Alumni Profiles

Katie Hanners

History BA 2020; UMKC Law, class of 2023

Tell us about you!

I am from Southeast Missouri and have lived in Kansas City since the beginning of my college career. I finished my degree in the UMKC History Department in the spring of 2020 and am now in my first year of law school at UMKC. I’m not entirely sure what area of law I want to pursue yet, but I’d love to figure out a way to combine my interests in history and law. I could see myself teaching history or law one day. One of my goals in life after I retire is to be able to return to school and take more history classes just for fun. I am also a member of the UMKC Cross Country and Track teams. I love reading, running, and spending time with my friends and family. 

What skills did you learn as a UMKC history major that made you a competitive law school applicant?

As a UMKC history major, I learned so many skills that helped me to be a competitive law school applicant, but the most important by far were how to communicate effectively in my writing and how to read critically. These skills are essential in any discipline, but especially so in law. Being a UMKC history major definitely helped me develop those skills so that I can be successful in law school.

What was the best piece of advice you received from a professor from UMKC’s history department?

It’s so hard for me to pick just one piece of advice from a UMKC history professor because I learned so much from them, but I think my biggest takeaway was to think about things from multiple perspectives.

What advice would you give to a current history major?

My best advice for a current history major is to be fully present and engaged in your time at UMKC. It goes by so quickly and it’s important to take advantage of the resources and opportunities provided for you. In my opinion, your professors are the biggest resource you have. Their job is to help you learn and grow – in the classroom and in life. 

Why did you choose UMKC?

I chose UMKC because I knew I could thrive here academically and athletically. I started my undergraduate career undecided, and after taking several history classes in an effort to confirm my interest, I made the decision to declare my major and join the UMKC History Department, which turned out to be the perfect fit for me.

What did you learn about yourself while earning your degree?

While earning my history degree, I learned to be confident in myself and believe that I could accomplish my goals, whether that was just finishing a paper or pursuing a legal career. I learned to stop doubting myself or selling myself short. I had no hesitation in applying to law school because I knew that I was fully prepared and had the tools I needed to be successful. 

Kate Carpenter

Journalism BA, University of Missouri, 2007; History MA 2019; PhD student, Princeton University

Tell us about you!

I was born in the Bay Area in California, and grew up in Spokane, Washington. I earned a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and then spent nine years doing a variety of things—working as a reporter/copy editor/designer for a local newspaper, editing a regional family magazine, freelance copy editing and design, and running an online screenprinted stationery business. I had always wanted to study history, though, so once I was settled in Kansas City, I applied to the UMKC master’s in history program. What I thought might just be an opportunity to get an internship and maybe a part-time job at a local historical site turned massively life-changing when I discovered how much I loved researching and writing history, and ended up applying to PhD programs. I’m now in my first year as a doctoral student in history at Princeton University.

How did a history degree help you in crafting a career?  What skills did you learn that made you competitive in the marketplace?

The skills that I learned in my classes and from my advisors helped me to create a strong application for graduate school. I also developed skills that I think will translate to a variety of careers. I can absorb a large amount of information, analyze it, and present an argument based on that evidence—valuable critical thinking skills in any workplace. I can write clearly and persuasively. My work on exhibits improved my ability to collaborate with coworkers and community members, not to mention work on more concrete skills like design, project management, and marketing.

What was the best piece of advice you received from a professor from UMKC’s history department?

My thesis committee—Brian Frehner, John Herron, and Sandra Enríquez—all urged me not to sell myself short, and to have faith in my skills and potential. I remind myself of their belief in me all the time.

What advice would you give to a current history major?

Take every opportunity to experience new things and gain new skills! Too many students think that they should just go to class, take tests, pass, and move on, but college is such an amazing opportunity to explore things. Get internships to try out different careers. Join clubs to explore new interests. Say yes to collaborating on projects, even if—maybe especially if—you feel like you don’t have a lot to offer yet. And don’t be afraid to learn about things that really fascinate you, even if you’re not sure how they fit in the “market.” You never know where those interests might take you.

Why did you choose UMKC?

I was really impressed with UMKC’s public history program, and the way it not only gives students opportunities to learn good practices in the classroom, but also builds in internships in public history institutions and work on real-world projects. While I was at UMKC, I helped to curate two exhibits, conducted oral histories, and interned at the Missouri Humanities Council, and that’s not even counting the outside projects I got to work on thanks to connections I made through UMKC.

