For this week’s Major Monday post we turn to Mr. Porell, a member of our Social Studies department! Here he answers some questions for us about his path to becoming a history teacher at LC.
1) What was your college major and where did you go to school?
I went to UMass Lowell for my bachelor’s degree in History. I earned a master’s degree in Comparative History from Brandeis University. My thesis was “An Examination of Oral History: Holocaust Survivor Testimony and its Status in Holocaust History.”
2) Was this your original major?
Yes, it was.
3) What made you choose your major?
I chose History as a major because, at the risk of sounded clichéd, it is my passion. Since a very young age, I’ve read, studied and explored all things history. I transitioned from a previous career, in which I was quite miserable, so the the decision to pursue an advanced degree, and subsequently, a career in which I love, was easy.
I earned my degree while working full time. I worked third shift (11:00 p.m. -7:00 a.m) and then went to school full time each day. I’d leave work at 7:10, get to school before 8:00, take classes until 2:00, then get my kids from school. We’d go home, all do our homework, and when my wife got home around 5:00, I’d go to bed until 9:45, and do the whole thing all over again. My point? If you really want to do something, you have it in you to do it! For me it was a Bachelors and Masters, start to finish, in five years.
4) What were your favorite classes in college?
My favorite classes in college were upper level classes that really challenged me. Some were very difficult: Early U.S. Political Culture, Historical Methods, Problems of Modern Ireland, Arthurian Literature.
5) What advice do you have for students interested in majoring in History?
See #3, paragraph two: don’t get into a career you hate. But seriously, if you are going to major in History, know right away- literally freshman year- what you plan to do with the degree. Are you going to teach? At what level? Public or private? Should you get a Masters in Education or History?
Are you going to do research/museum/preservation work?
Do you want to be a professor (PhD)? That’s a commitment that involves fluency in at least one more language, unless you are thinking about U.S. History (a very crowded field by the way). A humanities PhD with dissertation takes anywhere from six to eight years after your undergrad.
Also, be prepared to be asked this question from everyone who cares about you: “What are you going to do with a History degree?”
Thanks for contributing to our Major Monday feature, Mr. Porell!