Alumni Interview with Grace Hemmingson

unnamedGrace Hemmingson graduaated with an MA in History with a Public History Certificate in 2018 from Virginia Tech. She is currently a Project Coordinator for Elsevier in Philadelphia, PA.

Q: After graduating from Virginia Tech’s M.A. program, what have you done professionally?

A: After graduating from Virginia Tech, I decided to pursue a career in the publishing industry In large part due to my experiences as the Managing Editor of the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review (VTUHR). As I was looking for a job, I was also aiming to move from Virginia to Pennsylvania. These two factors led me to mostly find publishing companies that published information related to the healthcare industry. I ended up interviewing with and ultimately accepting a position as a project coordinator in digital content with Elsevier. Elsevier is a global company that publishes content related to medicine, science, and health. While this is not really related to the field of what I studied, this position has forced me to grow my skills in many areas, including in the digital world.

Q: What is one thing that you did at Virginia Tech that aided you in your professional or academic path?

A: The Department of History at Virginia Tech does a great job of teaching their students not just historical subject matter but also other competencies that empower them and help them get ahead in the “real world.” I cannot pick just one thing that I did at Virginia Tech because it is the sum, not the parts that brought me to where I am today. In the course of my studies as an undergrad and increasingly throughout graduate school, I was able to pick up many digital skills whether it was blogging, using google forms to create a database of tuberculosis-related deaths, or being challenged to think of ways to integrate virtual reality into a local museum. These experiences challenged me to rethink the possibilities for the field of history and more broadly the possibilities for my career. In graduate school, writing my thesis and working on the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review also gave me a lot of with picking out missing punctuation, extra spaces, and generally made me a much better writer and editor.

Q: What advice would you give current or future students wanting to pursue a path similar to yours?

A: Don’t limit yourself by the name of your degree. Use your courses to broaden your skill base, not just your knowledge base, and take advantage of extra opportunities with the great Faculty of this department, especially public history projects and mentorship.

Q: What has been a major challenge you have encountered in your career? How have you dealt with it?

A: I found transitioning from the self-discipline of school to the corporate structure to be interesting and challenging. Whereas in school you can basically set your own course to an extent, in a corporate structure a lot of tasks are sprung on you suddenly and you have to balance the push to develop yourself and your career with the everyday operational tasks that you have no choice in. I guess I have dealt with it by essentially accepting this pattern and trying my best to use my tasks to help in my development of skills. In that way it is similar to graduate school because in both you have a certain requirement but you need to sometimes go beyond that to make it work for you and what you want to do.

Q: What are your plans from here?

A: I plan to start taking on more project management in my role and continue to work on growing my skill base. I enjoy my work very much and the people I work with are great! Most of my next moves in 2020 are less career-driven and more personal, as I will be getting married and likely moving back to Virginia from Pennsylvania sometime in the next year.


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