Alumni Talk About History
A History degree provides the skills and discipline that lead to success well beyond OU. Our graduates have forged careers in education and law. But they have also distinguished themselves in fields as diverse as law enforcement, business, and medicine. We recently surveyed graduates to learn more about how they put their major to work. We were impressed by the many ways they use their training in History. A sampling of their responses is posted below. And please stay in touch; we love hearing from you!
"I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in History, special distinction, in 1985. The interactions with my history professors provided me an exceptional intellectual foundation for my career that has spanned a variety of jobs. The breadth of classes available allowed me to develop a deep sense of the diversity of cultures and experiences around the world and how the history of the regions shaped those cultures. . . . I also had the opportunity to be taught and mentored by excellent professors who expected the best of me and who continue to support me as I have stayed in touch with some over the last three decades. As a professor and now a university president, I aspire to make the same difference in my students’ lives as my professors at OU did in mine."
-Class of 1985, University President and attorney
“I think the most important thing that I learned from studying history was to evaluate things critically . . . In my time as a Marine pilot and an FBI special agent I have done very few complex math problems, never balanced a chemical equation, or dissected a plant. I have been asked to write critically on almost a daily basis and that is a skill that I learned as a history major at OU.”
-Class of 1986, Supervisory Special Agent, FBI
“Studying History will teach you to think in depth. It will also help prepare you to manage all the engineers and accountants who’ll end up working for you.”
-Class of 1967, Manager of large New York City construction firm
“Having a history major has helped me immensely. Not only has it given me perspective when traveling internationally for work, it has also taught me to take a step back and look at the larger picture from different angle ... the biggest component is the ability to listen and understand the stories customers throw at me, while being able to process it and use it in my job, with them, or with other customers…[the history major] taught me to keep asking questions; how to listen intently and extract pertinent information from even them most painstaking accounts. Also how to take all the variables into account when examining how one situation or event affects another.”
-Class of 2008, Sales, Drilling Equipment
“Critical thinking, questioning, logical thinking, all were areas that I feel I learned at OU in a liberal arts curriculum that my friends with functional majors did not receive . . . Today’s world is global, not American. Studying other cultures is a must, not an option . . . Companies look for leaders that are consensus-builders, people-oriented people capable of thought leadership. Isn’t that the type of liberal arts foundation we offer in the history department? Functional people work for us. A history degree is a platform for learning leadership skills by learning about others and their motivations, values, cultures, and their dreams.”
-Class of 1974, President of a Business Consulting Firm, following 25 years with AT&T