Alumni Interview with Ellen Boggs

Ellen graduated with her M.A. in History from Virginia Tech in 2018. She works in VT University Libraries as the Studios Network Coordinator, where she helps people learn about and use emerging technologies including additive manufacturing, virtual reality, and audio and video tools and processes. Her time in the public history program prepared her for engaging people from all backgrounds as well as facilitating and showcasing creative work.

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

I landed my current job in the University Libraries in the fall of 2018 and found myself surrounded by some of the most fun, welcoming, and creative people. On a surface level, my job does not resemble a traditional career for someone with a history M.A. But I’ve witnessed people build incredible history and storytelling projects through the technologies we offer in the library. It’s an exciting and rewarding role to play here in the Studios, especially when we support humanities students and faculty implementing 21st century tools in their work.

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

I’m very grateful to my M.A. advisor, Monique Dufour. She taught me so much about communicating clear messages in a thoughtful, accessible manner. I use those skills in my job every day to engage and educate public audiences, as well as the student staff team in the Studios, in the wide range of technologies we have in Newman Library. I’m also grateful to the Public History certificate program, which allows space and flexibility for people like me to explore alternative careers that build upon skills I gained as a history major and graduate student.

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

You have the opportunity to get the best experience for yourself in this program. Try new things – or at least don’t say no to yourself without trying first. If you’re worried you won’t be good at something, ask the people around you to help find a starting point. There are loads of resources within and outside of the history department. I’ll always plug the library as a great resource but you can explore other departments on campus too. Some of the most exciting and effective projects come out of interdisciplinary partnerships.

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

Before entering graduate school, I had a plan for how I wanted my life to go. I had to pivot that plan pretty quickly after realizing I didn’t enjoy a traditional academic or museum work-life. I knew I wanted to stay in the area and I knew I was good at working with the public, so finding a job in the University Libraries satisfied my career and life goals. It was also tough not having a full time job right out of school. I think that’s true for a lot of humanities graduates. I was lucky to have a supportive partner and a supportive team in the library, which allowed me to step into a full time career and grow from there.

Q: What are your plans from here?

I’m really happy where I am. I plan to stay with the Studios for as long as possible. I’d love to facilitate a humanities-focused program where Studios folks bring in people from across campus and across the NRV community to demonstrate what technology can do for them and their ideas, particularly when it comes to storytelling and local histories. There’s plenty of opportunities for these kinds of projects within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the University Libraries, especially with the new oral history center in Special Collections. So I’m happy where I am and I look forward to what’s to come.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Shoutout to the history professors in Major Williams and my cohort. You all turned a stressful, demanding program into a rewarding experience. I needed the personal and academic growth from those two years to get me where I am now.

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