Alicia Lea

Music BA 2002; History MA 2010; editor at Scribendi

How has your college experience at UMKC inspired you?

There is nothing like the rigor of an academic discussion to challenge one’s beliefs and expand one’s knowledge. I like to recall those times and maintain that posture of curiosity. 

How did a history major help you in crafting a career?  What skills did you learn that made you competitive in the marketplace?

While earning my master’s degree in history, I read a great deal of scholarly articles and monographs. I wrote a thesis as well as shorter academic papers. This immersion in scholarly reading and writing taught me the forms of and expectations for academic writing—knowledge that enabled me to secure my current position as an editor.  

What advice would you give to a current history major?

Retain your childlike love of history. Certainly, the subject is useful to the world, but the pure delight that history provides should not be discounted in favor of pragmatic concerns.

Natalie Walker

History BA 2014; History MA with a concentration in Public History and Museum Studies, Colorado State University, May 2019; Museum/Archives Technician at the Truman Library Institute

How has your college experience at UMKC inspired you?

UMKC gave me direction and purpose. I loved history, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree. Between internships and various public history courses, I discovered my love of museums and public history. I credit the UMKC History Department for instilling in me passion, dedication, and the confidence to pursue my dreams.

How did a history major help you in crafting a career?

My history degree taught me how to communicate clearly through research and writing, both of which are essential skills in my job. Moreover, the History Department’s emphasis on professional development outside of the classroom (internships, research opportunities, etc.) provided numerous opportunities to practice public history, hone my skills, discover my passion, and ultimately make me more competitive in the field.

What was the best piece of advice you received from a professor from UMKC’s history department?

Several of my professors echoed the same advice: take every opportunity you can.

What did you learn about yourself while in college?

I learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever believed. UMKC and the History Department gave me confidence in myself — the confidence to live and work in Europe, to pursue a Master’s Degree, and to take the kind of job I dreamed of having, but often doubted that I could do.

Marc Reyes

History BA, University of Missouri, 2006; History MA 2014; PhD student, University of Connecticut; Fulbright-Nehru Fellow 2018-2019

What skills did you learn that made you competitive in the marketplace?

Time management, meeting deadlines, and being able to tackle projects, small and large. Plus, if you attend history conferences and workshops or just explore a large university, you meet a lot of interesting people. You should get to know them and think of them as future collaborators. Networking is not just for business majors.

What was the best piece of advice you received from a professor from UMKC’s history department?

I received a lot of good advice from UMKC professors, but maybe the best was from my advisor, Professor Dennis Merrill. He told me that over his career, he had applied for a lot of grants and fellowships, and had received his fair share of rejection. But it’s not the honors you didn’t win that matter, it’s what you made of the ones you did. Make sure what you win isn’t just another line on your CV. Make it something that ultimately improves your career and research.

What did you learn about yourself while in college?

Because of UMKC, I found my calling. I am never happier than when I am on campus, either teaching or doing research. I love the ebb and flow of semesters and seeing how students progress over the course of fifteen weeks. There is truly nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life.

Rebecca Egli Alumni

Dr. Rebecca Egli

History BA 2008; MA, King’s College London, 2010; PhD, UC-Davis, 2018; Postdoc at the Linda Hall Library 2018-19

Tell us about you!

I am a Kansas City native, and I just want to say that there’s a proud legacy of UMKC attendance in my family — at least 10 of us have called UMKC home since the 1970s and loved our time there. We found the university to be a welcoming environment that offered a chance to cultivate our particular academic strengths, while challenging us in new ways. I even met my husband Caleb at UMKC during move-in weekend in 2005. 

How has your college experience at UMKC inspired you?

UMKC is a great place to be. It opened up diverse and exciting academic experiences in distant places to me. It also provided ways to participate in numerous opportunities nearer to home. 

How did your history degree prepare your for an academic career? 

Studying history helps cultivate important habits of the mind that shape the way we see and understand our world. Not only does history provide students an opportunity to learn about the past, studying history teaches you to critically examine information. This involves building arguments, communicating effectively, and helping to educate others.

What skills did you learn that made you competitive in the marketplace?

For me, the most useful skills have been the ability to develop content, manage projects, and teach concepts to different audiences. These skills are as applicable within the academy as they are useful for careers beyond it.

History Alum Leah Palmer, National Frontier Trails Museum

Leah Astle Palmer

History BA/MA 2014/16; Curator of Education, Johnson County 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 to 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 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; PhD 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, confident that my abilities, my objectives, and my 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.’