History Alumni Testimonials


A history degree prepares you for any profession that requires doing research, analyzing documents and data, thinking critically, reading closely, making oral arguments, and writing persuasively.


After I graduated in 2015, I moved to Washington, DC, and entered the Public History Masters degree program at American University. During my program and after I graduated in 2017, I worked at museums and historical institutions across DC.

I interned in the Exhibit Departments at the National Museum of the United States Navy and the National Archives. I also developed educational programming at the National Building Museum, the Historical Society of Washington, DC, and the White House Historical Association. I now work in the Education Department at the White House Historical Association and lead tours for DC by Foot, a tour company based in DC.

After graduating with a History degree in 2014, I heard the question “and what do you plan on doing with that?” I used to think I wanted to be a teacher or pursue law, but people and goals change. What I would never change is my History degree background. As a history major, you write and research. Those are your strengths and you need to utilize and discuss those strengths. I was able to use my History degree to find my first job post-college a few months after graduation at a Startup Company doing Marketing and Communications work.

For a year and a half, I worked there, until I moved to the East Coast for family reasons. I landed a job working for a U.S. Congressman. I put my History skills to work researching legislative issues, working in Congressional Records, editing speeches, and doing casework. The experience (and inside knowledge of how our bureaucratic government works) was priceless. I moved back to California and started working for an education Non-Profit company. I am also pursuing my Master's in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s.

After graduation, I went into the teaching credential program at the Graduate School of Education at SMC and received my MA in teaching there as well. Currently, I am a history teacher at Saint John Notre Dame High School.

History has opened the doors to endless opportunities. After I graduated in 2012, I took a year off and volunteered with UNITE HERE Local 2850 to fight the injustices Good Eats employees were suffering on the campus all Gaels call home, Saint Mary's College. With my History degree I was able to evaluate the worker's situation with evidence; identify and interpret what the workers wanted and needed to do; and connect historical injustice with current injustices for food industry employees. Furthermore, I was able to think critically and communicate effectively with union organizers, Good Eats employees, and Good Eats management. Good Eats employees signed their first union contract in June 2013. This was just the beginning of fighting against social inequalities.

In the Fall of 2013, I began graduate school at the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary's College in Counseling Psychology with a focus on School Counseling. In addition, I was awarded a Lasallian Fellowship which has covered my graduate school expenses. I am currently working on my Master's project that focuses on middle school transition and the impact it has on first-generation Latino male students emotionally, physically, and mentally. I am on track to graduate in May 2016 with my Master's in Counseling Psychology and PPS Credential in School Counseling. Currently, I am working for Napa Valley Unified School District as the School Counselor at Harvest Magnet Middle School.

After I graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California, I moved to Sacramento. In September 2010, I began my career in the healthcare industry as a Bilingual Customer Service Representative for Health Net. My job was to assist members enrolled in Health Net’s State Health Programs. After working in the Call Center for less than two years, I became a Contract Analyst for Employer Contracts. My job as an analyst consisted of working with the Medicare and Cal MediConnect line of business within Health Net. My job as a Contract Analyst was to produce member materials such as Evidence of Coverage and a Summary of Benefits for both individual and group plans. In July 2015, I was promoted to Senior Contract Analyst. My role now expanded to include California State Health Programs, such as Medi-Cal, and Arizona Medicaid. During my time in Employer Contracts, I decided to further my education and enrolled in the M.B.A. at Brandman University. I graduated in June 2016. 

After working for Amnesty International for over a year, I entered law school and I am thrilled to say that I was just accepted (in 2011) into a joint degree program with the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy in New Jersey. It's a combo J.D./Master in Diplomacy and International Relations and I really cannot wait to be studying something very comparable to what I studied at St. Mary's. It's going to be a long road (an extra year of school) but I am certainly looking forward to it.

Graduating college was one of the most liberating yet terrifying experiences of my life, especially in the economic climate of 2008. As a history major, I tossed ideas about what I would actually WANT to do after I graduated. In my senior year, I spent Jan Term in China with professors Heung (anthropology) and Santiago (history). I studied Chinese history, so it made perfect sense to actually go there. That trip changed my life. All anxiety and uncertainty flew out the window.

