Alumni and Careers

The major and minor in history provide students not simply with a "useable past," but also with the skills to cope with an ever-changing world. The value of a degree in history is evident in the wide range of occupations our graduates have pursued.
Katie Bank 2005

Katie Bank

Class of: 2005

Location: London, UK

Major(s): History, Music

Minor(s): English

PhD, Royal Holloway, University of London, 2016 MMUS, King’s College London, U. of London, 2011 Certificate in Music Education, Holy Names College, 2009 MAT, University of Southern California, 2007 BA, Bowdoin College, 2005

First, can you tell us about your musical background?

Though I sang in a good choir and dabbled in musical theater in high school, I didn't begin studying music formally until my first year at Bowdoin. Music Theory 101. I took extra ear training classes in my first year to try to catch up.

Can you describe the research you did for your PhD at Royal Holloway?

My dissertation, "Music and Minde: Knowledge Building in Early Seventeenth Century English Domestic Vocal Music" (2016), is an interdisciplinary investigation into the role of music in the development of metaphysical thought in late-Elizabethan and early-Stuart music. It considers contemporary understanding of the mechanics of sense perception and the way music presented questions about the relationships between the mind, body, passions, and soul, drawing out examples of multi-voiced domestic music that explicitly address topics of human consciousness.

Basically, I argue for how music can contribute to our understanding of the ways contemporary awareness was shaped and structured. Drawing insights from musicology, the history of ideas, the history of science, and literary theory, my research elucidates the relationship between the texts and practice of domestic music making, linking this repertoire to the developing changes in approach to knowledge that mark the seventeenth century as one of the most pivotal eras in Western intellectual history.

What was your capstone project at Bowdoin? Did this project carry forward into your PhD research?

As I was too busy planning the Bowdoin Chamber Choir tour to California, I did not pursue an honors project at Bowdoin. I did, however, write an Advanced Independent Study with Mary Hunter on Thomas Weelkes's madrigal "Thule, the period of cosmographie" (1601). Not only does this piece play a central role in my PhD dissertation, I'm also in the process of publishing an article on the madrigal that includes themes first observed in my undergraduate work.

What are the most challenging aspects of a career in Musicology?

The most challenging aspects of a career in musicology are similar to the challenges of any academic career, though particularly others in the humanities. The hardest aspect of being an early-career academic, for me, has been its impact on my personal life. Multiple short-term contracts can have you and your family moving all over the country, often places you may not choose to live. I’m lucky to have an understanding and supportive partner, but unfortunately the nature of his career means he can’t move with me each time I get a new post, so it has involved protracted periods of long-distance marriage. Other challenges include the lack of job security, balancing family and work life, and maintaining access to healthcare in the US.

How did you decide on a Social & Historical Context concentration?

Until senior year, I was an English and history double major with a music minor. Given I didn’t start studying music formally until college, I found it an extremely challenging course of study. But by my final year I accepted that even though it wasn’t easy, it was where my true academic interests resided. In the end, I double majored in Music and History and took English as a minor.

Who was one professor in the Music Department who really inspired you or had a big impact on your time here?

Interestingly, the person who had the most lasting impact on my academic career was a professor that was already Emeritus by time I started at Bowdoin, Elliott Schwartz. I never took any classes from him, but we premiered a series of his compositions in the Bowdoin Chamber Choir and I got to know him through that process. When I decided to apply for grad school, he went way out of his way to support me - he read my work and gave me feedback, wrote letters of recommendation, and listened patiently when I was having insecurities and needed an ear. Elliott was one of the most generous educators I’ve ever met.

Can you describe a highlight from your time in the Bowdoin Music Department?

My first year, I sang in the Bowdoin Chorus with Tony Antolini and we went on a once-in-a-lifetime choir tour to Siberia. Back in those days, the Bowdoin Chorus was essentially a community ensemble that involved a wide-range of people. In some of the places we sang in Siberia, it seemed the whole town took a day off work to come hear this little (but mighty!) chorus from Maine.

What other aspects of the Music Department or the Bowdoin music scene were you involved in?

Though I sang in the Bowdoin Chorus and Bowdoin Chamber Choir, 90% of my energy as an undergraduate went towards my a cappella group, Ursus Verses, which was started by singers in my year. I was business manager for about 2.5 years which involved raising money, planning visiting groups and tours, producing our first CD, Reverse the Urse, and many, many hours of vocal arranging hits from the early 00s (with occasionally dubious voice leading).

