History Department Alumni

Anna Harris ’14 is an analyst at one of the world’s largest financial services firms. She is a candidate in the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program in addition to working towards completion of a Certificate in Data Analytics. Anna double majored in History and Latin American & Caribbean Studies while at Lafayette, where she was fortunate to receive the academic influence and mentorship of History Professors Rebekah Pite and Rachel Goshgarian. Upon graduation, Anna pursued an internship in the Dominican Republic, wrapping up the studies she performed during her junior year abroad in Central America and Cuba. Subsequently, she fulfilled a year of AmeriCorps service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, developing an interest in financial literacy through concurrent work as a summer intern. Several months later, she moved to Denver, Colorado accepting a position with her current firm. Since that time, she has successfully addressed a broad range of financial, investment, and planning-related issues within the context of the financial services industry. These achievements abbreviated, but not limited to the following, include interpretation of investment results with families and individuals, integration of biometric based security with the customer experience, refinement of digital operations for transfers of wealth related to legal and fiduciary issues, and risk-based assessment of anti-money laundering concerns within compliance and regulatory frameworks. The critical-thinking skills and interdisciplinary mindset that Anna perfected during her coursework in Lafayette’s History Department paved the way towards these accomplishments and conditioned her to cultivate continuous learning in her professional life. She is particularly grateful to Professor Pite, who encouraged her to think about history as a series of smaller daily actions which compound to form the contours of a greater narrative. Pairing continuous learning with the latter, is possibly the most essential recipe for sustainable growth and engagement in an ever-changing professional landscape. Employers recognize this and seek individuals who display these qualities.

Jonathan Alerhand ’07 is a senior research analyst for a private investment firm in New York that allocates capital to other funds.  He found his history classes, particularly those taught by Professor Barclay on East Asia, to be particularly interesting and rewarding as part of his international affairs major. Jonathan’s history classes taught him how to read rigorously, write succinctly, think critically, develop an analytical mindset and perform research.  A history major may not seem appropriate for a finance professional, but Jonathan learned how to examine material thoroughly and recognize the need for using facts to support a contrarian truth-seeking mindset.   He learned to be appreciative and understanding of different views which is necessary in a world where fund managers and investment analysts are required to come up with a bull case, bear case and base case scenario for each potential position.  Accounting and research of financial statements and news releases such as 10-Ks requires one to be able to meticulously review footnotes and written text, an ability to which Jonathan owns largely to his history courses.  Jonathan feels that his history major taught him to “learn how to learn,” which he has found useful in  continuing education accounting classes and reading books on economics and investing during his spare time.

Susan Grunewald ’11 received her doctoral degree in History at Carnegie Mellon University in 2019. She majored in Russian and East European Studies and minored in German at Lafayette, but she took numerous history courses and wrote an honor’s thesis under the direction of Joshua Sanborn. She spent a year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in the Applied Linguistics Department of the Ulyanovsk State Technical University in Russia after graduating from Lafayette, where she developed a passion for teaching and decided to pursue a doctorate in Soviet History. Her dissertation has been funded by a Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship through the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, two A.W. Mellon Fellowships in Digital Humanities, and the Central European History Society. Her success in graduate school would not have been possible without Lafayette’s rigorous coursework. Susan’s penchant for breaking boards over her head while a member of the Lafayette Taekwondo Club did not seem to do any permanent damage, and she can still be found practicing the martial art in her spare time at Carnegie Mellon.

Alexander (Alec) Imel ’12 is currently an attorney at a civil litigation law firm in Newark, NJ.  After graduating from Lafayette magna cum laude with a double major in History and Philosophy, Alec received his J.D. from Columbia Law School.  Getting a history degree from Lafayette was an influential part of preparing him for law school and a career as a lawyer.  History helped hone many of the practical skills a lawyer (and law student) needs such as researching, reading voluminous materials, and writing clearly.  One of his favorite courses was on Piracy in Early American History, which he further developed into a research project on piracy and America’s legal development.  The vibrancy of the stories brought the law alive for Alec and further ignited his passion for his profession.  Lafayette’s history professors taught him how to understand and analyze a story, which Alec has found crucial to helping his clients achieve positive results in the courtroom.  Outside of the classroom, Lafayette’s history professors provided Alec with valuable mentoring.  In his own words, Alec said, “I could not have gotten where I am without the advice and guidance of my history professors.  Even today, they continue to support me as I progress in my career.”

