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Alumni

The Dana Porter Library under construction in 1964

University of Waterloo Library. K-W Record Photographic Negative Collection

History Matters!

As alumni and friends of the History Department, you understand how critical knowing the past is to comprehending the present. Please tell us how you share your passion for history in your current career and stay in touch so that you can join us in building a network of committed historians. Using the past to build the future benefits everyone.

Stories From Our Alumni - Where Are They Now?

Graduate: Amber Southwick
Year graduated: 2011
Program: BA Honours History and Religious Studies
Current position/title: Teacher
Current employer: Grand Erie District School Board

“After my graduation from Waterloo, I was accepted to York University's Catholic Educators Program, through which I earned my Bach. Of Education. Four years at Waterloo, where expectations are high, gave me a great advantage over my classmates at York. I found the program incredibly easy, and graduated with an academic reward scholarship.

I was hired by Halton Catholic District School board before graduating teachers college. I graduated with honours in 2012 with teachables in History and Religious Studies for the intermediate-senior grades division. In 2015 I went back for my Primary Grades qualifications through U of T’s OISE. I have done a lot of travelling since graduation: Hawaii, Cuba, London England, Amsterdam, Krakow Poland, Rome, Naples, and Paris. After 5 years, I left Halton Catholic for Grand Erie School board. I have been working (by choice) as a supply teacher since I graduated.

I have always been a lover of the past; all things old fascinate me. The areas I specialize in for teaching are my exact degree, History and Religion. My degrees have helped me when I travel too, never have I needed a tour guide!”   - Amber S.

 

Graduate: Ally Vonk
Year graduated: 2017
Program: Honours History with Minor in Religious Studies
Current position/title: Administrative and Research Officer
Current employer: Renison University College

“After graduating from Waterloo, I received my MA in History from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2018. Following this, I moved back to Ontario and started working at Renison University College.

Studying history helped me develop so many helpful skills that I use every day in my career. These include effective research skills, reading and writing, communication skills, time management, and organization skills. I have also found learning about the past to be an excellent way to understand current events and issues in our society. These are important things to know in my field of work.

Additionally, my time spent studying history gave me a full understanding of other cultures in the world, which has set me up well to connect with people across the globe and to help develop new educational and cultural programs at my place of work.” – Ally V.

 

Graduate: Tim Hughes
Year graduated: 2003
Program: History & Applied Studies
Current position/title: Legal Counsel
Current employer: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

“After graduation, I worked for the Government of Ontario in the Ministry of Economic Development for a few years. My experience in the Applied Studies co-op program led directly to this position. I later returned to school to study law at the University of Toronto.

I use the 'soft skills' of my History degree constantly -- critical reading, writing, and analysis. History is a great discipline to hone these skills while pursuing research in areas that fascinate you.” – Tim H.

 

Graduate: Derek Szilagyi
Year graduated: 2012
Program: History
Current position/title: Alumni Relations Officer
Current employer: Wilfrid Laurier University

“Upon graduation, I went to Western University for a Master's in Sport History/Sports Management. While there, I worked as a Sponsorship and Marketing Assistant within their Athletic Department. After I graduated with my MA, I worked for four and a half years at McMaster University in the Athletic Department, having a multitude of responsibilities, from event management to managing all aspects of a number of our varsity teams. In the past year, I took a position as an Alumni Relations Officer at Wilfrid Laurier University, leading all alumni engagement efforts for the Brantford campus and the greater Hamilton and Brantford regions.

My History Degree helped by giving me the ability to communicate through writing and keeping my thoughts concise. As Dr. Taylor's precis assignments taught us, ‘take a 30 page journal article and summarize it in 2 pages, double spaced, Times New Roman and 1 inch margins’. The point was to learn to take the millions of bits of information we receive and to summarize it concisely and persuasively. The History degree also taught me how to appreciate and embrace the world around us, and that the world isn't black and white but filled with grey.” – Derek S.

