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Laura HirstWhere are you currently located and what are you up to?

I am currently located in Washington, D.C. I am the Member Services Coordinator at a small, non-profit membership association in international education. AIRC promotes standards and ethics-based international student recruitment strategies and our members work together to establish these quality standards for international student recruitment to the US (primarily to colleges and universities). At a small non-profit I've had the opportunity to wear many "hats" and gain experience in member services, accounting/billing, conference and event planning, communications/marketing/PR, general administrative support and complete any special projects as needed.

DC is also a dynamic and interesting place to live, so while I've been here I've had many opportunities to learn and participate in cultural events I wouldn't get to elsewhere!

How did you become interested in History/Social Studies Adolescence Education?

History was always my favorite subject and I think I've really enjoyed it because story telling fascinates me. History is so much more than simple facts and dates--it's about weaving them together to tell the story and passing that story on. History affects our lives today and we can use it to learn, understand, and grow. History is also the perfect subject for people (like me!) who enjoy learning and sharing knowledge.

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How did Fredonia's History/Social Studies program prepare you for your current work and/or future plans?

Fredonia's History program prepared me with the research and problem-solving skills that are critical for success no matter what field you enter in to. The History program also taught me discipline to get the job done (and done well!) and how to meet deadlines. I might not surround myself with books in Reed Library anymore but I took the skills I used then with me in order to meet challenges in my current position. Plus, I have used my History 499 (capstone) paper as a writing sample many times when applying to positions.

The classes I took inspired me to think broadly, seek new experiences, to be curious and to ask questions. A history class I took my sophomore year inspired me to study abroad and in turn, study abroad inspired me to pursue a career in international education.

I would also like to thank the History Department for helping shape me in to who I am today. Every professor I had took an interest in not only my grades but in me as a person and I was never just a seat that filled the section. Professors helped me with career planning and grad school questions and thanks to their guidance I felt prepared for what was next after graduation.

What advice do you have for students beginning the History/Social Studies Education program?

I have several pieces of advice, in no particular order ...

  • I cannot stress enough the importance of internships - even if your internship is not directly related to your field of study, internships help you gain "real world" experience employers are looking for in an entry-level position.
  • Study hard, of course.  Grades do matter.  Don't be afraid to visit professors during their office hours and ask for help!  The Learning Center (4th Floor, Reed Library) is also a great resource to receive help with coursework from your peers.
  • Get to know your professors.  They are full of knowledge and experience and are so helpful.
  • Try new things and meet new people by joining clubs and participating in campus activities.  You will grow as a person.
  • Study abroad - even if it's a short term program.  It was the best decision I made in all four years.  It opened my mind to the world and helped me find my career path.  In my experience it was absolutely worth it and there are many ways to fund your program through scholarships and part-time jobs.
  • Lastly, enjoy your time and don't blink because before you know it you'll be walking across the stage at graduation!

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