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Julie Arrison-Bishop, WSU 2007
Special Projects Manager
I graduated from WSU with my BA in history and a minor in both commercial recreation and tourism and education. I graduated from Northeastern University with my MA in history and certificates in both non-profit management and public history administration. I am currently the Special Projects Manager at The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Mass. My job encompasses managerial and administrative support in a number of high-level projects at The Gables including the management of our external communications and public relations, collections management, direction on the interpretive planning process, construction project management, and planning and execution for public programs.
Until the middle of my junior year at WSU, I had my heart set on teaching in the classroom. As I spent more time in that environment, I decided that it was not the job for me. I worked in hospitality for a few years after graduation, but it was not for me. I truly missed being around the environment that was offered by working with and learning from history. I accepted a volunteer assignment with the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, MA in order to learn more about working in the museum setting and to see if that was a changed that I wanted to make. It was immediate love. Not only did I gain valuable research and interpretive experience, but I was able to connect with other nonprofits to complete internships projects and earn my master’s level certificate in nonprofit management. Being a history major gave me the skills I needed to work in every environment I have been in. The ability to plan, research, and think critically has been as applicable in my work in the hospitality as it has been in my volunteer and professional experience. Working as a team on a variety of projects in my time at WSU also afforded me the chance to hone interpersonal and leadership skills.
History is not just a hobby—it is a way to look at the world around, to ask questions of that world, to analyze the data that you receive, and to present that data in a fashion that helps others to better understand and communicate. Working in the history field helps to perpetuate the cultural, artistic, and social patterns that have shaped our past and present and will continue to shape our future. WSU provided me with an excellent foundation to not only work professionally in the museum field, but also to be a communicator in all that I pursue.
While I am generally satisfied with my graduate education, it is not the name of the school that got me my job. It was the connections that I made along the way. I cannot speak enough to the power of networking—especially in the history field. It is not always easy to be extroverted and to build relationships, but the foundation that a new student builds will sustain them in their education and professional lives for years to come. Be ambitious, work hard, work often, and make a name for yourself and everything else will fall into place.
I had the pleasure of being in class with some demanding professors. At the time, it wasn’t always easy and certainly wasn’t always fun, but as an adult and professional I look back at the care and knowledge that was bestowed upon my by the faculty and am grateful for the challenges that forced me out of my comfort zone. One of my biggest honors and regrets from my education at WSU involved Prof. Catherine Shannon and her insistence that I travel abroad to Ireland. Her desire to push me meant that she respected the quality of my work in her class. At the time, I didn’t go because I didn’t want to miss out on campus life and I regret that decision to this day. If a professor pushes you, take the push. Travel. Learn. Grow.
My four years at WSU were some of the best of my life. Academically, I could not have asked for more. Despite being a history major, my first published work came out of a project I did for a math class. I was consistently challenged to think hard and work hard by the faculty and staff. No opportunities were readily given, but I am proud of every opportunity that I received. Without the foundation that I built at WSU, and more specifically in my work in the history department, I would not be professionally employed in the museum field and literally living my dreams on a daily basis.
History and social studies have fallen out of fashion as other fields have grown. History is not taught as vigorously as it once was and the passion to develop stories and a narrative around what has happened in the past isn’t as strong as it once was. We need YOU to join our team, to consider the opportunities and challenges of working in the field, and to be the future generation that inspires others to think critically and analyze deeply influences on our past, present, and future. Follow your dreams and your passion.