Were there other academic departments at Bowdoin that you participated in to further your research?

My current research strongly reflects my undergraduate study at Bowdoin as a music/history double major with an English minor. For example, I often turn to early modern fiction, such as the plays of Shakespeare or Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, to historicize contemporary English music in its cultural and intellectual framework. This type of work most certainly draws on my training in three departments at Bowdoin. I distinctly remember a professor in one of my PhD interviews commenting that my undergrad background was particularly apt for the project I proposed.

What advice would you give a student who is considering a Social & Historical Context concentration?

If you want to major in music, go for it. In my experience, the major does not restrict you to a career in music. Any of the liberal arts humanities subjects teach you critical thinking and effective communication, which are probably the most important and transferable skills learned in college. Though I’ve ended up in musicology, I’ve also been successfully hired for jobs at start-up companies, in events management, arts administration, teaching, and other fields. Moreover, I’ve found my extra-curricular achievements from undergrad, such as planning tours and leadership roles, more relevant to my ‘adult’ CV than I ever imagined at the time.

Steve Shennan '12

Steve Shennan

Class of: 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

Major(s): Classics

Minor(s): History

I’ll be starting my Classics PhD at Harvard in the fall; my Classics major at Bowdoin prepared me for every step along the way. After graduating in 2012 with a major in Classics and a minor in History my first job was as a research paralegal, a role in which I worked primarily on patent litigation and tax law. At first blush the two fields seem unrelated, but as I settled into my work I found that the same skillset I had honed as a Classics major transferred very neatly into legal reading; the careful attention to language and word choice, the importance of thorough research to inform conclusions, and even the parsing of fine grammatical distinctions all proved useful to me in the legal world. After some thought I chose not to pursue law school, and decided to try my hand in a more interpersonal role in business.

How have you applied (or not) your Classics major in your field of work?

Over the past year I’ve worked as an associate at a Portland-based consulting firm serving primarily nonprofit clients, and in that capacity I’ve had the good fortune of working with a number of fantastic organizations across a variety of Maine communities. It’s been challenging – and fun – in a different way, with a stronger emphasis on general organization, attention to detail, and strong writing skills; again, Classics had prepared me well. A few evenings a week, I would also make a trip up the coast from Portland to work in a special capacity as a Latin tutor for a local private school.

In addition to keeping me engaged with the Classics, my job as a tutor helped me to brush up on my language skills. This proved crucial, as I ultimately made the decision to pursue graduate study in the Classics. The department was tremendously helpful throughout the process, from the first exploratory discussions through to the end. I relied on Bowdoin’s faculty to guide me during the application cycle and, when good news came, in evaluating my admission offers. I came out of the process with a dream-come-true scenario.

Molly Porcher

Molly Porcher

Class of: 2013

Major(s): History

Knowing that after graduation I want to be involved in public schools, getting Maine State certified through Bowdoin Teacher Scholars is the perfect beginning to what I hope is a long career in education!

Where was your placement?

Casco Bay High School (Portland, ME)

Subject area: 11th grade Social studies

Why Education?

I’ve been interested in teaching long before I came to Bowdoin. In fact, beginning as early as middle school I envisioned myself as a teacher—I even kept notes on lessons or activities from school that I particularly enjoyed, imagining that I would one day use them in my own classroom! As someone who sincerely enjoys connecting with others and thrives off of communication, I always thought of teaching as the ideal profession. At Bowdoin, my education courses widened my perspective and challenged my assumptions; they forced me to see teaching as far more complicated and the role as teacher as far more nuanced (and difficult) than my younger self had always imagined.  But my coursework also reinforced my desire to be a teacher; it expanded my reasoning for wanting to teach from a largely abstract desire to a defined understanding of what was important in the classroom and the crucial part that teachers play in shaping this learning environment. Through one class at Bowdoin, I had the opportunity to work individually with a high school student who was struggling in class and at risk of failing. Her trouble lay in transition to a new school, trouble at home, and difficulty processing in the traditional classroom environment. My experience with her reinforced the mantra that every student can learn and that individual student needs are highly important. Although she has since graduated and is taking classes at a local community college, we are still close today and see each other often, a constant reminder of why I want to teach. Now confident that I want to go on to be a teacher, Bowdoin Teacher Scholars provides an amazing opportunity that allows me to pursue my long-time goal of being a teacher while still supported by the Bowdoin community and the Bowdoin education department. Knowing that after graduation I want to be involved in public schools, getting Maine State certified through Bowdoin Teacher Scholars is the perfect beginning to what I hope is a long career in education!

