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Department Spotlight

Gene Saunders,
BA: History and Political Science, 2006
Veterans Administration & Active Duty Caseworker
Congressman Mike Turner (OH-District 10)

For the past five years. I have provided administrative and IT support, staffed Congressman Turner at events he attends, and assisted with special annual projects.  My primary role in his office is casework. I am our office’s VA and Active Duty Military Caseworker. When a veteran or service member contacts our office and is having issues with the VA or branch of the military, I work on their behalf to get them the answers they need. I also serve as our office’s Veterans Outreach Representative, attending VA meetings and community veteran events. Most recently, in my role as a caseworker, I had the opportunity to receive training at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). Through this office of the National Archives, I help constituents secure documentation and establish entitlement to military service awards. This aspect of my job allows me to continue to work with primary source documents on a daily basis and interact with others who do the same.      

Gene Saunders (06)

I also utilize other skills I learned as a History major. Often, I have to review documentation I am unfamiliar with, ascertain the main point or points, and then communicate that information to others. I work interpersonally with constituents every day. I engage them, try to understand their issues, and provide them whatever assistance they require to address their needs.

One important ability I recognized in myself early on that has followed me through two jobs, is a capacity to train myself to a level of competency in areas where I have no prior expertise. I credit this to a combination of the critical thinking/analysis skills I learned while a History major at Muskingum as well as its Liberal Arts strengths. While I did not understand or appreciate it at the time, being able to specialize in my passion (History) but also learn from other areas of academia (the General Education requirements), prepared me to be successful in a career where I have to switch my thought process several times throughout the day to accomplish many differing tasks.       


Kate (McFadden) Smith,
BA: History, 2010
Special Projects Coordinator, Dennison Railroad Depot Museum System

In the summer of 2009, I interned at the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum. This gave me a taste for what a career in a non-profit would be like. I learned that you need to understand every facet of how your organization runs and I was able to gain experience in marketing, education, event planning, and fund raising. I realized early on, fortunately, that public history and any non-profit field requires passion and a willingness to invest deeply in what you are doing.


Kate (McFadden) Smith

After graduating, I took a position with the first AmeriCorps Local History Corps program assisting with the Civil War 150 Project. I gained experience in assisting sites with strategic planning and made contacts in 10 Ohio counties. This position led to my first full time position as the Director of Spring Hill Historic Home in Massillon, OH.

After my husband (also a Muskie) and I started a family, I sought something that was more in my area of long-term interest. Because I had made and kept contacts and mentors throughout the beginning of my career, I was able to return to The Dennison Depot as a consultant.  Currently, I coordinate all special projects. I also write grants, design marketing materials, and plan one of the largest outreach and kids’ educational events in the area.

I am overseeing a program that evaluates everything in the museum based on national standards and have recently started working on professional services that our site can offer to other museums and historical societies. Through this position, I have also been able to serve on the Ohio Local History Alliance (OLHA) Board of Trustees, which centers on educating museum professionals and preparing them for advocacy. Experience has been a very big part of a career in public history but being involved in the History Department at Muskingum gave me a crucial piece of what I needed to work in the field. After graduation I felt prepared to look at history on a local level and tie events into what was happening at a state, national, and international level, all of which are key when explaining to the public why your site matters and why they should support it! With any career, it takes time and effort to find your place and get into the "groove," but the experience and knowledge I learned while at Muskingum and from the History Department ensured I was able to hit the ground running. 


Jason Petz
BA: History & AYA Socials Studies Certification, 2011

I am teaching 8th-11th grade social studies full time at T2 Honors Academy, a charter school in Cleveland that serves under-privileged students.
In my first year of teaching, the school named me Teacher of the Year.


Petz Spotlight Pic

My one piece of advice to any current students is to enjoy
their time there because it is not something that they can
replicate ever again in their lives.--Jason Petz

I attribute much of my success to the qualities instilled in me at Muskingum. While at Muskingum, I was very active and involved in numerous activities (Class President, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Alpha Theta, Omicron Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Pi, Resident Hall Association, Muskie Preview, and Freshmen Orientation). My involvement in these clubs led to leadership positions. I use these leadership skills in the classroom and hold many leadership positions within the school as well.  In addition, I had grown up in a very rural area, so Muskingum also exposed me to culturally diverse groups and taught me how to interact with people from all walks of life.

The last (and most important) skill that Muskingum instilled in me is a strong work ethic. The countless hours I spent dissecting historical texts for Dr. Hilton’s class, revising and editing papers, and preparing for exams has prepared me for the life of a teacher.


Austin Frederici
BA: History,
Sales, Mar-Pak, Inc.

When I graduated from Muskingum in 2012, I applied for an assistant manager position at Bob Evans. This was when I first recognized how prepared I was to enter the work force. During my interview process, I realized that they were looking for something that I wasn’t expecting. It was not experience or GPA. They were looking to see if I had pushed myself and achieved results. They wanted to know if I was capable of forming goals and meeting those. Ultimately, my ability to complete tasks and speak to people got me the job.

Frederici Spotlight Pic

Within weeks, I noticed that my approach to decision making was different from others. We ran reports for everything. Many times people would print these off and store them as a formality. When I ran these reports, I would use them as a way to make decisions. Sometimes my decisions were wrong. Sometimes they were very wrong, but analyzing and applying information pushed me to become a much more effective decision maker and therefore a more effective leader. My ability to apply information and think critically set me apart from people then and now. The crazy thing is, I learned and refined these skills in my lower level History classes. Examining documents and applying evidence is a basic skill I picked up in Dr. Hilton and Dr. Kerrigan’s classes within my first two years.