 

Graduate: Michelle Goodridge
Year graduated: 2010
Program: History
Current position/title: Liaison Librarian
Current employer: Wilfrid Laurier University

“After graduating in 2010 I went to the University of Western Ontario and took their Public History degree. This led to jobs in the heritage and culture sector, and eventually I ended up with a job at an academic archive. I loved my job and decided to pursue a career as an academic librarian. I went back to school to complete my MLIS. Now I am an academic librarian at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Four experiences stand out for me during my history degree at Waterloo and they all relate to exceptional teaching moments.

First, I have never experienced the same passion from a professor that I did when taking Gary Bruce's class. Gary is charismatic, engaging, and inspired me to look for the topics that would ignite the same passion he had.

The second is test taking with Steven Bednarski. Steven pushes his students to go the extra mile and really engage with the course materials. He pushed me to become a better student so I could show him I had improved. No other professor successfully motivated me in that way.

Third would be the "tough love" approach of Geoff Hayes. Geoff gave me some no nonsense advise with my writing and wasn't afraid to be honest with me about my writing style, but he did so in an encouraging and supportive way, which is a delicate balance.

Finally, Greta Kroeker and the dreaded precis. These writing exercises were incredibly difficult and really forced me to become a more concise writer. I have since sent her an email thanking her because my writing noticeably improved after taking her fourth year seminar class. For me, it was the people in the History Department that made my experience a lasting one.” – Michelle G.

 

Graduate: Laura Taylor
Year graduated: 2017
Program: Arts and Business Co-op, Honours History Major
Current position/title: Procedural Services Assistant - Committees
Current employer: Legislative Assembly of Ontario

“Since graduation, I have been working in a non-political role at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. I am a Procedural Services Assistant, and do administrative work for legislative committees.

Communication is a large part of my job. Whether it takes the form of formal correspondence or informal telephone conversations, my choice of words and ability to convey information is important. My degree in history played a large role in helping me develop those skills. My job is strictly non-partisan, and my history degree has helped me to understand my role at the Legislative Assembly and the importance of our democratic institutions.” – Laura T.

 

Graduate: Andrew Moull
Year graduated: 2011
Program: History
Current position/title: Emergency Disaster Management Specialist
Current employer: Hamilton Health Sciences

“My career took an interesting turn into disaster and emergency management. I have been applying my trade in healthcare as an emergency preparedness specialist, first at the Scarborough Health Network, and now at Hamilton Health Sciences. I ensure that my organization can effectively respond to a variety of emergencies and continue to provide access to care for our community.

My History degree has been very useful in my field. In particular, the research skills and critical thinking I learned has helped me succeed in my current role. Being able to critically evaluate historic disasters within and outside my organization allows me to identify best practices that lead to protocols which are more effective. These protocols can mitigate the impact of future emergencies, save property, and save lives.” – Andrew M.

 

Graduate: Alyssa Clarkson
Year graduated: 2007
Program: Applied Arts - History Co-op (Applied Arts is now Arts and Business)
Current position/title: Communications Project Manager
Current employer: University of Waterloo

“After graduation, I was hired by one of my co-op employers as a technical writer. I enjoyed a 10 year career in tech and software, writing technical documentation, and then switched to communications and marketing. I now work at the University of Waterloo as a Communications Manager for Campus Wellness, where I give back to the community that supported me.

My history degree gave me above average writing and analysis skills, as well as time and project management foundations. My current and past employers value these abilities, since I can see the big picture and plan at a tactical level.” – Alyssa C.

 

Graduate: Michael Nicin
Year graduated: 2004
Program: History
Current position/title: Executive Director
Current employer: National Institute on Ageing, Ryerson University

“I fondly remember my time as a history student at U of W. After graduating, I went to York University and received an M.A. in Cultural History. Upon completing my M.A., I went to the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at U of T and earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

Since completing my studies, I’ve been a Policy Advisor to the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, as well as Chief of Staff to the Minister of Seniors Affairs.

I am currently the Executive Director of the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) at Ryerson University. The NIA is the only think tank in Canada that explores issues of an ageing population from a comprehensive perspective that includes health and financial considerations for older Canadians. We advise governments on age based policies.

I’m biased, as History really is the basis of so much. My History degree provided me with concrete historical knowledge, but also taught me research and writing skills. I wouldn’t be able to be an Executive Director at a think tank without the training in research provided by my degree. But the value of historical knowledge extends far beyond the professional realm.” – Michael N.

