2017 graduate Marley Abbott on all you can do with a history degree and where history can take you.
When I was first admitted to UTC, I was not entirely sure what I wanted to pursue; I may have even entered as an undecided major. I grew up in a military family, which meant that we moved frequently throughout my childhood, and along with that came travel opportunities that I otherwise would not have experienced. Through these experiences, I was able to see and experience different things and cultures that I had only previously read about in a history book. Getting to visit different cities and museums made me realize that actually seeing history up-close and personal was what I always wanted to do. By the time I started my undergraduate career, I knew that working in a museum in some capacity was a goal of mine.
I ended up selecting a Humanities: International Studies major, since the different types of disciplines involved all suited my interests in one way or another. While I enjoyed that major, it was when I started taking more history classes that I realized I wanted to become a History major. After finishing most of my general education classes and enrolling in more specialized ones, I officially made the jump to switching my major, with Dr. Kuby acting as my advisor. Being in the history department really opened up my interests and helped me figure out that history was what I loved and wanted to pursue. As I progressed through my upper-level courses, I ended up completing a 50-hour internship under Dr. Thompson’s guidance, which became one of the most important parts of my undergraduate career. I completed my internship with the People’s History Project, in conjunction with Chattanooga Organized for Action (COA). While with COA, I spent my time researching historic newspapers from Chattanooga’s past, all on microfilm in the UTC and downtown libraries. In addition to cementing my love for research, this internship was one of the best things I chose to do while at UTC. It gave me some of the professional research experience needed to succeed as a professional and as a future graduate student, which has been a very nice thing to include on my resume in a variety of professional fields.
After graduating from UTC, I was still not entirely sure which route I wanted to pursue. One question that was frequently asked of me was, “Will you be able to get a job with your degree?” While that is an understandable concern for both parents and students, I did not want to sacrifice doing what I loved, and I am glad I stuck to my guns. I knew that working in a museum was something I’d like to do, so I researched the field and spoke to people working in museums across the world. I found that most folks in that field had completed a graduate degree (at least in my area). I ended up joining the Public History program at MTSU in 2018, and I graduated with my Master of Arts in December of 2020. Public History is something that suited my wishes to work outside of the classroom, and I give all the credit to the UTC History Department for adequately preparing me for the rigors of graduate coursework and doing research on a higher level. Since I started in MTSU’s program, I’ve completed a 300-hour internship with Nashville Sites, worked in the on-campus archive, worked for the Tennessee State Museum, and I’m now in my first official full-time job working as a Research Coordinator for Tennessee State Parks.
There are so many different routes you can take with a history degree, from working in the classroom to working with museums, archives, parks, government offices, and more. History taught me how to analyze sources and communicate effectively, something that is valuable no matter what profession you end up choosing. The research and communication skills I developed while at UTC have served me well in each position I’ve had since. I firmly believe that studying history and understanding our past is one of the best things a person can do. By understanding our past, we can understand our present, making us citizens of the entire world rather than just a part of it.