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NEWS & EVENTS

Alumni Spotlight Interviews

Karen Cox

Karen Cox, M.A. 1988

Dr. Karen Cox is an award-winning historian who has authored three books and many articles and essays about Southern history and culture and has written op-eds for publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. She is a professor of history at UNC Charlotte. Her latest book is Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South.

  1. When did you first develop an interest in history?

    My interest in history may have first developed when my mother bought me and my brother a set of the World Book Encyclopedia; it was a great source of inspiration. I think the first time I realized how intrigued I was by history was in the 8th grade at Allen Junior High School in Greensboro. I had a great teacher whose enthusiasm inspired my own. I think my first paper was on Thomas Jefferson.

  2. What do you value most about your history degree?

    What I value most about it is that it gave me a broad knowledge of the world and different cultures, as well as about the vast differences among people and what motivates them to act, or stay silent, during a particular historical moment in time.

  3. How would you say that you have used the skills and knowledge you developed as a history major in your career? These can be in your day-to-day activities or in long-term planning and/or strategizing your professional path.

    I knew that I wanted to be a historian, regardless of what that looked like. I took courses that first prepared me to become a public historian and my first professional job was with a museum. In addition to working at museums, I've also worked in special collections and for a non-profit in Washington, DC. I also worked in a for-profit heritage marketing firm. Of course, now I'm a professor of history. Throughout, however, studying history has meant that I don't jump to conclusions, but think critically about a problem. History has also been important to making me a good writer. Never underestimate the importance of good writing. It will take you places!

  4. What advice would you give a graduating history major setting out in today's job market?

    History majors should market themselves as critical thinkers who can problem-solve AND who can communicate informed responses to problems as writers and speakers. These kinds of skills are useful in a variety of jobs--from business and government to the non-profit sector.

  5. What advice would you give a first year student considering majoring in history?

    Do what you love. If history is what you love, then make it your major. Fill it in with other kinds of classes, of course. Learn some digital skills, for example. Also, by all means, get yourself an internship. It gives you experience, skills, and adds to your professional network. Whatever you do, do not run away from a history major because your parents don't think you'll find a job. That's simply not true. Over the course of their lives, history majors often have very fine careers.

  6. Is there anything else you would like to share with our students about your passion for history and/ or its relationship to your professional experience?

    I have had one of the most rewarding careers because I majored in something I love: HISTORY. I've met fascinating people, traveled to interesting places, and held jobs in a variety of workplaces where I've been able to engage with history. I cannot tell you how many people I've met in my life who said they wished they'd majored in history. Don't be one of those people.


Rebecca Lowe

Rebecca Lowe, B.A. 2012

Rebecca Lowe received a B.A. with disciplinary honors in history and anthropology. She is currently a park ranger at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, NC.

  1. When did you first develop an interest in history?

    When I was a child I had a history coffee table book that was a survey of world history. I would read different sections and write essays on the topic. I was also fascinated by National Geographic and discovering different cultures. These early experiences set me on the path for enjoying history classes from elementary through high school and taking the initiative to contact professors at UNCG to discuss the possibility of a history degree.

  2. What do you value most about your history degree?

    My Bachelor's degree in history from UNCG, and my Masters in Public History from NCSU provided a strong foundation in historical theory and established the importance of a person's agency whether historical or current. I also value my connections with the professors who recognized my interest in pursuing a history career professionally, and that they took the effort to guide me towards a career. Take the time to visit your professors in their office hours, and learn about their journey. Take a leap to develop a project with them! I worked with Dr. O'Brien to research the Iroquois Nation's involvement in the American Revolution, and he brought an entire microfilm collection to the Jackson Library permanently.

  3. How would you say that you have used the skills and knowledge you developed as a history major in your career? These can be in your day-to-day activities or in long-term planning and/or strategizing your professional path.

    I use my skills of historical interpretation and research, as well as my knowledge of historical time periods from my studies at UNCG in my position as a Park Ranger Interpreter with the National Park Service (NPS). Thanks to the knowledge I developed about different time periods, and the historiography I was exposed to, I can combine my degree and field experience to interpret history to different age groups.

  4. What advice would you give a graduating history major setting out in today's job market?

    Strongly consider applying to federal and state government history jobs. Even though these are competitive, you will be placed into a broad network of people, and once you make a great impression and develop strong ties for your coworkers, they will help you look for work in the field. As a seasonal park ranger with NPS, I have to move from one park to another, and it is very difficult to get your foot in the door on your own, but thanks to my coworkers and supervisor I know that I have a greater chance to succeed because of networking. To successfully place in a federal position, say with the National Park Service or other Department of Interior (DOI) agencies, you can consider a pathways internship with DOI while in school.

    Most importantly, BE FLEXIBLE! Realistically it will take a long time for you to find a position and move up the ladder, but that is ok! By volunteering and interning, and then in your first paid position, you will develop critical skills that will take you higher in the field. Also consider pursuing a Masters Degree, but only when you are 2000% sure that you are ready to take your studies further, and that it will pay off in your professional career.

  5. What advice would you give a first year student considering majoring in history?

    As soon as you begin your classes and college career find a volunteer position or internship with a museum, library, historic park, anything related to your major, or consider a school club! Not only will you begin creating your skills in networking, you will be exposed to different ideas, interesting theories and practices, and you will begin developing an idea of what you want to do in the future with this degree.

    History is not a fluff degree! With these skills you will build through the UNCG history program you will find it easier to become more engaged in society, and offer historical insight to current events and issues. You can use these skills in plenty of jobs, but if you want to be a historian, you absolutely must explore the field to know what you want to to do, and how that will effect your life in terms of cost of living, job availability, etc. You can look at these federal and state agencies websites or go to Volunteer.gov to look in your local area. Be willing to look at youth programs such as the Student Conservation Association, where you might be working a bit outside of your field, but you could spend the summer in a new place gaining special hiring authorities to apply to a federal career.

  6. Is there anything else you would like to share with our students about your passion for history and/ or its relationship to your professional experience?

    History has always been my first love, and I am thankful to be in the Public History field because I can create historical conversations with the public and the volunteers I manage. I believe in shared authority where the historian collaborates with their audience to interpret and discover history. As a historian, it is my civic duty to empower the public and my volunteers to explore the past and the present. Looking back I wish I had known about federal historical agencies and began my volunteer experience sooner. Also, I've learned from my field experience and from my degree that you can't always reach people through books, so it is important to explore other methods of interpretation. If you have a passion for history, and you want to connect with people no matter where you may live or how long it takes to get to where you want to be, pursue this path and you will feel the reward when you connect with audiences, students, and your coworkers.

Archived Alumni Spotlight Interviews

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