Jillian Johnson

Degree: BA History

When did you graduate? 2010

What were some of the most rewarding/influential classes in your major? I absolutely love that as a UCA History major, the majority of your classes are electives, giving you the ability to shape your own emphasis. For me, that meant a lot of American history and women’s history. Specifically, Dr. Lucas’ “American Women’s History” and Dr. Welky’s “American Life and Thought since 1865”. These classes cultivated my curiosity in American Social History, particularly the role that women played in creating American social culture, and how that experience shaped their lives. Those curiosities lead me to do my undergraduate research on how membership in the Daughters of the Confederacy shaped the role and identity of Southern Womanhood in its members. Also, I highly recommend Dr. Lucas’ “History of Witchcraft”, just because it was the most fun and fascinating class I had!

Where did you live? I lived in an off campus apartment

What groups did you belong to? I transferred to UCA after my sophomore year, and was a non-traditional student during most of my time studying History, so I wasn’t involved in many groups. However, I am an alumnus of Delta Zeta Sorority, Omicron Epsilon chapter.

What other experiences did you have that enriched your time as a student at UCA? The best experience I had as a History major was applying for and receiving EDGE funding to travel for my undergraduate research. Thanks to this opportunity, I got to spend spring break of my senior year in Richmond, VA, doing research in the archives at the headquarters of the Daughters of the Confederacy. This experience gave me a chance to meet some of the women I was researching, as well as view a wealth of primary source materials, such as diaries and hand-written minutes from early meetings. I can’t encourage history majors enough to actively pursue funding opportunities for your research. Being able to research your subject material on-site is a completely different experience, and it’s something I wish every history major would experience.

What did you plan to do with your degree? Originally I wanted to teach high school. My dad taught high school history, and I hoped to follow in his footsteps. I personally believe that we would really benefit high school students in their college preparedness if they were being taught history as it is taught on a college level, so I felt like getting a non-traditional license and later an MAT would be my best course of action towards a teaching career. However, finding a job was more difficult than I anticipated. I ended up finding a job at UCA with the intention of it being temporary, but then I absolutely fell in love with higher education.

How are you using your degree? I am currently an administrative specialist for UCA International Engagement, while I pursue my masters in College Student Personnel and Administration. I will graduate with my masters in April. I can’t say enough great things about the CSPA graduate program at UCA, it really is a unique experience. I’m so thankful for the research and writing background I have from History, because it has given me a distinct advantage.

What disciplinary skills do you use most often in your current job? As a graduate student, I use my writing skills the most. Historical writing is such a beautiful marriage of technical writing and literary writing; it really does prepare you well for multiple fields. You develop the ability to be succinct and get an idea across, but must also have the artistry to make your writing passionate and enjoyable. I’m currently writing a grant, and I can clearly see that my undergraduate skills have made it easier. Research in my current field is very different, but I’m glad that I read so much as a history major, because it’s actually made the reading load in graduate school seem light! As far as my current job in International Engagement, I think the skill I utilize the most is communication. I talk to such a variety of people every day, and I don’t believe I’d be as comfortable and skilled in doing so had it not been for the communication skills we history majors acquire both from the people we meet doing research and the discussions held daily with our peers in the classroom.

What are your plans? What will your degree allow you to do/accomplish as you move forward? I will graduate in April with my masters in College Student Personnel and Administration, and from there I look forward to continuing my career in higher education. I love working with college students being part of a campus community. My short term goal is to move into a position that works more closely with students, such as an academic advisor. Long term, I would love to eventually work on my Ph.D. and teach in a program similar to the one I’m currently enrolled in. The degrees that I have earned at UCA will give me the skills and experience required to pursue these goals successfully.

What is the most surprising/unexpected thing you learned about yourself during your time as a BA student at UCA? I think the most unexpected thing I learned about myself was how much I loved the college environment. Before History, I tried out a couple other majors that just weren’t the right fit, and as a result I never quite felt like I fit in. When I started pursuing my History degree, that all changed. I went from being the quiet person on the back row who didn’t really engage to sitting in the front, actively engaging during class, getting to know my teachers and peers, and finally feeling like a part of the community. Before History, I thought I just didn’t like UCA that much, but reality was, I just hadn’t found my niche. I made lifelong friendships in the program; people who are still some of my best friends today, even if we are spread across the country. I fell in love with the school and the experience, so much so that I never really left! Had it not been for the connections and sense of community I gained from the environment here, I doubt that I ever would have wanted to stay in higher education, and now I’m pursuing a lifetime career in it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get a BA in history? Follow your passion. If you love History and it excites you, then pursue it. I’ll be the first to admit that it may not seem like a BA in History opens the door to many jobs, and that can be intimidating, but it’s also not true. There are so many careers out there that a degree in History will give you the skills to pursue. Also, if you’re planning on pursuing an eventual Ph.D. in History and becoming a professor, you won’t find many programs better than UCA. We are blessed beyond belief with incredibly interesting, intelligent, and passionate faculty members who truly care about their students and teach at a level that will demand your best. Enjoy every second of it and soak it all in, this is just the beginning! Good Luck and enjoy the ride!