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Students and Alumni:  Profiles


The History department supports student success at every level of undergraduate     learning and beyond.

Our passion for the discipline, personalized small classes, student-driven teaching methods and individual encouragement help students set and achieve their goals.

Our community and research connections also help to situate our graduates in a variety of fields. Recent Huron History graduates have gone on to successful careers in: business; journalism; publishing; marketing; finance; digital communications; curriculum development; public service; filmmaking; teaching; law; social work; administration; heritage, and tourism.

Our students have taken up graduate study in a range of programs, including: Education; Environmental Studies; Public Policy; International Law and Justice; Global Development; Global Health; Library and Information Science; Archival and Museum Studies; History and Public History.

Here are some interviews with current and former students about their time at Huron, and their advice for those entering the History program.

Our Students:

  • Matt Patterson

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  • (2016-17 Huron History Society President)

    Why did you choose to pursue a History degree at Huron?

    I initially chose to go to Huron because I really wanted to go to a place with small class sizes and a tight knit community but still maintained a strong academic reputation, and Huron seemed like the best fit for that. When I first arrived I had not yet decided what program I wanted to go into, so I took a general first year, including first year history. In that course I found subject matter that interested me as well as a way of thinking and researching that I really enjoyed. Since then I've continued to take history courses and enjoyed them greatly, and my interest has only expanded.

    What have been the highlights of your time here?
    As far as the overall student experience goes, O-week was a pretty tough experience to top. Both Western and Huron run incredible orientation programs and participating as both a first year and an upper year soph has been a tremendous experience for me. In regards to history in particular, I'd have to say my biggest highlight has been getting to know my professors and working with them. It's a great opportunity to learn from their experience and expertise, and it's an experience that you can't get at most universities.

    How has our degree helped you build skills for your future career?
    A lot of people seem to think that the liberal arts, including history, have little practical value and will not help with careers in the future. I could not disagree more. The three main skills history teaches are research, creating arguments, and communicating ideas. Those skills and others history teaches will be useful in all aspects of life and in virtually every career. Huron's history department offers great opportunities to do more than write essays and exams, and the professors focus on helping students develop their skills. A history degree from Huron enables students to develop their skills in both academic and practical settings and can help in a large variety of future careers.

    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    A lot of first year students are intimidated by their professors, or even scared of them. While it is understandable to be nervous, there is no need to be! Huron professors care deeply about teaching and the success of their students, and they are happy to help you! The best advice I could give an incoming Huron student is to go to office hours and talk to your professors. You will notice a significant improvement in your marks, as well as having a better overall educational experience.

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Our Alumni:

  • Scott Cameron

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  • Why did you choose to pursue a History degree at Huron?
    I've always had an interest in History, and I didn't really ever consider any other field of study for my university pathway. I've been struck recently by the sheer variety of areas within this single discipline I've had the opportunity to explore at some point - the field is not at all about stodgy old guys discussing the finer points of Prime Minister Borden's foreign policy over cigars. I love that you can and should try out so many different lenses when looking at the past - while looking at the causes and effects of political and military affairs gives you one type of understanding, often the dynamics of culture, race, or gender can uncover the ways people understood certain actions in the past. In a more concrete sense, this means that I've done research into memories of slavery amongst ex-slaves in the American South, European politics in the age of Louis XIV, local London (and Huron College) history - there's a huge variety to the discipline that really lets you explore your interests, and it's worth taking in the broader picture before diving into any one given area.
       
    Huron was a natural choice because of the small class sizes. I've found that having professors who are invested in your development as a student really enhances the degree to which I engage with the course material. The best way to learn (and to retain what you've learned) is to engage with your professors and classmates - something you can't really do in a strict lecture format. Huron's small classes force you to really question and test information as you discuss it - it's really the only way I can imagine studying the liberal arts.

