What Can You Do With a History Major (Or, What Can You Not Do?)
History has been among the most popular majors for W&L students for many years. Anywhere between 30 and 45 students graduate each year with a history major. Some of them have an additional major or minor. Their career paths are very diverse, ranging from law to various kinds of private business, education, government service, journalism, health care, religion, arts, entertainment, and other areas. The chart below illustrates the distribution of alumni over a ten-year period among various professional fields.
|Private Legal Service||27|
|Other Private Business||17|
|Finance and Accounting||12|
|Government (including attorneys and military personnel)||8|
|All Other Areas||16|
Examples of Alumni and their Professions
Below is a sampling of thirty of our history majors from the past several decades that highlights the wide variety of careers they have pursued. Women were first admitted to W&L in 1985; hence, they are not included among the oldest alumni in this listing. This information is current as of October 2017.
- John McCardell ('71) attained his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1976. He is the Vice-Chancellor of Sewanee: The University of the South and president emeritus of Middlebury College. He is the author of The Idea of a Southern Nation.
- Mark Bradley ('78) received his M.A. in modern history from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and a J.D. from the University of Virginia. He is the Director of the National Archives Information Security Oversight Office, which is responsible to the President of the United States, and is the author of A Very Principled Boy: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior.
- Darryl Woodson ('83) is editor of The News-Gazette, the weekly newspaper published in Lexington, Virginia.
- Ty Seidule ('84) completed his Ph.D. in history at Ohio State University. He chairs the History Department at the United States Military Academy and is the author of The West Point History of the Civil War.
- William Toles ('92 and '95 J.D.) is a trial lawyer and partner with Fee, Smith, Sharp, and Vitallo, LLP in Dallas, Texas.
- Blair Hixson Davis ('94) received her Ph.D. in art history from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She has taught for the UC system at its Santa Barbara, Irvine, and Riverside campuses.
- Leland R. Miller ('98) is President of China Beige Book International. He attained his M.A. in history from Oxford University and J.D. from the University of Virginia. An expert on China's financial system, his work is featured regularly in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The South China Morning Post, and elsewhere.
- Stephanie Wolfe ('99) completed her J.D. at Vanderbilt University. She is an attorney for Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti, LLP, and is Director of Breakaway Prep in Morristown, New Jersey, which is a large tutoring and counseling collective for high school students.
- Robert Ludwig ('02) attained his J.D. and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia and is an associate with the law firm Linklaters, LLP, in London.
- Kara Coen ('04) attained her J.D. from the University of Virginia. She is Director, Assistant General Counsel at Capital One Financial Corporation in Bethesda, Maryland.
- Leila Kia ('05) received her M.D. from Georgetown University and is a board-certified gastroenterologist and internist, as well as assistant professor, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.
- Suzanne LaFleur ('05) completed her M.F.A. at The New School and is the author of five children's novels.
- Charles Fagan ('06) received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Notre Dame and is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University.
- Lisa Zevorich Susner ('07) completed her Ph.D. in history at Ohio State University and is a historian at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.
- Morgan Hill ('07) attained her J.D. degree from Harvard University and then an M.A. degree in Italian Language and Culture from Middlebury College. She is an associate at Shearman & Sterling, LLP, in London.
- Jacob Geiger ('09) is Director of Strategic Communications for the Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry Forest, Virginia.
- Alexandra Locking ('09) completed her Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina and is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow and assistant professor in the Social Sciences Collegiate Division of the University of Chicago.
- Wesley O'Dell ('09) attained his Ph.D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University and is a visiting assistant professor at Washington and Lee University.
- Lynn Bazzel Wilmoth ('10) is a teacher at Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Charlotte Cornbrooks ('11) received her M.A. in higher education management from Boston College and is Coordinator for Resident Management at Villanova University.
- Claire Elder ('11) served as a research consultant on the Horn of Africa at the United States Institute of Peace and attained her M.A. in security studies at the University of Sussex. She is currently completing her DPhil in politics and international relations at Oxford University.
- Andrew Reynaldo ('12) received his M.D. from the University of South Carolina and is a resident physician at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
- Julia McCormick ('13) attained her J.D. from the College of William and Mary and is a judicial law clerk of the Superior Court for the Third Judicial District, State of Alaska.
- Isaac Webb (‘13) watched the Ukrainian Revolution unfold in 2013-2104 as a Fulbright Scholar in Kyiv, Ukraine, and covered the momentous event as a correspondent for several news outlets. He later earned his M.A. degree in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at Stanford University and is now pursuing his J.D at the University of California at Berkeley.
- Jonathan Cahill ('14) is working toward a Master of Divinity Degree at the University of Chicago Divinity School. After graduation in spring 2018, he hopes to be ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and work as a hospital chaplain.
- Mark Sowinski (‘14) is a financial associate at Moelis & Company investment bank in New York City.
- Elizabeth MacGregor ('16) is an analyst for the hedge fund Varadero Capital, L.P. in New York City.
- Jinae Kennedy ('16) is a senior associate for the health-care consulting firm Advisory Board in Washington, D.C.
- Kelly Douma ('16) is pursuing her Ph.D. in history at Penn State University.
- Max Stanley ('16) works with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia.
The Career Development Center maintains extensive resources to help you with career choice, internships, networking with alumni, job placement and graduate school. They stress these two tips for History majors:
- Employers are looking for intelligent graduates who can think and write well. The study of history at W&L builds analytical thinking and clear effective communication — marketable skills!
- Your job searches are helped immeasurably by
- a clear statement of what you want to accomplish and contribute, and
- evidence that you have engaged in meaningful employment and/or internships.
The Alumni Association offers many Career Resources for students and alums.
- Official W&L LinkedIn page - explore careers of 12,000 + alumni.
- W&L Alumni LinkedIn Group - for alumni and W&L seniors.
- Get Connected: The W&L Student & Alumni Career Network - for alumni volunteers and all W&L students
- Twitter: Follow @wlualum - for alumni and students to get a pulse on industries of interest and build their Twitter networks.
- Colonnade Connections: For alums to search for each other
Developing a career as a professional historian?
Check The American Historical Association's publication Careers for Students of History which "discusses employment options in the classroom, museums, the publishing industry, archives, historic preservation, and government."
The AHA also publishes a webpage of links to employment advertisements and general information on Careers in Public History (careers as an historian outside of teaching).