ALUMNI UPDATE:  Molly has recently moved to New York City following a year as an Inclusion Associate at Codman Academy in Boston.

Melanie Tsang

Melanie Tsang

Class of: 2013

Major(s): History, Russian

My studies of Russian and Russian literature fulfilled the Offer of the College for me in many ways. I can think of no better way “To be at home in all lands and ages”, as former President of Bowdoin William DeWitt Hyde promised, than by cultivating a genuine appreciation for another culture and the history with which it is intertwined.

About Me

My studies of Russian and Russian literature fulfilled the Offer of the College for me in many ways. I can think of no better way “To be at home in all lands and ages”, as former President of Bowdoin William DeWitt Hyde promised, than by cultivating a genuine appreciation for another culture and the history with which it is intertwined. The critical lens and thoughtful approach to examining problems that I developed through my studies of the central philosophical debates in nineteenth-century Russia (specifically in the 19th Century Russian Literature course with Professor Raymond Miller) not only informed my intellectual explorations as an undergraduate, but also enabled me to creatively solve problems in the workplace at the digital media and technology firms I worked for in New York City in the four years following my graduation, and continue to guide my current interests in the field of international affairs. Thus, the lines “To carry the keys of the world’s library in your pocket / And feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake” truly resonate with me. My studies with the Russian Department encouraged me to continually challenge myself to produce original analyses on topics related to enduring theoretical and social questions, and I believe this experience provided me with invaluable critical thinking skills that helped me advance the organizations I worked for, both in the setting of a small team at a start-up and on a large team at a subsidiary of a publicly traded corporation.

At present, I am entering the field of international affairs and public policy. I completed a Master of International Affairs degree at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), with a dual concentration in International Security Policy and Economic Policy, in May 2019. A couple of summers ago, I interned at the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the Office of Europe and Eurasia. My internship experience was particularly fascinating for me because it brought together the numerous dimensions of my studies at Bowdoin, as well as my professional work, and illustrated to me the interdisciplinary nature of policymaking. I believe that my studies at Bowdoin helped prepare me well for this experience. In the future, I look forward to continuing to learn and contribute to U.S. policymaking as it relates to Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet states. As of March 2020, I am employed as a Social Science Research analyst at the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, New York, NY.

Andi Noble

Andi Noble

Class of: 2015

Major(s): Hispanic Studies, History

Minor(s): Education

On my very first day of Education 1101 during the fall of my first year at Bowdoin, I was exposed to at least five other types of school experiences, and I was hooked. I left each class thereafter full of new perspectives, ideas, and questions.

Why Education?

Prior to Bowdoin, my education experience consisted only of my rural schooling in western Wyoming. To me, my small, homogeneous local school was representative of most schools in the United States. It was the only thing I had ever known, so I never questioned it. On my very first day of Education 1101 during the fall of my first year at Bowdoin, I was exposed to at least five other types of school experiences, and I was hooked. I left each class thereafter full of new perspectives, ideas, and questions. It was those lingering questions that kept me going back and fueling my curiosity for the American education system.

The following year, I took Education 2203 (Educating All Students), which gave me the opportunity to observe and be a part of a fifth grade classroom. It was there where I was first able to see theory put into practice. Since then, I have had the great opportunity to take Education 2265 (Using the Environment to Educate), Education 3325 (Mindfulness in Education), and finally Teaching and Learning and Curriculum (Education 3301/3302)—all of which have furthered my desire and passion to teach with their time spent in schools, engaging discussions, and preparation for a confident future in education. Each class has been unique, but each has contributed to my overall formation as a learner and as a future teacher. I especially value the local school engagement component part of my classes, as it provides a unique opportunity to witness different teaching and learning techniques and build close connections with the Maine community.

The capstone of my experience in education at Bowdoin has come through my time in Teaching Learning and Curriculum (Education 3301/3302). This past semester, I have spent well over 40 hours in an 8th grade Social Studies classroom as an active observer and participant. The excitement I get each morning as I navigate through the bustling hallways and into the challenge of teaching in the classroom is something I can’t shake.