    What have been the highlights of your time here?
    Tough question. The Huron History community is remarkable, and I've really enjoyed developing personal and professional relationships with my classmates and professors. At Huron and at Western there is a frequent guest lecture circuit, open to students and members of the public alike. I would encourage prospective students to look into these talks too. Two outstanding lectures I was privileged to hear were Alan Taylor's discussion of the War of 1812 in the context of the simultaneous 'Indian Wars' raging on the Southern and Western frontiers of the United States, and Gwynne Dyer's lecture on the easily-overlooked question of why Canada played the 'great power game' in the early 20th century, and what those decisions say about Canadian identity then and now. At Huron, you're invited to participate in a community of learners - don't let that opportunity go to waste.  

    How has your degree helped you build skills for your future career?
    Research, critical thinking, and communication. History doesn't teach practical skills to the same extent that a Business Management degree does, for instance. It does, however, force students to consider the 'whys' in greater depth than the 'hows' and 'whats' a more vocationally-based program would train students in. Writing and oral communication are the main emphases in a History program. The question is not so much what you know, but what you can make of what you know - how well can you formulate these given facts into an argument? What does this evidence suggest? Engaged history students become well equipped to understand sophisticated problems in sophisticated ways. There is no direct career path following a History degree, true. I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing - the idea of a linear career path is increasingly irrelevant given the job market's trend towards part-time and contract-based positions and away from permanent, salaried 'career' positions. Studying history allows me to follow my passions and develop skills relevant in any challenging and dynamic position - it's not so much an escape from the 'working world' as a broadly-based preparation for it emphasising the importance of qualitative and interpersonal skills.   
     
    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    Don't procrastinate - it sounds like boring advice, but seriously - if you do your assignments earlier, you'll be able to spend time figuring out what you're actually interested in thinking and writing about. You become a more engaged student, you don't miss your sleep, and you can spend more time doing extracurriculars, formal or informal, rather than procrastinating in academic misery. It's a tough habit to lose - and I'm still working on it - but I have no doubt that procrastinating less does dramatically increase the value of my university experience.

  • Megan Hertner

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  • Why did you choose to pursue a History degree at Huron?
    I chose to pursue a degree in History at Huron because of the close knit community. I wanted to be actively engaged in my studies and I saw the potential  to work closely with my professors in order to get the most out of my educational experience. I was also intrigued by the wide range of histories taught at Huron because of the Professors' specializations. Although the courses vary from year- to- year there are always a range of topics to study. This allows for students to study history through broad survey courses, but also by specific topics such as crime and gender in Victorian Britain.  

    What have been the highlights of your time here?
    One of the highlights of my time at Huron was the trip to Oberlin College in Ohio, USA that I had the privilege to attend as a part of an American history course. During our time there we toured the town to learn about its abolitionist past. We also conducted research at the college archives for our class project on London Ontario's connection to the antislavery movement.  

    How has your degree helped you build skills for your future career?
    Studying history has allowed me to practice skills that will be important for my professional career. History at Huron provided me with plenty of opportunity to practice research and writing skills through traditional essay based assignments, but also presented me with the opportunity to participate in non-traditional assignments as well. Such projects  encouraged other skills like leadership, teamwork and creativity. For example, in a third year course  titled Historian's Craft I designed my own research project and worked with a community partner in order to learn how history is created and presented to the public. It was a  really exciting and rewarding project.    

     What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    A piece of advice I would offer to future students would be to get involved. Take advantage of  every opportunity to explore, learn and grow both as a student and a person. Most importantly, remember to work hard, but have fun doing it!    

  • Claire Halstead

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  • What do you do now?
    I am currently completing my PhD in History at the University of Western Ontario. My research focuses on British children who were evacuated to Canada in the Second World War.
     
    When did you go to Huron?
    I graduated from Huron (Honours Specialisation in History) in 2010.
     
    How did your Huron History degree help you
    in your career?

    Thus far, it turned into my career! My history degree was a solid foundation for my scholarly research. On a daily basis, I utilise the analytical and methodological skills as well as the historical knowledge I gained at Huron. Huron’s professors and unique classes enabled me to explore my historical interests.
     
    What’s your best memory of Huron?
    There are far too many brilliant memories of Huron to choose just one. Starting the Huron History Society Pub Quiz, going to the top of the Huron war memorial tower, and making lasting friendships will always stand out in my mind.
     
