Sara Evenson is a 2016 graduate of the VT Master’s in History program. She is currently the Executive Director at the Chenango County Historical Society in Norwich, New York.
Q: After graduating from Virginia Tech’s M.A. program, what have you done professionally?
A: After finishing at Tech, I spent some time working in nonprofit fundraising, teaching history at a local college, and working as an independent museum consultant. I am currently the Executive Director for the Chenango County Historical Society, a small, private nonprofit that preserves and celebrates regional history.
Q: What is one thing that you did at Virginia Tech that aided you in your professional or academic path?
A: The diversity of my experiences at VT made me well-equipped to step into my current role. From working to organize conferences to producing academic scholarship to networking to teaching local fourth graders about the Civil War, each experience I had helped to teach me flexibility, leadership, and the best practices of both academic and public history. Seeking out a wide array of experiences certainly aided me the most in my professional path.
Q: What advice would you give current or future students wanting to pursue a path similar to yours?
A: Use your thesis and research as a way to network with professionals connected to the field you want to enter! Your thesis isn’t just a research project—it can be the foundation for your career. Use it as an opportunity! I can’t tell you how fruitful it has been to have made contacts while I was researching my thesis. These have led to freelance consulting jobs, speaking engagements, and the development of a great professional network.
Q: What has been a major challenge you have encountered in your career? How have you dealt with it?
A: The most significant challenge I have faced in my career is geographic isolation. I live in a rural area without many employment options to begin with, much less with opportunities in my niche field of public history. But every challenge is an opportunity, so when I couldn’t find a job working at a museum, I instead found a position at a great nonprofit that taught me skills that will be relevant to any path my career takes. Stepping out of the field isn’t always a bad thing, as long as you do it deliberately, with an open mind to what you may learn and with an eye to how it can help you achieve your long-term goals.
Q: What are your plans from here?
A: My plans from here are to help my organization continue to become the best it can be, and to keep learning everything I possibly can!