My time in my education classes at Bowdoin has inspired me to pursue education in other forms as well. I spent the fall semester of my junior year studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina. While there, I worked as an English tutor in a trilingual school (Spanish, Italian, and English). I was grateful to have the confidence and knowledge that I gained from my education courses to be able to teach in this situation, and I have gained so much from bringing that experience home with me and expanding upon it.

These past four years have exposed me to educational experiences far beyond my own—in Maine, the United States, and beyond. I am not sure where my education path will take me next as I prepare to graduate in the spring, but I go with the guidance and preparation that has been given to me by all the amazing professors of the Education department. I know that I will keep asking questions as we work toward the answers of education in our country today, and I can’t wait!

Jennifer Goetz ‘15

Jennifer Goetz

Class of: 2015

Major(s): History, Russian

Without Russian at Bowdoin, not only would I not be able to pursue the career of my dreams in academia, but I also would have missed out on countless adventures and friendships.

About Me

I graduated from Bowdoin in 2015 with a major in Russian and History. Since starting out in Russian 101 my first year, I have made it to Russia three times and have become engrossed in its history, literature, and language. My junior year of college I went abroad with ACTR to St. Petersburg, where I stayed with an amazing family that I’m still in touch with. After graduating, I accepted a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Ulyanovsk. There, I discovered an incredibly warm and generous community that welcomed me and made me feel at home within Russian culture. In 2017 I started a history PhD at Columbia University, leading me back to Russia in the summer of 2018 to do archival work in Moscow. None of this, from the research and reading in Russian to the connections I’ve made each trip, would have been possible without the enthusiastic instruction and support of the Russian department throughout my time at Bowdoin.

After taking Russian 101, I never looked back. I’m so grateful for the experiences my Russian education has given me: taking a trip on the Trans-Siberian, dog-sledding at Baikal, eating home-made syrniki in near-strangers’ homes. Without Russian at Bowdoin, not only would I not be able to pursue the career of my dreams in academia, but I also would have missed out on countless adventures and friendships.

Tom Read

Tom Read

Class of: 2015

Major(s): History

Minor(s): Education

Throughout my practicum, I collaborated every day with my team of teachers and developed new curricula with the intent of giving each student as personalized a learning experience as possible.

Where was your Student Teaching placement?

Deer Isle-Stonington High School, Deer Isle, Maine

Following my graduation from Bowdoin in May of 2015, I moved to Deer Isle, Maine and worked at Deer Isle-Stonington High School as a paraprofessional until shifting into my student teaching practicum there in Spring 2016. I was able to teach two different courses in U.S. History. One of them covered traditional content, while the other was a team taught, interdisciplinary effort that was part of the high school’s offerings in their Marine Studies Pathway. Entitled “U.S. History Through the Fisheries,” the course sought to integrate skills and content knowledge of history, English, and marine trades. Throughout my practicum, I collaborated every day with my team of teachers and developed new curricula with the intent of giving each student as personalized a learning experience as possible. While I leave my student teaching experience with knowledge of how to develop better lesson plans or modified assessments, perhaps my most important take away is to remember the process of reciprocal transformation that occurs with teaching and learning. In order for learning to take place, I must first remember to ask not what I have to offer my students, but what we have to offer each other.

Why Education?

I first began to think about a career in teaching after my sophomore year of high school. I had always been a “good” student in the sense that I achieved high grades and was very studious. That year, however, my history teacher became the first to really challenge me to embrace failure and to get out of my learning comfort zone. His approach to teaching and assessing history was far different than anything else I had encountered to that point in my life – he made me actively bring the learning to him, rather than having me be a passive agent in the classroom where he imparted knowledge of the content onto me. After taking his class, I was hooked on history with a new sense of excitement and ownership of how and what I could learn. From that point on, I began to think that becoming a history teacher would not only allow me to continue exploring a subject that I found fascinating and exciting, but more importantly it could give me the opportunity to inspire students to develop confidence as learners in the same way that my teacher did for me.

At Bowdoin, I have taken advantage of opportunities provided to develop an understanding of and skills in educational policy, philosophy, and practice in a wide range of contexts from urban to rural. I took part in two Alternative Spring Break trips focused on learning about urban education, one as a participant in New York City, and another as a trip leader in Washington, D.C. For my pre-practicum experience, I was placed in a tenth grade Civics and Government class at Falmouth High School in a suburb of Portland, Maine.

