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History Department Alumni Rock!

Your History Department at Illinois State University is a large, diverse community that includes current faculty and students, emeritus faculty and alumni.  Although you may be miles away from Normal, you are still part of our department’s community if you are history alum. 

History Alums Take Interesting Career Paths

With such a tight job market, many professors and advisors often hear students ask, “What can I do with a history major?” The following eight men and women illustrate Department Chair Dr. Crubaugh’s contention that “History students receive a classic liberal arts education that can serve as a stepping stone for nearly any career, whether in education, law, government, journalism, or business.”  Through the history department, students learn valuable skills, including “adaptability, broad knowledge, analytical and research abilities, and excellence in written and oral communication, that employers find attractive.”  Each of these individuals has applied these skills to different career and educational paths.



Corey Cox, BS ’09, earned his degree in History and Philosophy.  He notes that he did not choose history as his major because of job opportunities, but because of his “passion for the subject and the way that it shaped my thinking as a person.” Following graduation, his degree and passion for politics and social justice led to him pursue varied opportunities.  He earned his Master’s Degree this past May from the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) where he studied International Economics and American Foreign Policy with a concentration in economic policy.  Cox believes his ISU experience taught him to think critically and gave him excellent oral and written communication skills which applied directly to his master’s degree coursework and interest in politics and legislation.


Tim Frank, MS in History ’94, is the Chairman of the American arm of the Chinese company Sany Heavy Industry, a $12 billion company that is #1 in China and #6 in the world in heavy equipment.  His responsibilities include research and development, production, and sales and service in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Latin America.  Frank’s advice to students today is to “do what you love.  If you love history, go with it.  You will use the skills you learn in history.  Maybe you will be a history professor, but maybe you will be an astronaut.  Don’t feel like you are wasting your time; it will be useful.”


Dan Greer, BS ’06, works for a large financial services firm in Plano, Texas.  He primarily helps families make investments to reach their financial goals.  He also is involved in marketing and being part of a team in his daily tasks. Greer describes what he does as “History 101 – research, context, communication.”  He looks at “real time information, put[s] that information into broader context, observe[s] the variables and articulat[es] it to his clients in language that makes sense to them.”

HelmsChris Helms, MS ’09 is Collections Manager and Registrar at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, a public museum in the middle of Greek Town.  In his position, Helms has many different responsibilities.  As Collections Manager, he handles the conservation of the objects and works with donors.  As Registrar he deals with the technical side of museum administration, including photographing items and managing the data base.  He also supervises the interns who work at the museum. Helms credits his undergraduate degree in history from Western Illinois University and his master’s work at Illinois State with preparing him for his current position. 


Natalie Olinger, BS ’07 works as at a local community bank in the western suburbs of Chicago.  Having graduated with a BS in History-Social Sciences Education this career path was not originally part of her plan.  After student teaching at Marlow Middle School in Huntley, Illinois, however, she unfortunately found that teaching jobs were scarce.  Fortunately, she quickly found a job at a local bank and moved into the field of business banking.  Despite her change in careers, Olinger credits her history classes for giving her strong writing, analytic reading, and research skills which helped her to quickly learn her new job and advance in the banking field. 


Vanda Rajcan, MS, ’11 currently works as a researcher at the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.  While still a student at ISU, Ranjcan applied for, and received, a three-month internship at the museum.  The directors of her internship were so impressed with her work that she was offered her a full-time position in October 2010. Ranjcan believes that her course work at ISU—as well as her second master’s degree in politics and government and her language skills—contributed to her success as a researcher at the Holocaust museum and her admittance into the competitive Northwestern history program.  At ISU she took broad seminar courses that “allowed her to get a grasp on several countries at the same time.”  She encourages today’s students to gain a broad historical context, learn languages, and to take courses outside of their comfort zone.


Marla Tetzlaff, BS ’11, majored in history and minored in information systems.  She currently works as a software application engineer at Charles Schwab in Denver, Colorado.  Tetlaff credits her success in her current position to her unique combination of fields at ISU; “the different skill sets I acquired in my major and minor helped me become a well-rounded student.”  She specifically mentions that she benefitted from her strong reading and writing skills, as well as her programming and IT background.    


