Government/Foreign Policy

Riane Harper ’09 who works for the State Department in Washington D.C. writes: “For the past three years, I’ve been the public opinion researcher and analyst for the State Department in Afghanistan and the former USSR countries, and I’ve found my history background to be immensely helpful in regions with such contested historical narratives. I’m now moving on to a new position at the State Department, joining a small team responsible for implementing Iran sanctions.” Deborah Beck ’95, a political consultant who specializes in polling, also notes, “All those hours writing and editing history papers paid off. Surveys and reports are my major work products, but the ability to make an argument and present powerful facts to back it up are essential. Those skills were honed at Vassar.” James Wilson ’03 a graduate working at the U.S. State Department received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia puts his History degrees to work in an even more direct way: “As a history major at Vassar College, I encountered a vast community of people speaking in their own voices across space and time. I got to know them and learned how to argue and empathize with them. As a historian at the U.S. Department of State working to produce the official documentary record of American encounters with the world, I try to apply the same approaches as I first did in Swift Hall.”

Debbie Sharnak ’08 combines her interest in international relations and history, seeing the two as interconnected. She worked at the International Center for Transitional Justice after graduation and is now pursuing her Ph.D. in History at the University of Wisconsin. She writes, “My history degree gave me the breadth and depth of knowledge to pursue a career in international affairs and human rights. My fantastic professors taught me about the historical context of both global issues and social movements. As a result, after graduation I was poised to lead research projects and international campaigns that sought to study, engage, and work on improving the world around me.”