Since Bob Evans, I have found a career that I love. Currently, I work as an outside sales representative for a packaging company called Mar-Pak, Inc. We are not a huge company; however, as part of a three-person sales team, the job I do has a huge impact on the people in my office and within the local community. I now see how my upper level History classes prepared me for this important role. One over-arching theme from my last two years (where I studied the history of places like Japan, Germany, and even Ohio) is that people must take responsibility for difficult decisions. This sounds like a no-brainer notion, but I learned not everyone is willing to make decisions or take responsibility for them and that stalls growth. In business, I have to weigh options and accept responsibility for the outcome of my decisions. For myself and my company to grow, I have to look back and examine my decision making process.
Since I started with Mar-Pak, Inc., I have had the opportunity to do some great things. I have opened up new business opportunities and built some awesome relationships. I have also been fortunate enough to take a trip to India, another place my degree in history was of benefit. They live far differently than we do. I believe strong convictions in my faith and an understanding of different worldviews allowed me to enjoy India very much. That is something that not all people who go there can do. I am proud of my History degree.

I still live in New Concord and love it! I share an apartment with my awesome wife (Hannah), our dog (Lola) and our cat (Charms). I am a part of Friendship Baptist Church in New Concord and have the privilege of leading the youth group there.


Becka Hackett
BA: History, 2006
MA: Public History (Museum Studies, Middle Tennessee State, 2008

I am currently Assistant Site Director/Education Director at Historic Zoar Village and Fort Laurens. My first museum job was at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science in Wilmington, NC, where I worked within their collections department. I then worked at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, OH as their museum educator on the main campus in University Circle.

Becka Hackett wigwam frameBecka helps campers build a wigwam frame at the Zoar Summer Camp.


I wear many hats including education director, volunteer coordinator, IT tech, graphic designer, grant writer, collections assistant, and historian in my current job. I developed the award winning Free Speaker Series for Zoar and reinvigorated the long-standing Civil War School Day event, which brings 1000+ students to Zoar every September.

I use content, research, and critical thinking skills that I learned in my Muskingum History courses every day. I recently researched and presented a program on the Cholera Epidemic that affected Zoar in 1834. I am currently developing a timeline exhibit for the Zoar Bicentennial in 2017. Critical thinking skills are certainly useful when trying to write a program or to guide research. I think, however, that I use critical thinking skills the most when dealing with people. Whether it is an upset customer, a passionate volunteer, or a determined board member, critical thinking skills are important to identify the motivation behind a person’s words or actions, ask them the right questions, and resolve the situation.


Troy Valasek
BA: History, Business, and Economics, 2011
JD: University of Akron, 2014

Currently, I am an Attorney at Law and Landman of West Appalachia Assets for EnerVest Operating, L.L.C., a national oil and gas producer. I would not be where I am today without my Muskingum education. In particular, my History Department courses provided me with not only the skills required to successfully complete law school but also objective lessons that I use every day in my personal life and profession.

Valasek reenactment

Troy participates in historical re-enactment,
shown here with his First World War group. 
This participation began more than a decade ago
initially with a focus on the Civil War.

First, law school (and the legal profession in general) requires the abilities to read actively, comprehend, and analyze immense amounts of facts and theories. Second, writing research papers is also very similar to writing case briefs and legal arguments. Third, it requires students to express opinions and questions effectively. Mastering these skills in my History classes is the reason that I was able to quickly adapt to the Socratic method of teaching. Without these skills, I do not believe that I would have excelled in law school and made the Akron Law Review.

However, the most significant lesson I learned from being a history major at Muskingum is the responsibility to always look at a situation from different points of view. I deal with conflicts every day and am often very successful at resolving those conflicts in a way that satisfies both parties. I always try to put myself in the other people's shoes before I form judgments. By doing this, I more thoroughly understand the arguments being made, why each party feels strongly regarding their position, and often what a potential resolution may be.



Amanda (Jones) Taylor (2004) – Architectural Historian
BA: History and International Affairs
MA: Public History from Indiana University-Indianapolis

At Muskingum, I learned how to synthesize and interpret primary and secondary sources, analyze historic events, and understand how historical events fit together. One summer, I also completed an internship at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fredonia, Ohio. During my MA program in Public History at IUPUI, I undertook another internship, which led to my current employment in the field of Historic Preservation.

Quaker Cemetery
Taking photos in the Quaker Cemetery in Belgrade, Maine.

As an Architectural Historian, I study the built environment and evaluate the significance of historic sites and structures by placing them within the appropriate historic contexts. Much of my work is tied to federal regulations and programs and the potential impact of building projects on historic properties. I travel throughout New England and photograph all types of historic resources (houses, commercial buildings, bridges, cemeteries, barns, subdivisions, farms, etc. – even a glacial rock), research their origin and evolution, and assess their importance. I spend a lot of time with historic photos, aerial photos, plat maps, and deeds.

Maine Map







The map of Maine shows where Kleinfelder, the company for whom I work,
has completed historic resource surveys for MaineDOT. I helped to edit,
coordinated the layout, and co-authored a chapter of the book Historic Bridges
of Maine, recently published by MaineDOT.