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Alumni Voices

History majors and minors at Saint Louis University acquire skills that transcend studying history: how to find and evaluate evidence, think critically, write forcefully, develop and present original insights about individual experiences, society, culture, and many of the systemic challenges facing the world. They carry those skills into a wide range of careers.

Ask any of our graduates in fields from business to non-profits, from health care to start-ups to education how they use their history degree, and you’re guaranteed to hear a story about how the humanities turned them into life-long learners, inquisitive, curious, and capable of responding quickly to a changing world. Studying the past has transformed their futures. 

Meet some of our outstanding alums.

Sarah Gianni for web

Sarah Gianni

Current Job Title: Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) M.A. Student at Northwestern University; Social Media Coordinator for the Labor and Employment Relations Association
Field: Public Policy & Administration; Labor Relations
Graduation Year: 2015

Sarah's Story:
I've worn several different hats since graduating from Saint Louis University. I started in immigration law, then switched to local government, where I worked for nearly three years on a range of projects. I worked on the Youth Association, handled business licensing, and assisted in general human resources matters. After attending my first master's program at the University of Illinois, I interned with the National Labor relations Board in Chicago. While there, I assisted in union certification/decertification of elections, learned more about the NLRA and legal research, sat in on case decisions and took initial affidavits. Now, I'm working working part-time as the Social Media Coordinator for the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) while completing my second master’s at Northwestern University. LERA brings together scholars, government officials, union leaders, and businesses to discuss new findings and issues in the field. After I graduate in September, I’ll be looking for career opportunities in government. 

What skills did you learn in your history degree that advanced your work?
 In terms of skills that I have been able to apply after graduating, learning how to research and find primary sources has been extremely helpful. Also, building the confidence to read dense texts and understand complex concepts or topics also really mattered. 

I find it critically important to understand the past to know the present and be a better public servant. One needs a clear understanding of history to know how issues were dealt with in the past, what worked, and what did not. Studying history also helped me understand the context in which laws were created and to project into the future how needs and values could change over time. My years at SLU showed me how different disciplines can be brought together to paint a better picture of the whole. History, political science, and international studies all came together to provide a deeper understanding of each individual subject. In graduate school, I’ve found both my labor relations master’s program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and my public policy/administration program at Northwestern incorporate elements of those subjects. Essentially, SLU encouraged me to be curious and explore different subjects, which in turn has allowed me to develop a more robust skillset and knowledge base. 
Why did you choose SLU for your undergraduate education?
My mom encouraged me to take a look. Upon visiting, I really appreciated getting to meet with faculty in in the history and political science departments. They were so friendly and helpful in terms of describing the programs, and even gave good advice based on my career interests. Furthermore, I found SLU students were so much more friendly than any other campus I visited. I remember walking around campus by myself following a tour and students would smile and wave without even knowing me. I didn’t find that anywhere else. I had never been to a private school or Catholic school before, so it wasn’t really on my radar, but I’m so glad I chose SLU.

What were your favorite places on campus? Where did you spend most of your study time? 
I loved sitting at the pond near the Samuel Cupples House. It was always so serene, and a great place to read for class. I also enjoyed chatting with friends on the steps near the Clock Tower. During the winter, I spent most of my time studying at Pius Library. I’d get a tea from Argo, and then go to the third floor and pick a table near the windows facing the Freemason building because I loved the architecture. When I had time for a nap, I found the best place was the hammocks outside the Busch Student Center.

Which SLU faculty were most formative in your education and most helpful after graduation?
Dr. Mark Ruff had a great impact on me, and I really enjoyed how in-depth he made his classes. He always treated us as professionals in our own right and discussions were high-level and interesting. I enjoyed going to his office hours to discuss topics like ethics, classical music, and current events on campus, in St. Louis, or in the world at large. I was involved in the No Confidence Movement, as was Dr. Ruff, and that movement proved a formative event in my life. It helped spark my interest in labor relations and fueled my desire to pursue a career where I could help impact labor policies.

Have you stayed in touch with fellow history students since graduation?
Absolutely! The history program was always a great place to meet students with similar interests, and I actually met my husband (a history minor) during my second-semester world history class with Dr. James Naus. The friends I made in the history program are still my close friends today—two stood up at our wedding.

Do you have any advice for current SLU students?
Take advantage of the classes available. Anything that looks interesting, go for it. You never know what may spark your passion.