Whitney Wilda, BS ’06, MS ’11.  Wilda just finished her 6th year teaching freshman World Cultures and World History Honors at Hinsdale Central High School.  She also served as the World cultures Curriculum Team Leader this year. Wilda encourages people aspiring to be teachers to get as many endorsements as possible even in fields not related to history like Special Ed and ESL, to network, volunteer, and make themselves stand out.  She also cautions future teachers to be realistic in their expectations, “If your heart is in teaching and no other job will make you happy, you have to be able to move, even consider teaching in another country for a while.  There are places hiring teachers.”


This article is excerpted from the summer 2013 History Department Newsletter, “Recounting the Past”.  To read the complete story go to


Another Succesful Homecoming

The History Department students, staff and faculty again got involved in Homecoming this year.  The office was decorated to represent the campus-wide theme, “Get your Groove On”, two alumni received special honors and students came together to learn about career opportunities as teachers and archivists.

Michael Bullington, History Department Chair Anthony Crubaugh, Jason Klokkenga

Michael Bullington was honored by the department as our 2012 Distinguished Alumni.  Bullington (B.S. ’83, M.S. ’89) is a certified Archivist and the Senior Manager for McDonald’s Golden Archives.  In his role he preserves the legacy of the McDonald’s brand in the corporate archives.  He also works with media relations as an expert spokesperson on McDonald’s history.  Bullington is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists, the Society of American Archivists, the Midwest Archive Conference, and the Chicago Area Archivists.

Jason Klokkenga received the 2012 Fred Drake Alumni Teacher Award.  This award recognizes a graduate of the ISU History Department for service as an outstanding history-social science teacher.  Klokkenga (B.S. ’99) has a Master’s in Educational Administration.  He teaches Social Studies at Normal Community West High School and works with the history department on the Capitol Forum project which brings high school students from across Illinois to ISU to deliberate and discuss controversial international issues.

While on campus during Homecoming, Michael and Jason met with students to share insight and answer questions about their careers.

The office walls covered in old records and posters representing the history of music and ISU from different decades set the tone for a groovin’ office complete with Reggie wearing a peace symbol shirt.


2011 Distinguished Alumni


Dr. Fred Drake (’70, ’75, ’84) and Jacob Gourley (’98) were honored at Homecoming 2011 as the Department of History Distinguished Alumni.  Learn more about these two very special History department alumni.

Jacob Gourley was a Presidential Scholar and Robert G. Bone Scholar as an undergraduate.  He has taught history for fourteen years and serves as a division leader at Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing, Illinois.  In 2010 he was chosen as one of the top ten high school teachers in the Chicago area and honored with a Golden Apple Award that included a paid spring sabbatical at Northwestern University.  he is the Frederick Drake Award recipient this year.  This award recognizes a graduate of the ISU History Department for service as an outstanding history-social science teacher.

In June 2008, Jacob accompanied Dr. Patrice Olsen and six other students and alumni on a trip to the amazon jungle in Peru where they explored the linkages between human rights and environmental rights.  The trip, part of the Maria Elena Moyano Human Rights Seminar, included visiting two schools, learning about local myths and customs and scientific information about the flora and fauna.


Fred Drake is Professor Emeritus of History.  Beyond teaching and authoring several books, Fred promoted history education and civis literacy during his years at Illinois State University.  From 1997 to 2007, Fred represented the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to promote history and civic education in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

With the late Lawrence W. McBride, his colleague and friend, Fred started and served as Director of the History Education Program for the department.  He and McBride worked as consultants for the Illinois State Board of Education in Alternative Assessment and, with McBride, Fred established the department’s Partnership Schools in Chicago and Central Illinois.  He was named an Outstanding University Teacher in 2004.  Fred currently serves as consultant for the College Board AP in U.S. History and as a lecturer and history educator for the National Council for History Education.


Check-in with Us

We want to know about your activities and achievements and keep you up to date with the latest news concerning Phi Alpha Theta, the history faculty, the accomplishments of history majors and other department news.

Have you moved recently? Had a baby? Changed careers? Taken an interesting trip?  Let us know and will include your information on the History Alumni Directory and History Alumni News pages.  

Email History

Department of History
Normal, Il 61790-4420
Phone: (309) 438-5641
Fax: (309) 438-5607