As a history major, I garnered a greater appreciation for understanding the modern world and how it came to be. It drove me to go out there and SEE it. I decided to travel all over the world once I graduated. In 2008, I left Saint Mary's to begin my journey. At the time, I was in a punk band called "This Time Next Year." That summer, we embarked on what would be one of many US tours. In between touring, I saved enough money to spend time in Europe and Japan.  Our band also toured the United Kingdom and Australia.

History has shown me that there is a wealth of knowledge about the world, but as historians, we must go out there and see it for ourselves to truly appreciate who and what we are (and were!). Saint Mary's gave me that opportunity and that's something I carry with me every day. Currently, I am gearing up to begin my MA in Political Science at San Francisco State (Fall 2012). With that, I hope to go out into the world once more. This time, however, my focus will be the Middle East. With my MA, I plan on doing work in developing and rebuilding nations afflicted by war and conflict. Without the worldly knowledge I gained through SMC's phenomenal History Department, I never would have come this far.

I was a substitute teacher in Hollister, California, while I waited to start the Multi-Subject Program and Masters in Education at SMC, but I strongly recommend anyone interested in politics or public service to major in History. I've worked as a Field Representative in the California State Assembly. My job included reading public policy documents with a critical eye. From my readings, I wrote arguments and opinions in letters and memos. I also worked as Regional Field Director for the President Obama campaign in Colorado in 2012.

In the 2014 election, I worked on a statewide California voter registration program that registered thousands of college students and new citizens. A large part of my success is due to the skills I learned from my history classes. Writing all those history papers really helped! Plus the professors in the History Department provided me with advice and mentorship to follow my career goals. Currently, I am a full-time nursing student at Samuel Merritt College in Oakland, CA.

From First-Generation Student to College Professor

By Kay Carney

When Nicole Jackson ’05, PhD, arrived at Saint Mary’s College as a first-year student, she wept. The first in her family to attend college, Jackson was nervous but also surprisingly excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. “I’m originally from East Oakland, and I came to Saint Mary’s pretty much on a whim,” said Jackson. “I didn’t plan to go to college, but a high school teacher told me that Saint Mary’s was doing a lot of diversity recruitment, so I decided to apply. When I was accepted, I never imagined that my life was on course to change forever.”

Jackson, an associate professor of History at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, vividly recalls her first few weeks at Saint Mary’s, and that there were very few people who looked like her. “There were students from all over California and across the country, and that felt very disorienting. Moraga felt like a really small town, Black students were almost nonexistent, and I felt totally out of my depth,” said Jackson. “But then I found the Women’s Resource Center, and that became my centering place—my home away from home where I could simply be me.”

Jackson changed her major several times as she tried to find her calling. “I took an African American History class that I loved, and that sealed the deal for me to major in History,” she shared. “The college experience for me became more secure as a result of some great professors who recognized my talent, and challenged me to step beyond my fears so I could soar,” Jackson added that having professors who established community within the classroom so students could feel safe, is what helped to shape her as a student scholar, a graduate student, and a tenured professor. “The kind of community building that can and should take place in the classroom, especially for students of color is essential to their retention and success. This is what I do with my students at Bowling Green, and I learned this from the personal experience I had as a student of color at Saint Mary’s.”

History Professor Myrna Santiago is one of the many faculty members at Saint Mary’s that had an indelible impact on Jackson. “I recall running into Myrna just before graduation, and she asked me what I was doing after Saint Mary’s. I told her that I had no plans, and she suggested that I’d do well in graduate school. I trusted Myrna, and thought if she thinks I can do this, then I’m going to do this,” said Jackson. She immediately applied and was accepted to The Ohio State University where she earned an MA and PhD in History.

Jackson has soared—from a first-generation college student at Saint Mary’s to a highly accomplished and tenured university professor. She is a respected historian of the modern African Diaspora, Black social movements, and community activism with a focus on contemporary Black Britain. Her work has appeared in Callaloo, African and Black Diaspora: An International JournalBlackness in Britain, and Adjusting the Contrast: British Television and Constructs of Race. Jackson is also a regular contributor to Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society.