Leo for web

Leo Holtz

Class of 2020
Brookings Institution

"This spring, I have been working as a research intern at the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development department, specifically working in the Africa Growth Initiative. I have had the opportunity to assist with research pertaining to the application of emergent technologies in smallholder agriculture and election integrity in Africa. My work on these initiatives culminated in drafting sections of congressional testimony for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. The experience has been a fantastic opportunity to apply and showcase my analytical, research, and writing skills, which studying history at SLU has been so instrumental in refining.

I encourage any SLU history students interested in assisting with important public policy research to check out Brookings internship program. The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington DC, supports pragmatic and innovative research to solve problems at the local, national, and global levels. The Institution has been praised for its enduring role in shaping public policy and fostering intellectual integrity and honest debate. The application process is fairly open ended, so make sure you relay your passion for the department and their research. 

After my internship, I intend to leverage this experience to seek out work as a research assistant and then attend graduate school. Although I do not plan on a graduate program in history, the skills and insights I have developed as a history student will be invaluable to whatever I do in the future.”

Kevin for web

Kevin Kosman

Current Job: Federal Judicial Law Clerk
Field: Law; Government
Graduation Year: 2015

Kevin's Story:

My father is an attorney, so I became interested in law while I was growing up. Taking pre-law classes at SLU helped solidify my interest. I loved studying history, and I thought going to law school was probably the best way I could get a job in a field I enjoyed. A lot of other pre-law students were majoring in political science. While there is nothing wrong with that, students should not feel they need to study political science if they are interested in going to law school. The reading and writing skills I developed studying history gave me an excellent foundation for law school and having an interest in the historical context in which law develops made all the law school reading slightly more bearable.

Once I was in law school, a judicial clerkship seemed like the obvious next step. Most judges have one career clerk—or a clerk who works in the judge’s chambers long term—and one or two term clerks who work for a set period, usually one to two years. By the time I was in my last year at law school, I knew I wanted to go into litigation eventually and work for the government. A term clerkship seemed like a great way to get experience in both areas relatively quickly out of law school. I currently work as a term law clerk for a federal judge. While it differs slightly from judge to judge, law clerks are generally responsible for assisting judges in researching and drafting memoranda, opinions, and orders.

I really enjoy the amount of independence and responsibility my job offers. Compared to some of my former classmates, I have been able to work on a wider variety of issues than many new attorneys. I also really enjoy my coworkers. My judge’s chambers are a pretty tight-knit group, so I know everyone I work with and get to draw on all their experience when working through a problem. 

Why did you choose SLU?
When I was a junior in high school, two of my teammates on our school’s rugby team went to SLU. Another student a year ahead of me went on to win SLU’s Presidential Scholarship. They helped put SLU on my radar, so when a SLU representative visited my school, I was already interested in applying. Going through the scholarship and financial aid process, SLU quickly emerged as one of my top choices in terms of affordability, reputation, and opportunities.

What were your favorite history classes?
Dr. Warren Treadgold’s class on the Byzantine Empire was probably my favorite class overall. Dr. Treadgold is a fantastic lecturer and his class prepared me the most for my junior year study abroad experience at Blackfriars Hall in the University of Oxford.

Dr. Silvana Siddali’s U.S. Constitutional History and Dr. George Ndege’s Africa Since 1884 courses as well as Dr. Mark Ruff’s European History seminar were also really enjoyable and prepared me for the amount of reading and writing I had to do in law school.

In addition to your junior year abroad, what activities did you pursue while a student at SLU?
I had a work-study job in the law school’s library and would often stay there to study after my shift. I was an active member of Alpha Delta Gamma Fraternity during my time at SLU. I was also a member of the honors society, the mock trial team, and the rugby team.

Do you have any advice for current SLU students?
I encourage students who are not from St. Louis to take advantage of the city while they are at SLU. Even if it doesn’t feel like it as an undergraduate, St. Louis is a very livable city with more affordable or free attractions than other cities. Spots on campus I would encourage students or visitors to visit, if they get the chance, would be Queen’s Daughter’s Hall in the old law school building and the Pere Marquette Gallery in DuBourg Hall.

Might you share one powerful memory or lesson from a history class at SLU that has stuck with you?
One salient memory is researching my seminar paper in the University of Chicago’s archives. Another is presenting an essay I wrote under Dr. Siddali’s supervision for the 2014 Jesuit Restoration Student Research Symposium—which was probably one of the more nerve-wracking things I did as an undergrad. One of my most enjoyable memories from SLU was when Dr. Ruff hosted our seminar class for dinner at his house.

