Alumni Profiles

History Alum Leah Palmer, National Frontier Trails Museum

Leah Astle Palmer

History BA/MA 2014/16; Event and Education Program Manager, National Frontier Trails Museum

How has your college experience at UMKC inspired you?

The History Department faculty develop innovative projects and unique community collaborations. It was a fantastic experience to be a part of new projects and partnerships and to make connections that would help me in my career.

How did a History Masters help you in crafting a career?

My graduate work at UMKC allowed me to break into a competitive field that often requires successful job candidates be proficient in everything from collection management to grant writing. The Public History Program taught me both the academic skills needed to produce scholarly work and a myriad number of related skills that prepared me for work in the museum field.

What did you learn about yourself while in college?

I learned to believe in myself. My time at UMKC gave me the opportunity to try a variety of things, and I learned that I could do much more than I thought myself capable of.  It was a remarkable experience to discover what I wanted to do with my life and, then, gain the confidence to pursue it.

Juan J. Betancourt-Garcia

Juan J. Betancourt-Garcia

History BA 2014; Ph.D. student, Brown University, studying colonial Latin America, the Atlantic world, and Africana studies

How has your college experience at UMKC inspired you?

My professors were gate-openers, rather than gatekeepers; they motivated me to ask questions that could spark creativity rather than follow formulas. Looking back, these moments were at times challenging, yet they were also moments of growth and exploration. They continue to inspire me to this day. 

How did a History BA help you in crafting a career?

As historians, we become comfortable with the rigor of analyzing and interpreting large amounts of data and turning these into arguments and captivating stories—stories that require great communication skills, as well as creativity. […] We do so with a great deal of imagination, which allows us to be flexible and innovative in just about any job setting or project.

What was the best piece of advice you received from a UMKC History professor?

My undergraduate advisor once told me that asking for help or guidance should not weaken our self-confidence.  Rather, she said, these are moments where I had to be, on the one hand, humble and acknowledge my limitations, but, on the other hand, be confident that my abilities, my objectives, and curiosities should be discussed within a community.

What advice would you give to a current History major?

Make your work interesting by thinking of history and its methods in creative ways. Be bold. Go beyond ‘this is how it was’ to ‘let’s think of the past with a new vocabulary and new metaphors.’  [… Discover] what John Dewey once called ‘a new audacity of imagination.’