Monash University’s Arts faculty and the alumni team asked me to write about why I chose to study history. Here’s what I wrote for the university’s website.
History was of more appeal than Accounting. I was four years through my Arts and Commerce degree when I realised this. Of course there were many other reasons why I chose History.
Studying Arts, in the beginning, provided a point of difference. The Arts was a postscript to the Commerce.
It took the encouraging words of certain professors before Arts, in the form of a History Major, became the focus. One class that comes to mind is ‘Twentieth Century America: Race, Rights, and Power’, taught by Professor Mark Peel.
Studying in America for a year also influenced my shift toward the Humanities.
If possible, pick classes by professor, not by program. If the chance arises, get an OS-HELP loan, scrounge, and study overseas for at least a semester. For me, studying in America helped to clarify what I wanted to do. In 2007 I completed my undergraduate Commerce and Arts Degree. The following year I undertook an Honours Degree in History, writing a thesis about homelessness – ‘The Power of Perception: Debating Homelessness in Australia 1970–2008’. The thesis was supervised by Professor Peel; without whom I would not have considered further study.
I’m not entirely sure why I chose to write about homelessness. I do know, however, that time spent living in America has made me want to understand how poverty is born and perpetuated in wealthy countries. Australia seemed a natural place to start. Alongside the Honours thesis I completed a worthwhile class called ‘Reading and Writing Australian History’, taught by Associate Professor Christina Twomey and Dr Sarah Pinto.
Since graduating in 2008, I have been fortunate to find several jobs. I wrote a report for a non-profit housing provider on Melbourne’s unsafe rooming houses. I travelled to New York to work as a research assistant for a sociology professor. The professor and I co-wrote a paper that considered how the economic crisis is affecting America’s public education system. I have also spent a few months working in Tanzania.
For the past year I have been working in social policy at a Melbourne philanthropic foundation.
So, why study History? It’s the professors, the tutors, the lecturers – the ones who hearten you to do what you want to do. They make it meaningful. At Monash, your path will likely cross with some of these people. History, through my eyes, offers a colourful contrast to an everyday present; in each hue History illuminates today. It can also provide shade against an unwritten tomorrow. History, in a sense, is the artist.