my days thinking about and being surrounded by history.

My volunteer work led me to pursue a Master’s in Museology at the University of Washington. I am still in the early days of my career in the GLAM field (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums), but I know that my History major set me down this path and prepared me well for grad school and archival/museum work.  Every day I work with historical objects and conduct research into them- when was this photo taken? Where? What can it tell someone in the future? When I studied History at Willamette, I often asked: “what do all these various sources tell me when I put them together?” Now, working in an archive, I am now asking that question in reverse- “can this one object tell a story to someone?”

Brandy O'Bannon

"My history degree and my liberal arts studies at Willamette helped make me a better reader, a better writer, and a better person."

I am the Senior Resource Development Director at Family Building Blocks [in Salem, OR].

I enjoy the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young children & their families in Marion & Polk counties. I’m blessed to work with a talented and creative team of colleagues, donors, board members and volunteers.

I liked the excellent professors, small class sizes and diverse curriculum at Willamette. History is not just “the past” – by studying history, we can influence the present and future for the better. My history degree and my liberal arts studies at Willamette helped make me a better reader, a better writer, and a better person.

I’m devoted to helping maintain the historic integrity of Salem, my home-town. I’m on the Board of the Lord and Schryver Conservancy. This is a group who is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the legacy of Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver – two pioneering women landscape architects who lived and worked in Salem but who had an important national influence as well.

Bob Reinhardt

I am an Assistant Professor of History and Internship Coordinator at Boise State University. I teach in the history of the American West, environmental history, public history, and the history of public health. As internship coordinator, I help students find meaningful work experiences, and I also do a lot of community outreach and engagement in my role as the department’s public history/community liaison.

I have an MA in history from University of Oregon and PhD in history from University of California, Davis. Studying history at Willamette helped me understand that there are multiple interpretations of the past — and present! — but not all of those interpretations are equal. We can discern not just the quality but also the truth of a position through the skills of research and analysis that we develop as historians. These skills are not just useful to historians. Of course, employers value (and want to put in charge) people who have skills in research, analysis, and communication. But, more importantly, I really do believe that the world would be a better place if we were all a little bit better at doing history — if we knew how to tell meaningful stories about the past and ask and answer the kinds of analytical questions historians ask: why did this happen? How did it happen? What are the effects?

One memorable moment from Willamette: telling Professor Eisenberg that I did not want nor need to study American history. Now, of course, I’m a professor of American history!

Tracy Rizzo

"I loved small classes, seminar format, and the close interactions with faculty and peers at Willamette."

I am a full professor at UNCA, former director of women's studies and chair elect of the history dept.

My experience as a history major at WU inspired me to enter the professorate so I could "pay it forward," ie impart to others the brilliant instruction and mentoring I enjoyed. I loved small classes, seminar format, and the close interactions with faculty and peers at Willamette. Now on the other side of the table I still enjoy that kind of learning. What I love about teaching is engaging with developing minds who bring new insights and questions to the study of the past. The study of history continues to open new worlds to me as a researcher and author.


Rob Sargent

I am a real estate business analyst and transaction coordinator with CBRE on the Starbucks Corporate account. I currently work in the Starbucks Corporate office using my skills to negotiate with landlords, investigate real estate prices, and cooperate with property managers.

I recently graduated from law school with an eye towards getting into real estate because that was my passion and a JD was the best way for me to prepare for that future.

I use my history degree every day. To begin with, my job often involves digging into the history of why a certain area is priced the way it is. Moreover, I often present my findings just like I had to for my thesis. In addition, a huge part of my job involves creative brainstorming: I’m often asked to think outside of the box, which only a liberal arts background can prepare you for.

A history degree prepared me to be successful by teaching me to ask questions, to research with passion, to take pride in my work, and to keep an open mind. I benefit from being a history major every day because I show up eager to learn and ready to research until I’ve discovered something new that offers value.

My favorite classes/moments from my time in the major at Willamette were my opportunities to learn from Professor Wendy. Whether it was Crusades, Women & Gender in Medieval Europe, the Zena Farm Summer Program, the Post-Rome Middle Ages class, Medieval Literature, Historiography or my thesis project, Professor Wendy pushed me to work hard, think differently, and be creative. However, the most important lesson she taught me was that the best learners are those who stop to listen first: only then can you observe what you are missing and be a helpful part of any solution.

Rebecca Scofield"The history department at Willamette is filled with innovative and brilliant scholars, who are also wonderful people."