Jacqueline Olich ’92 writes that “my training as a historian informs everything I do–my work at RTI International, parenting, travel, social media–you name it. At Lafayette, I had the opportunity to learn from remarkable historians, notably Bob Weiner, Gillian Cell, Robert Rotberg, Andy Fix, Donald Miller, Richard Sharpless, Joan Neuberger, Charters Wynn, and Phil Swoboda. I traveled to Russia with Bob Weiner, Rex Ahene and Rado Pribic. I met both my husband (Andy Kennedy, ’89) and Mikhail Gorbachev at Lafayette College. As an undergraduate, I also studied abroad at The University of Edinburgh.”

James Homsey, ’03 received his doctoral degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in December 2017. James is a socio-political historian of modern Japan with training in the premodern and modern history of Japan, China, and the broader Asia-Pacific region. He is currently on the academic job market, and plans to pursue a career in academia. James first developed an interest in the history and culture of the Asia-Pacific region thanks to his advisor at Lafayette, Paul Barclay. Inspired by Barclay’s classes, James set off to Nagoya, Japan in 2005 to teach English. What he expected to be a year-long adventure turned into a four year experience. After developing his Japanese language abilities, James decided to apply to graduate school in 2009 to study  Japanese history. He landed in Madison, Wisconsin under the guidance of Louise Young, and has never looked back. James has returned to Japan several times since, including as a Fulbright Fellow, and now considers the country a second home. He says that his experience at Lafayette instilled in him a curiosity and ambition that have fueled him along the path of his young academic career. He will be sure to keep us posted regarding where his journey takes him next.

George “Mason” Thomson ’16 is studying law at the University of Virginia. In addition to pursuing his newly acquired passion for the study of torts, Mason recently passed a test to become a Certified Application Counselor. He can now help the Charlottesville community make informed decisions about their health insurance through the Legal Aid Justice Center during open enrollment. Mason also reports that, despite the heavy workload, UVA is known for being a “fun” law school. He is currently a first baseman on his section’s softball team, to give one example of the fun to be had between bouts of study and volunteer work. At Lafayette, Mason completed an honors thesis in History and German under the direction of Bob Weiner, Margarete Lamb- Faffelberger, and DC Jackson, on the topic of German repatriation after the defeat in World War II. He says that “Identifying, understanding, and empathizing with different perspectives during my study of history has been invaluable for my experience at law school, there is no shortage of arguments to be read, and the skills I obtained in undergrad help me effectively synthesize these debates as I prepare for my exams.”

Andrew J. B. Fagal ’07 is an assistant editor for The Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Princeton University. In this position he transcribes, verifies, annotates, and indexes the third President’s vast correspondence for publication (https://jeffersonpapers.princeton.edu/). After graduating from Lafayette College with a double major in Economics & Business and History (with honors in History), he received his Ph.D. in early American history at Binghamton University, State University of New York. At Lafayette, Andrew was a member of the mock trial team and the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. Although most of his history courses were in early modern Europe, Japan, and the ancient world, a brief reading on Jefferson’s 1808 export embargo piqued his interest and eventually led to a thesis supervised by D.C. Jackson. Lafayette’s content-heavy curriculum and demanding coursework left him well prepared for graduate school and his eventual career as a professional historian.  In addition to his published work in the Jefferson Papers, Andrew’s academic writings have appeared in Enterprise & Society, The New England Quarterly, and New York History. If you enjoy posts about early American history, you can follow him on Twitter @Andrew_Fagal.