 

Graduate: James Rimmer
Year graduated: 2013
Program: Arts and Business Co-op, Honours History
Current position/title: Financial Management Advisor
Current employer: Courts Administration Service

“After graduation, I Joined the Canadian federal public service as an accountant. I now work for the Courts Administration Service, which operates the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Tax Court, where I work on budgets and forecasting. I am also working towards my Chartered Professional Accountant designation, and should achieve it in 2019.

My History degree has helped my career incredibly. The writing and communication skills have given me a leg up compared to my fellow accountants. The research skills have also helped me greatly to be able to do financial analysis.” – James R.

 

Graduate: Rachel Wyatt
Year graduated: 2015
Program: Arts and Business, Honours History
Current position/title: Heritage Interpreter
Current employer: Parks Canada

“After working as a theatre producer and educator for a Holocaust education not-for-profit in Toronto, I got an MA in Cultural Studies from Queen's University. My MA thesis looked at the use of theatre as a means to build a new national identity in pre-war Nazi Germany. Currently, I work as a Heritage Interpreter with Parks Canada, at the WWII destroyer turned museum HMCS Haida.

My training in history has been invaluable for developing skills like critical thinking, research, writing, planning, creativity with my available resources, and how to find the most important information while reading - all which I use daily. My training also taught me about both how we construct historical narratives and how those narratives affect national, regional and personal identities. These constructions of history affect how people perceive the world around them; as a historian, I have an obligation to present these stories in an ethical manner. How we understand our history matters on a national and global scale.” – Rachel W.

 

Graduate: Sheau Lih Vong
Year graduated: 2013
Program: Bachelors of Arts Honours History & Legal Studies
Current position/title: Barrister & Solicitor
Current employer: Vong Law Professional Corporation

“After completing my BA, I returned to complete my MA in Canadian History. I then obtained my JD from Osgoode Hall Law School. After graduating and completing my articles, I founded Vong Law Professional Corporation, a law firm specializing in immigration and refugee law.

My history degree gave me all of the skills I needed to succeed in law school and in my legal practice. My professors taught me how to think critically, how to read and digest large amounts of information, and how to structure written and oral arguments convincingly. I learned to appreciate historical, social, and cultural contexts - a fundamental requirement in immigration and refugee law. I learned how to analyze issues from different perspectives and to defend more than one position - something every lawyer must do.  Most importantly, I learned to write using active voice and I will always use the Oxford comma.

My professors instilled in me an intellectual curiosity, which is invaluable. Lawyers must always question the law - why does it exist, what purpose does it serve, what is its actual impact, does it achieve the desired result, and is it still relevant? Everything I needed to build my legal career I learned from my professors at UW.” – Sheau Lih V.

 

First name: Emma Tarswell
Year graduated: 2009
Program: History
Current position/title: Marketing & Design Manager
Current employer: CIFAR

“After graduation, I moved to Vancouver to earn a Master’s degree in Publishing. From there I moved back to Ontario and worked as an editor for several years at various publications and think tanks.

Eventually I shifted my role to be a graphic designer, and have been doing so for the past 5 years.

The research skills I gained at UW affects how I approach design and helps me research trends. I also worked at Imprint while at UW, which had large impact on my career trajectory.” – Emma T.

 

First name: Christie Ledgley
Year graduated: 2009
Program: Arts and Business, Honours History Major
Current position/title: Outreach and Operations Manager
Current employer: TD Lab (for TD)

“After graduation, I went to teacher's college in 2010/2011 and graduated from the MDEI program in 2017. I worked for the University of Waterloo for almost 5 years in the Faculty of AHS (Propel) and with the Student Service Centre (The Centre) most recently. I'm currently the Outreach and Operations Manager at TD Lab (housed in Communitech but for TD Bank).

My degree helped by getting me into teacher's college for History and English. It also gave me excellent research skills.” – Christie L.

 

Contact Natalie Brown for any questions or comments regarding our Alumni feedback.


Historians in the Workplace

To learn about a variety of careers obtained by historians throughout Canada, visit the Canadian Historical Association's website where many graduates are profiled. 

 Historical Researcher

Alumni links