Building on my history training from Willamette, I earned my PhD in American Studies at Harvard University. I was on a fellowship while researching and writing my dissertation, where my research focused on some historical intersections of popular culture and gender, sexuality, and race. I am absolutely thrilled to have a job reading and writing about gender history. The history department at Willamette is filled with innovative and brilliant scholars, who are also wonderful people. They inspired me to believe in own abilities, to continue to research what interested me, and to genuinely care about students.

Colleen Smyth

Colleen Smyth is a High School Math Teacher, with an M.E.d. In Curriculum & Instruction from Lipscomb University. Knowing our past is critical to understanding our present and predicting our future. Studying history developed my critical thinking, sharpened my writing, and helped me empathize without pity or judgment; it gave me context for our world that informs both my personal life and my work as a teacher. I learned to analyze events from multiple perspectives, considering how outcomes are shaped by race, gender, socio-economic status, and more. As a teacher, I apply this skill daily when considering how students perceive the world around them -- from the big issues affecting all of us to the small decisions I make during the course of a lesson.

Amanda Strauss

"I felt like the history department was my extended family."

I am a Research Librarian at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. I enjoy working with a wide range of scholars (undergraduates to tenured faculty, artists, and activists) who are working on projects related to women and gender. It is a privilege to work in a library that is dedicated to documenting and making accessible the rich history of women in the United States. 

Without a doubt, the faculty of the history department [was my favorite part of the department].

The classes were wonderful, but the willingness of the faculty to engage with me outside of the classroom left a lasting impression. Whether we were talking about my thesis, current events, philosophical quandaries, or life plans, the faculty were always there for me. I felt like the history department was my extended family. The introductions to archival research, history theory, and the high expectations for research and writing proved indispensable in graduate school and to my continued scholarship.

I am committed to the idea of the scholar as activist. In a tribute session to renowned historian Gerda Lerner at the American Historical Association’s meeting in 2014, and historian Linda Kerber spoke, recalling Gerda Lerner’s commitment to the idea that history matters. It is socially, culturally, and politically relevant. This idea is what I love about history, and it has informed my career choice of being an archivist and a librarian. My history degree has been important for my career, but it has also made my life richer. I really can’t say enough about it.

Viera Thomsen Book: Turkish Germans

I received my PhD in modern European history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Each semester, I teach two online, upper-level history courses, one in European history and one in global history.

I have good memories from all of the history courses I took at Willamette. I think some of my favorites, though, came from when I took courses that were team-taught. My junior year, I was in Bill Smaldone and Jerry Gray's course on Marx's Capital, and my senior year, I took Bill Smaldone (noticing a pattern?) and Ellen Eisenberg's Holocaust course. In both cases, it was really interesting to see how both professors engaged with the material, each other, and the students, and it was a very rich experience.

I learned a lot about the material in both courses, and I feel like I got a great and immediate example of how different perspectives illuminate different aspects of the same historical event of development. When I was teaching on the ground at New England College, I had the opportunity to team-teach Western Civilization with an art historian, and it was great to be able to create that type of multi-dimensional environment for my students (and myself!) as well.

The study of history has taught me is the importance of a critical, thoughtful approach to information. Arguments are different than opinions, and not all arguments are equally valid. If I want to understand the world around me, I need to approach it with an open mind *and* a critical eye. As a history professor, it's great to be able to draw on so many of the skills I learned as a student in my own classes. The one that I try hardest to encourage in my own students is the skill of civil, evidence-based debate. History as a discipline is, in no small part, about arguing, because the strongest, evidence-based arguments get us closest to understanding the past. Oftentimes, students don't want to disagree with each other, or they feel more comfortable with the idea that "you have your position, I have mine." I want them to learn that a good argument is actually a productive, stimulating, necessary part of understanding the past and the world we live in today.

peyton tracy

"History is always relevant"

I took a gap year right after graduation to work, but next fall I will be starting my Masters Degree in Museum Studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program in central New York. Museums offer a unique situation to teach and preserve history in a diverse and engaging environment, and I'm so excited to learn more about this field. At Willamette, the history department prepared me to enter this field by not only teaching me to be a skilled historian but also to think about history from an incredibly diverse range of perspectives that translate well into considerations museum professionals take in when designing museums and exhibits. History is always relevant and something people can relate to, and seeing visitors in museums make those connections and appreciate the past and their present in a new light is what drives my passion for history and museums.