What is your favorite history book?
In terms of historical fiction, my favorite book is probably I Claudius, by Robert Graves. As to non-fiction, it is much harder to name a favorite, but I have recently been working my way through Ron Chernow’s Grant, which I have really enjoyed so far.

Megan for web

Megan Niemeyer

Current Job Title: Marketing Communications Specialist, Americas
Field: Marketing
Graduation Year: 2017

I work for a science-based company and I'm convinced I would not have been chosen for the job if not for the writing skills I picked up as a history major. One of my all-time favorite classes was Dr. Mark Ruff's reformation class. He encouraged my writing and researching like no other professor, and I really benefit from that in my career now. Marketing is about research and writing every day. There are SO many potential jobs to do when you are talented at writing, speaking, and researching. History majors build all those skills on a daily basis!

I currently do marketing for a company that makes feed ingredients for livestock. Over the past two years there, I have done promotional email campaigns, graphic design, social media, collateral and customer events and trade shows. Before that, I worked for a politician as a staff assistant and digital media coordinator. I chose this field because I have a passion for connecting with others and writing. I knew I didn't want to be a history teacher (people always ask that question when you're a history major).

I chose SLU after I sat in on a history class! The academic rigor of the history program was something rare about SLU that I found lacking at every other college I visited. The Jesuit values of SLU went hand-in-hand with a higher standard for academic integrity and pride in education. I knew my focus was going to be American history, and after meeting Dr. Lorri Glover, I knew SLU was the best possible history program for me! Even though I chose SLU to learn American history, most of my classes weren't about that at all! I took a wide range of classes from the French Revolution class with Dr. Jennifer Popiel to Dr. Filippo Marsili's Asian history classes.

Dr. Popiel's class remains one of my all-time favorites. She made history fun again with challenging role-playing games instead of memorizing dates and disjointed stories.

My advice for any student would be to visit professors during office hours. It really builds relationships. I think of Dr. Schlafly practically every week and the lessons he taught me about history. His courses were the hardest history classes I took by far. I never doubted myself so much as I did in his classes. I took his biographies senior seminar during my last semester as my third class with him. During that time I went to his office to talk about my senior seminar paper on Elie Wiesel. It was then and ONLY then, that I realized he was so tough because he truly cared about his students and wanted to mold them into the best possible versions of themselves. I think that was the turning point and I really pushed myself from there. During college, it is easy to get caught up with homework, student organizations and social activities. Taking the time to build lasting relationships with your professors allows you to have mentors throughout your life, helps you find jobs, build new skills, and excel in classes.

Ann for web

Ann Slusher

Current Job Title: Law Graduate (currently studying for the bar exam)
Field: Law
Graduation Year: 2015

While visiting SLU as a prospective student and falling in love with its campus, the range of courses in the History and Anthropology departments impressed me immensely. After becoming a major, I especially enjoyed Professor Filippo Marsili’s China and Japan to 1600, and a number of classes I took from Professor Michal Rozbicki. He played a formative role in encouraging me to pursue my intellectual passions, and I was so grateful I had the opportunity to take classes with him. He encouraged a historical understanding from a broad perspective, which helped students identify biases in primary and secondary sources. The History Department at SLU provides students with a variety of learning experiences and I was fortunate to travel to Roscommon, Ireland with Professor Thomas Finan for two summers to participate in his archaeological field school program. My experiences in the history and anthropology departments at SLU helped me to develop a love of research and a passion for social justice, which prepared me for law school.

I am currently studying for the bar exam, but I have spent the last couple of years working for an immigration law firm in Chicago. My work primarily includes research for an immigration and criminal law treatise, and a handbook for immigration lawyers. I was interested in immigration and public interest law after volunteering with asylum seekers in the years between my undergraduate study and law school. Many of the skills I learned as a History major were useful for law school. An understanding of, and a curiosity for, historical context was critical for understanding cases, treaties, and foreign policy. I am passionate about my field because I have seen firsthand how an administration’s policy decisions can personally impact many lives.

My advice for current history students is to broaden your horizons after graduation when searching for a job. I did not know that my history and anthropology degrees would lead me to law school, but the knowledge and skills gained in undergrad can be applied to many fields.

My favorite place to study was outside in the garden in between the Cupples House and the clock tower when it was nice outside.

I am so fond of all of my memories at SLU. Say yes to every opportunity that you can, enjoy the rich history of Saint Louis, and seek mentorship from the excellent faculty at SLU. The time goes by very fast, so enjoy it!