Robert works for the Boy Scouts in San Jose, California, and organizes a soccer league for Mexican-American youth. He is also a soccer coach.

After graduating from St. Mary's, I accepted a five-year fellowship at the University of Southern California to enroll in their History doctoral program--a feat for which both Professor Myrna Santiago and the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers in Andover, Massachusetts deserve most of the credit. Without them, or the solid foundation provided by St. Mary's history department in historical scholarship and research, I would not be in this profession.

I spent a year and a half (2006-2007), funded by the Fulbright Program and USC, doing research in Mexico City at the National Archives and recording oral histories in various parts of rural Mexico. My dissertation focused on two peasant guerrilla movements that emerged in the Mexican state of Guerrero in the late 1960s. Out of that research came my first book, Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside, published by Oxford University Press in 2014. In 2015 the book won the Maria Elena Martinez Book Prize in Mexican History. My next book project explores the links between counter-insurgency, state terror, and the development of a transnational narcotics economy in the southwestern Mexican highlands in the 1960s. After several years at Florida State University, I made the transition to Arizona State University in Tempe, where I teach Latin American history.

After I graduated, I spent the summer as Camp Director at a Boy Scout Camp in New Mexico, then backpacked through South America for six months. Upon coming back to the U.S., I worked as a law clerk while waiting for my application to get cleared with the Peace Corps.  In October 2001, I began my two-year journey as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. I was an Environmental Education Extensionist and worked with teachers and community members on a wide variety of life-improving projects. I then traveled for a year throughout South America.  When I got back to the U.S. I got my elementary education certification and taught fourth grade in my hometown of Albuquerque. In 2005 I got married and with my wife moved to Central Wisconsin where she pursued her Master’s Degree.  I started a job with the Boy Scouts of America as a District Executive while being a part-time student working towards my own Master's in Environmental Education. The best thing that being a history major has done for me is to give me curiosity and respect for other countries and cultures. It also taught me to write, read, and research well. I am confident that I could pursue any job in the "real world" that I felt inclined to pursue.  In the fall of 2011, I started law school at the University of New Mexico. I will graduate in May 2014.

I am currently the Principal at De La Salle Academy. I graduated with my degree in history in 1997, then I started the teaching credential program. I completed my single-subject social studies teaching degree in 2003 from Saint Mary's College. In 1999 I joined the Lasallian Volunteers and served as the 7th/8th-grade humanities teacher at the San Miguel School in Providence, Rhode Island. I served as a Lasallian Volunteer from 99–01 at San Miguel. I returned back to the Bay Area in 2001 and was hired to teach World History and U.S. History at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco. I taught history and worked as a Campus Minister at SCHP from 01-06. In 2006 I began working for De La Salle Institute at the Office of Education as the Director of Student Programs for the Legacy San Francisco District. From 2006–2011.

I stepped away from classroom teaching to run District formation and service programs for students, and formation programs for adults in District Lasallian high schools (i.e. campus ministers, service-learning coordinators, vocation directors, etc.). In 2011, I started working in school administration as Dean of Women at Justin-Siena High School in Napa, CA. I taught while I worked as a Dean.

In 2011 I also began serving on the Board of Trustees at De La Salle High School. In 2013-2014 when early conversations about starting a San Miguel school associated with De La Salle High School began, I found myself intrigued by the idea of starting a school. Following much discernment, when the position of Principal was posted, I applied and was hired in 2014 as the founding principal of De La Salle Academy.  

During the 2017-2018 academic year,  because of the needs of the school, the Vice-Principal and I were both needed in the classroom to serve various teaching roles. I found myself in front of the 8th-grade class teaching U.S. History. I have always seen myself as a teacher first - before any other role. It was a great joy to be back in the classroom setting. I still find it immensely gratifying to witness the growth in students that takes place in such an academic year!

As a school administrator, I never know what my day or year will bring. However, should the call to step back into the classroom arise, I am and will always be more than willing to serve as a history teacher! I am incredibly blessed to have a Saint Mary’s College of CA college experience. I am a proud Gael! I am indebted to Br. Charles Hilken, FSC, Ron Isetti, Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, and Carl Guarneri. All of whom helped me nurture my love of history and my passion for bringing history alive for my students!