There may be a 1,700-year gap, but Heather Cook ’19 sees a direct link between her senior thesis research into third-century Christian relics and the decidedly 21st-century patent research she conducted at one of the world’s largest law firms.

At the time, Cook was a patent support specialist at Nixon Peabody LLP, a Global 100 law firm, where she is responsible for writing up reporting correspondences, drafting information disclosures and handling similar matters.

“My job involves searching databases for intellectual property documents that will fit clients’ needs as they try to secure patents,” said Cook, who is now a graduate student at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. “Day to day, I utilized a lot of the research skills I learned as a history major.”

Through classes that explore the past in various contexts and probe life’s deeper questions, history students become critical readers, effective researchers and persuasive communicators.  Proficiency in these areas equips them to pursue professions and graduate programs in fields such as law, education, library science, journalism and public history.

“As we train students to become historians, to think and write critically, we hope that they will be able to use those skills to not only find success, but to also lead lives that impact others in a positive way,” said Rev. Kevin Spicer, C.S.C., chair of Stonehill’s History Department.

That call to define success by their impact on others is answered by history majors in many ways, including public service. Among the most recent examples is Meghan Kilcoyne ’10, who in November became the first woman elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the 12th Worcester District, which includes her hometown of Sterling.

"Looking at our nation’s history through the lens of women and marginalized peoples helped me gain a deeper understanding not just of our past, but of our present,” Kilcoyne said. “Few of the women and people we studied in our American history classes had monuments or statutes in their honor, but pushed our country ever so slowly towards the ideals of freedom and justice we still strive for. While I didn't know it at the time, my history studies equipped me with not just the skills to take on the professional world, but also with the drive to better it.”

Taking a Trip Through Time

History majors have access to internships and extracurricular activities that not only complement their classroom studies, but also allow them to take a trip through time. These experiences enable students to gain a nuanced understanding of the past and its influence on the present.

Writing for a scholarly audience and learning the ins and outs of academic publishing were just a few of the things I picked up as a history major.

During the summer 2019, Victoria Burch ’21 interned at The Paul Revere House, along Boston’s renowned Freedom Trail. She served as an interpreter, responsible for answering guests’ questions about the historical landmark. She also conducted a research project on the destruction of churches in Boston at the hands of British troops during the Revolutionary War.

Burch, who hopes to attend law school, said her internship helped prepare her for life after graduation.

“As my supervisors gave me independence to go through archives on my own, I became a more confident researcher and writer,” she said. “Speaking to guests also helped me hone my public speaking skills, something I will certainly utilize in my career.”

Burch currently serves as president of Stonehill’s History Society, a group that encourages the exploration of history by sponsoring discussions with professional historians, film screenings and debates.

Burch said the experience of running the group’s executive board has been invaluable to her, as it has taught her the importance of strong leadership and collaboration, lessons she will carry with her to law school.

Meghan Kilcoyne ’10,  House of Representatives for the 12th Worcester District

Providing Students With a Unique View of the World

History graduates have moved on to successful careers at a diverse range of organizations, including the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Pew Research Center and even the U.S. Senate. Alumni have also recently attended graduate programs at institutions such as Boston College, Johns Hopkins University and Rutgers University.

Sean Scanlon ’14 is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. As a history and religious studies double major at Stonehill, he participated in SURE research with a faculty member, through which he helped edit essays on religious competition in the third century.

This and other experiences at Stonehill provided Scanlon with a number of lessons that have helped him succeed as a doctoral student.

“Writing for a scholarly audience and learning the ins and outs of academic publishing were just a few of the things I picked up as a history major,” he said. “These skills continue to serve me, especially as I try to publish my own work.”

Scanlon believes the lessons he learned at Stonehill are translatable across a variety of fields.

You can turn the skills you acquire as a historian and put them to good use in many different ways,” he said. “This degree provides you with a unique view of this complicated world. With that insight, you become a better consumer, an intelligent voter and a more caring citizen.”

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