I recently interviewed Joshua Kim, an undergraduate history major at Washington University in St. Louis, blogger at Inside Higher Ed, former sociology professor, and the current director of learning and technology for the Master of Health Care Delivery program at Dartmouth College.
Why did you decide to major in history and what was your experience like at Washington University?
Curiosity. I often wonder how anyone can major in anything else, as studying history allows for the most time to figure out what happened in the world. It continues to drive me crazy that I don’t know the full history of people. Some people have an itch to figure out how nature works, or physics or mechanics. I’ve always been more interested in people.
The history department at Washington University in St. Louis is amazing – and I had an incredible experience. Small classes with professors who are involved in creating knowledge in their fields. Professors who brought the undergrads into the research process.
What is the nature of your current job?
I’m the director of learning and technology for the Master of Health Care Delivery Science program at Dartmouth College. I often tell people I have the best academic job in the world, getting to work at the intersection between education and technology. I started my career as a professor (in sociology at West Virginia University), and have had the good fortune of working in startups in technology and publishing (at Britannica.com), and helping to start an online university (at Quinnipiac University).
How have the skills you learned as a history major helped you in your current work?
My academic career has been one of a generalist, working across disciplines and specialties. A wide knowledge base has been helpful. I think I’ve been able to maintain the curiosity that first motivated me to study history, expanding my questions about the world beyond how we got here to where we are going next.
Do you have any advice for history majors as they think about the job market and potential careers?
Do lots of writing. Practice taking what you learn in your history classes and turning this learning into your own writing. The 20 page end-of-term paper should not be the only time you write about what you learn. Find opportunities, or classes, that offer frequent writing and feedback opportunities. Knowledge work today, in whatever field, requires the ability to write reasonably well and reasonably quickly. The only way to become proficient in writing is to get lots and lots of practice.
I’d also strongly recommend that every college student, history major or not, needs to get a sense of the sweep of history. Learning some dates and basic geography is essential. You need those building blocks.