Alumni Profiles

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; Ph.D. 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; 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 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; 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, 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.’