    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    Appreciate and make the best of Huron’s small class sizes and the high quality of teaching. Engage with your professors; they are leading academics, are always willing to discuss your work, and want you to succeed.
    Look for opportunities to be involved in extra-curriculars as they provide valuable experience for life outside of Huron. Know that Huron has a significant Alumni network. Remember that what you do at Huron matters.

  • Wendy Rowney

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  • What do you do now?
    I am Assistant General Manager at Black Creek Pioneer Village, a living history museum in Toronto.  I’ve had a number of different roles at Black Creek but right now I am responsible for education and public programs, membership, volunteers, livestock, gardening, and the brewery.  Livestock, gardening, and a brewery may seem like an odd fit until you know that Black Creek is home to several heritage breed farm animals, our gardens are planted with heritage seeds, and in the brewery we brew ales that closely resemble those made in 19th century inns and taverns.  

    When did you go to Huron?
    I arrived at Huron in the fall of 1988 and graduated in 1992 with a BA in History and English.  I lived at Huron another year after that, while I was completing a MA in History at Western, and worked as Women’s Head Don. In total, I was involved with life at Huron for five years!

    How did your Huron History degree help you in your career?
    One course in particular stands out in my memory: “The Historian’s Craft.” Through that class, I learned to think critically about the study of history and came to see “history” as something that is created rather than something that happened a long time ago. Understanding this was extremely helpful as I moved into a career that required me “to create history” in a museum setting. Naturally, the strong basis in Canadian history I received at Huron has made it possible for me to understand, interpret, and teach it to school children, families, and adults visiting the museum.

    What’s your best memory of Huron?
    I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one:  sitting in the Refectory and drinking pitcher after pitcher of tea; acting in and organizing The Huron Underground; Outward Bound with the Dons; sitting up half the night in Hellmuth talking and talking and talking;  and, finally, “The Historian’s Craft” since it really did challenge me to view history very differently and influenced what I ended up doing professionally.

    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    A degree in history does not have to be a means to something else.  There are jobs in history, in addition to the obvious ones in teaching and academia.  If you want to work in history, spend some time now exploring the different options.  Consider volunteering in a museum, archive, historical society, or anywhere else public history is practiced.  Look for summer jobs that will provide you with experience in the field.  You might want to approach a museum (or archives or wherever) and volunteer to complete an in-depth project for them - something different from their usual volunteer roles . This might give you the skills and experience you will need to secure a job once you graduate. Finally, you may want to consider pursuing a graduate degree in public history or museum studies.  A history degree from Huron can be a practical first step to a career spent working with history!

  • Nick Van Allen

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  • When did you go to Huron?
    I started at Huron in the fall of 2003 and graduated in 2007.

    What do you do now?
    As of July 20, 2015 I am the new Writing Services Coordinator at Huron!  After finishing my degree at Huron I went on to graduate work in history, at McMaster University (MA) and the University of Guelph (PhD). I used HGIS (Historical Geographic Information Systems software) to write about drinking-related criminal activity in London, Ontario, for my master’s research paper, and the southwestern Ontario rural economy in my doctoral work. As a researcher I get to share my work with historians: I have travelled across Canada, to the United States, and to Europe in the past few years for conferences, and I have been published in a number of scholarly journals. I have also worked on the editorial staff of a publishing company and taught history as a lecturer at Guelph U and Seneca College in Toronto. 

    How did your Huron History degree help you in your career?
    While a history degree can never be quantified, the experience I had at Huron with writing and research was central to my later career. Studying history requires students to think beyond their immediate circumstances and to distill information from multiple eras, geographies, and schools of thought. There are few other degrees that can match history in offering this breadth of knowledge and experience. The degree taught me to plan my workload, organize my day-to-day activities, and most importantly think about how complex information is presented to others or is being presented to me. In all the positions I’ve had since starting at Huron these skills have been key to undertaking and executing tasks, small and large, and understanding the world around me.