Tim Walsh

After graduating from Willamette and the Willamette College of Law, I'm now an associate attorney at the Paul Krueger Law Firm in Portland, Oregon. My practice focuses on personal injury law, and I love the fact that I help injured people get the justice they deserve. Studying history at Willamette with professors like Bill Duvall, Wendy Petersen Boring, and Seth Cotlar, absolutely laid the foundation for where I am today. It taught me to critically analyze facts, synthesize those facts into a coherent narrative, and then use that narrative in a persuasive manner - all skills that I use every day in the office and in the courtroom. For me, history is essentially about discovering 'why things are the way they are,' and in today's incredibly complex, constantly changing world, I can't imagine a more important discipline.

Emily Wakild

I am a Latin American History professor at Boise State University. I enjoy teaching students about the value of the past and doing historical research. I write about national parks and conservation so I enjoy thinking about how different people in different times valued nature. I liked how small and intimate the department was but that it nevertheless exposed me to worlds I never knew existed. The professors truly cared what I thought and were committed to helping me analyze new ways of thinking. I always felt challenged and supported.

History is a necessary luxury. It is a privilege to be immersed in historical practice for a career which helps me see the value of history far beyond the classroom. I love how practical this practice is beyond good stories---which draw us all in. Examining change over time, supporting arguments with sources, close reading, juxtaposing perspectives, empathizing with varied views--these are a few critical skills historians use. If scientists, politicians, and business people all thought historically or used these skills--even some of the time -- I'd like to think we would have a more just and equitable world.

I am the Coordinator of Museum Programs for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I oversee the educational programs available to school groups visiting the museum. I get to work with a lot of amazing people and be immersed in an energetic and fast-paced environment every day.

The staff at Willamette encouraged me to forge my own path and follow my own curiosities so that my degree became meaningful to me. It was shaped over my four years at Willamette by my own experiences and interests and pushed me to take ownership over my education.

History is not a degree that led me on a direct career path, but instead instilled important skills like problem-solving and critical thinking that I use everyday in both my personal and professional life. I am also incredibly lucky to be at a museum where each member of the team is passionate about science and history and together we can all "nerd out" at new scientific discoveries, educational practices, etc.


Robin Wright is currently a Doctoral student at University of Minnesota in Geography, Environment and Society.

After working in immigrant rights advocacy and neighborhood revitalization for the last four years, I did a brief stint as the legislative assistant for Speaker of the House Tina Kotek in preparation for my current PhD program in Geography.

While I often get raised eyebrows when I disclose History as my undergraduate major, I became a history major at Willamette due to the passion and care the Professors brought to their subject and their students. I value History because it helps us weave together the politics, philosophy, practices, and people of the past to contextualize and problematize the world as we know it now and wish it to be in the future.


Peter Wyrsch

I am presently a Graduate Student Researcher & Instructor in the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley. I am pursuing my Master of Forestry degree with a focus on fire ecology. Prior to starting at Cal, I received my M.A. in Religion from Yale Divinity School, where I studied religiously motivated land use and values-based conservation. The requested photo is attached (one more serious, one more fun). Both are from the most recent prescribed burn in which I took part at Berkeley's Blodgett Forest Research Station.

A bachelor's in history is a generalist's degree. At Willamette, the structure of the history major gave me the opportunity to explore widely and provided the contextual framework necessary for me to gain fluency in multiple subject areas. Studying with my advisor, Dr. Wendy Petersen-Boring, as well as Dr. Ellen Eisenberg and Dr. Robert Chenault, motivated me to seek out and understand the connections between science, religion, and the lived experiences of people in social and historical contexts wholly different from my own. As I have continued to explore these themes in graduate school and my professional life, I constantly refer back to the lessons I learned at Willamette: always look at the primary sources; seek to understand rather than judge the choices made by different communities; and always remember that Ciceronian insight that "not unto ourselves alone are we born."

Elise Young

"I like that history opens you up to learning about different cultures and perspectives through a framework that presents the facts like a puzzle to be solved."

I am a lawyer and I enjoy the complexity of the problems I am tasked with solving. I enjoyed the variety in subject-matter and the engagement of the professors in Willamette's history department. I like that history opens you up to learning about different cultures and perspectives through a framework that presents the facts like a puzzle to be solved (albeit with many possible answers!).

Excelling in the study of history required that I develop excellent research and analysis skills. These have paid off immeasurably in my graduate studies and career.

Want to See Your Bio Here, or Contact Alumni?

If you graduated from Willamette University and majored in History, we'd like to hear from you!

If you are an alumnus looking to see your biography here, please submit your bio to Leah Bushey ( Please include your first and last name, graduation date, email address. 

To current students: You can contact the Alumni Office ( for more information and be connected with alumni to ask about potential internships, jobs, or informational interviews.

Willamette University

History Department

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.
503-370-6061 voice
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