This week the History Department says goodbye to three of our most fabulous and inspiring undergrads! We asked them for their thoughts on being a history major.
During my time as a St. Thomas history major, I have learned that history is more than simply recounting past events. It’s not something to study just to be good at trivia or some game show (Although that is a pretty sweet added bonus). Rather, the study of history develops a specialized skill set, one that helps you to think critically by considering the multiplicity of perspectives. As a result of this, the study of history underscores the importance of having a breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge, encompassing things like economics and politics. In this way, I believe history has offered me the most well rounded curriculum this university offers. Another skill derived from my study of history is the importance of using details to support an argument; this type of scholarship has demonstrated how to assemble narratives from often-fragmented and even contradictory records, again spanning an array of different perspectives. Such interdisciplinary narrative construction is especially applicable to my chosen career as a computer forensic analyst.
Today, a swell of new technologies has infiltrated nearly every aspect of life. We are all familiar with the tiny computers in our pockets that are more powerful than those that took us to the moon. New devices and programs are increasingly making work, communication and learning easier. This unprecedented human achievement, however, has also created an alarming, growing problem known as “cyber crime”. The law has been adapting to these advances, drawing a boundary between what is, and what is not, acceptable on computers in this digital age. Unfortunately, the United States, and the Twin Cities in particular, has seen a rash of computer related investigations over the past few years. You’ve read the headlines. These crimes include, but are not limited to, Ponzi schemes, embezzlement, theft of intellectual property, business fraud, identity theft, large-scale credit card breaches and Internet scams. Technology has an inherent ability to both serve individual desires and give a false sense of privacy. In spite of this, computers remain the ultimate, impartial record keepers, a fact most cyber criminals do not realize but also a historian’s dream! Computer data serves as a “digital footprint”, evidence that can be used against a wrongdoer in a court of law. In several cases, computers, and more recently cell phones, have proven to be the “smoking gun”. Using the skills I have acquired as a history major, I am able to piece together a narrative of activity by analyzing and interpreting a number of different digital artifacts—a kind of digital archaeology. Even further, history has given me the tools to communicate technical findings in a way that can be easily understood.
Encouraged by faculty, I have developed a habit of learning—becoming a lifelong learner. History will not be left in the attic of my mind and grow stagnant; I will continue to use it daily. It has become a part of me. Studying history here at St. Thomas has strongly influenced my professional life as a computer forensic analyst, and has compelled me to continue my education in law school next autumn. I will certainly miss this department, but you all will be with me as an indelible impression on my character. But in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!