    What’s your best memory of Huron?
    It’s tough to think of one single memory from my undergraduate degree that I could call my favourite. Some days that stand out are those where I sat listening intently to professors speak on American ‘race’ and class relations, the founding of Upper Canada, or urban life in Modern Europe. Other days I remember sitting in various spots on campus, making notes on assigned readings, thinking about the arguments contained within them, and waiting for my chance to break them apart in tutorial discussions. The best moments were when I was surrounded by history books, sticky notes and pencils in hand, and studying the past.  

    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    Number 1 rule in University: Don’t stress out about life choices. Once you’ve picked what you want to study during undergrad, throw yourself into it and remain immersed during the whole time you are studying. Get fully connected with the history faculty and the rest of the student population and take pleasure in what you are doing every day. In other words, concentrate on the material, have fun learning, and enjoy yourselves on weekends!

  • Stephanie Johns

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  • What do you do now?
    I am currently completing my BEd at the Faculty of Education at Western and will begin my permanent full-time position as Education Coordinator at Stratford Festival mid-May.
     
    When did you go to Huron?
    I attended Huron from 2009-2013.

    How did your Huron History degree help you in your career?
    After Huron, I completed my MA in Public History at Western. My history degree from Huron prepared me for MA research, working closely with community organizations and in small groups. My Huron History degree also helped spark my fascination with Aboriginal history. Through my MA program I was able to complete a summer internship at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada in Gatineau where I completed a research project on Aboriginal contributions in the First World War.
    My Huron History degree provided me with the skills to use primary source evidence to establish historical significance as well as understand different historical perspectives and other points of view. In my position as Education Coordinator, I will be researching and writing education and enrichment programs for the Festival's playbill. My work will be connecting historical understandings of Shakespeare and other playwrights with present day perspectives in order to draw in a younger audience and provide a fresh take on the classics and how we create meaning from what we see on stage.

    What’s your best memory of Huron?
    My most fond memories from Huron come from my 3 years as a Huron soph. Even though everyone was sick by the end of O-Week, we made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. I have always been an outgoing person, and being able to share my pride and excitement for Huron made my experience that much better. I was fortunate enough to be History Society President two years in a row and held Pub Quizzes that were well attended by faculty and students. I also enjoyed gushing about how much I love Huron as a tour guide for prospective students.  

    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    Try something that is out of your comfort zone. I would not change a thing about my undergrad career. I absolutely loved being involved with as many different clubs, organizations and opportunities as I could. If you do not normally feel comfortable trying new things, make sure you use your undergrad as a time for making mistakes and learning from them. Huron is the best place to do so as the staff and professors are supportive and genuinely want you to succeed.

  • Yvonne Verlinden

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  • What do you do now?
    I tour the world by bicycle. I'm at the end of a ten month journey that has taken me around Europe, Southeast Asia, Tasmania and New Zealand.  In September, I will start a two-year Master of Urban Planning degree at Ryerson, with an emphasis on designing for active modes of transportation, like the bicycle.

    When did you go to Huron?
    2006-2010

    How did your Huron History degree help you in your career?
    As a History and English literature double major, I did a lot of reading, researching, and writing. In my final year, I took a course where all I did was write a huge 50 page paper. I hope now to use these skills to research the design of cities and write reports that will guide public policy around how to build neighbourhoods with transportation in mind.

    What’s your best memory of Huron?
    Impossible to sum up four years in one memory.  Nighttime bicycles rides with friends around the quiet streets of London, fall walks through the forest behind Huron, lazy days falling asleep in a library armchair, hard days studying in the library stacks, never walking through the SAC without stopping to say hi to someone- these are a few of the things that come to mind.

    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?
    1. Join a group, make a submission, attend an event, sing in the choir, try it out - who knows? Maybe you'll end up as Chair of the Committee, or published on the front page, or singing the solo.

    2. For your science credit, take an Intro to Statistics course. A lot of grad programs involving research ask for it.

    3. Keep track of everything!  Hold on to papers you write, awards you get, anything published, positions you hold- if you ever apply to grad school, even 5 years down the road, they will want to know the names, dates, and amounts of everything that you're doing right now.

