How to Use a History Major at Perry Ellis International and in the Non-Profit World

Every year the Messiah College History Department sponsors a “Career Night” in which we bring alums back to campus to talk about the ways that their undergraduate study of history has helped them in their workplace.  We could not have been more excited about our speakers at this year’s event.

Beth Baggett graduated from the Messiah College History Department in 1997 and went on to pursue a career in the fashion industry.  She has worked for Guess Jeans, Nautica, Sean John, and is currently the Vice-President for Sales–Men’s Division–at Perry Ellis International.

Caitlin Babcock graduated from the Messiah College History Department in 2010 and went on to pursue an M.A. in Peace and Conflict Resolution.  She is currently Executive Management Assistant at the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia, a non-profit organization that helps new immigrants assimilate to American life.

Both Beth and Caitlin discussed how they transitioned from a Messiah College history major to their current jobs.

Beth talked extensively about how she has used the writing and research skills that she learned as a history major to rise in the fashion industry.  (She currently heads a $40 million division–men’s retail–at Perry Ellis).  She also discussed how history has helped her “to see the big picture” as she takes sales data and tries to weave it into a story about the products she is charged with selling. She credits her study of history and a lot of hard work with getting a leg up in this very competitive and global industry.

Caitlin uses her history major every day in her work with immigrants.  Part of her job is to tell the stories of the immigrants she encounters in a fair and compelling way.  She has learned to listen and empathize with those she encounters at work–something she learned listening to and empathizing with the dead people she encountered every day as a history major. The ability to craft written narratives has also been essential to her work as a grant writer for this non-profit agency.

This session reminded us that a solid undergraduate training in a liberal arts discipline such as history can prepare one for a variety of jobs. It was clear that Beth and Caitlin love their work. It was also clear that if they had to do it all over again they would still major in history.

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