Eduardo Jaramillo

Eduardo Jaramillo

Class of: 2017

Major(s): Asian Studies, History

Studying Chinese language at Bowdoin was both a challenging and a rewarding experience. My classes at Bowdoin have improved both my conversational and professional Chinese speaking skills, and have vastly expanded my ability to read and write in Mandarin. The Chinese Department has also helped me to take advantage of some incredible opportunities off campus, including a Chinese speaking competition in Boston, a Middlebury study abroad program in Kunming, and a summer internship in Kunming. Furthermore, the Chinese Department is a close-knit community that allows students to develop close relationships with professors and classmates.

Brian Powers

Brian Powers

Class of: 2010

Location: Boston, MA

Major(s): History

Brian Powers is a graduate of the class of 2010 from St. Louis, MO. At Bowdoin, he majored in history. He graduated from the joint MD/MBA program at Harvard in 2017, and is currently an internal medicine resident at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

More About Brian

Brian left Bowdoin knowing that he wanted to be a physician, but also that he wanted to better understand the health care system, and how it was changing. After graduation, Brian moved to Washington, DC and began working at the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), supporting their Leadership Consortium on Value and Science-Driven Health Care. While at the NAM, he developed a strong interest in the organization and financing of health care delivery. To further develop these interests, Brian enrolled in the joint MD-MBA program at Harvard.

Julia Rogers, class of 2008

Julia Rogers

Class of: 2008

Location: San Francisco Bay area

Major(s): History

Minor(s): Biology

Julia Rogers (Ledewitz), Bowdoin class of 2008, is Facebook’s first Global Sustainability Lead. Graduating with an environmental studies and history coordinate major with a minor in biology, Julia went on to pursue a job at MIT, a master’s degree in environmental engineering and planning, design engineering consulting, and finally, her current work at Facebook. From the beginning of her freshman year, Julia was set in the environmental studies track.

What you can do with a coordinate major in Environmental Studies

“My mom's an architect and my dad is a law professor who has spoken a lot about law and the environment, so I think I was a little set up for that track coming in,” said Julia, “it certainly was one of the reasons that I ended up selecting Bowdoin in the first place... their extraordinary environmental studies program.”

Julia took environmental studies 1101 in the fall of her freshman year, and quickly integrated herself into the program. A particularly meaningful class for her was an environmental history course taught by Professor Matt Klingle. The class introduced the “people component” of environmental studies, and set Julia up for thinking about the interactions of cities and society which influences her current interests.

In the summer after her first year, Julia received the Gibbons IT Fellowship to assist Professor Klingle, and Eileen Johnson with developing GIS mapping and georeferencing for some of his research. The following summer, she pursued a Kappa Psi Upsilon Environmental Fellowship with the Maine Energy Investment Corporation, where she researched renewable energy on many different scales. A particularly meaningful experience was interviewing Maine fishermen and starting a dialogue about using biodiesel in their boat engines.

“'s much harder to talk to people who are not from your background… who are working out on the water with their hands every day for their livelihood and their family's livelihoods. Reaching across that kind of boundary was unlike anything I've ever done,” said Julia.

After Bowdoin, Julia went on to pursue her interest in building sustainably built environments. Immediately following graduation, she went to work for MIT’s facilities department where she learned how buildings and campuses are designed and how they use energy and water. This work as a facilities engineer showed her how to interact with this system every step of the way. During her work, she also earned her master’s degree in planning and engineering from Tufts.  After MIT, she began consulting as a sustainable design director for two different engineering firms. While leading these engineering teams, though, she desired something more reminiscent of her earlier work.

“The thing that brought me to Facebook was the desire to work with the whole system. I had really gotten away from that since my days at MIT,” said Julia, “When you consult, you consult on the design of each project; every day you're working on individual projects, but I rarely worked on a building through completion and occupancy.”

As Facebook’s Global Sustainability Lead, she now works on workplaces and workplace design, which necessitates a holistic approach. The job encompasses the “whole circuit,” working with facilities, development, waste, water, and people.

Reflecting on her time at Bowdoin, she does have some advice for current students.

“Get a project under your belt whether it's a GIS project with a professor, or whether it's a Psi Upsilon fellowship (with the Environmental Studies Program), or an internship… go do something! Try to apply what you think you know so you find out what you don't know... Don’t underestimate the value of being a really strong communicator, whether through writing, presenting, through any mode possible, communication is really key; that means being an even better listener than talker. The reason I think I've done as well as I have is I've really absorbed a lot from really intelligent people around me.”