  • Chris Blow

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  • What do you do now?
    I write for television. The scripts I do are for channels like National Geographic, Smithsonian, History Television and Discovery.
     
    When did you go to Huron?
    I went to Huron between 1993 and 1998.

    How did your Huron History degree help you in your career?
    While I was at Huron I learned how to think critically, construct arguments, develop and express complex ideas. This helps me while I’m working with producers as we put together content for our episodes. I also started to learn how to tell stories while I was at Huron. Lessons I learned studying the past in class have helped me better texture settings, build characters, and bring into focus key areas of conflict in a story.

    What’s your best memory of Huron?
    I think one of my best memories from my time at Huron would be a night out at the movies with Gary Owens and some of our Irish history class. Gary suggested we go see ‘Michael Collins’ and after the film, a bunch of us went to a pub to chat. I think it was this night that I first chatted with some classmates that would go on to become my best friends.

    What piece of advice would you pass on to future Huron students?

    I guess I would suggest to future Huron students that they not necessarily worry too much about purposing their degree towards entering a specific career. Your time at school will be one of the only times in your life when you have the time and ability to read, write, explore, discuss and learn about whatever history, philosophy, art, and science that you want. The subjects that you choose to investigate will bring to your consciousness a deeper texture that you will be able to take with you when you leave. You will be better able to put many of the events of your life, both personal and public, into a thicker context. Having a grasp of an area of knowledge, be it history, politics, or literature can bring a degree of comfort and stability even when the times become more confusing, chaotic or inexplicable. It’s a reference point from which you’ll be able to orient yourself and that can be grounding. And if you work hard during your degree, learning to read and write critically – the career will come. These are invaluable skills and you’ll almost certainly find a team that is looking for this kind of player.
  • Steve Gamester

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  • What do you do now?
    I’m a co-founder of a Toronto-based production company called Saloon Media. I produce history and science themed content for major international broadcasters like History, National Geographic, and Smithsonian Channel

    When did you go to Huron?
    From 1993 to 1997.

    How did your Huron History degree help you in your career?
    In so many ways. My studies provided me with a foundation of knowledge in historical subjects, themes, currents, trends, and perspectives that has been invaluable in crafting historical programming in interesting and different ways. I learned the value of historical context and how to use it to make past events meaningful to a wide audience. A big part of my job today is pitching broadcasters on new ideas for TV shows; my primary challenge is to get them excited about historical subjects. Those were skills I developed during History seminar discussions; I learned how to verbally present an argument or tell a story about a historical subject by presenting my ideas and listening to the ideas of my fellow students in class. Huron was the place I learned how to do effective research, and then review, evaluate and synthesize vast amounts of information into a specific argument and narrative. In 1994, in a class about early-modern European History, Professor Gary Owens taught me how to organize an essay on cue cards before sitting down to write it. I use that same method today to organize the narrative structure of the documentaries I produce. Most of all, Huron is the place I learned how powerful a tool history could be to tell a great story. In fourth year I wrote a paper about an American fugitive who was kidnapped off the streets of London (Ontario) in the 1870s. The story consumed me. I wrote it for Dr. Colin Read who encouraged me to try to get it published, because “it was a great story that people would read.” I never got it published! But, I think that’s when I realized it might be possible to have a career in history.

    What’s your best memory of Huron?
    The area in front of the residences used to be a bit open grass field, the perfect place to play football and baseball in the fall and spring. Those are very fond memories. But my fondest memories of all are of the professors and fellow students. It was a time.
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History Students and Alumni in the news:

Megan Hertner, HBA History and English, 2016
Cambridge Times - 60 Years of Service
Cambridge Times - Scholarship

Dr Christoper McCreery, HBA History and Political Science, 1998
Dundurn
HUC Memorial Plaque

Claire Halstead, HBA English, 2010
CBC Ontario Morning
Western News
Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

Wendy Rowney, HBA History and English, 1992
The Toronto Star
ActiveHistory

Janet Cobban, HBA History, 1980
Blackburn News
Windsor Star