Patrick Hanlon, Class of 2015

Why did you choose a degree in history?

I chose to study history in part because of being enthralled by the world of Tolkien.  when I was a kid, my cousin read The Hobbit to me and I remember being fascinated by the world he created.  As I got older I started to wonder what real people or events inspired him.  Later, having ventured pretty far down the rabbit hole, I realized I love digging for answers and trying to piece together how and why people lived the way they did.  I think some of it had to do with wanting to be like Indiana Jones.  Maybe someday…

What are you doing now?

Currently I am pursing masters degrees in Library Science and History at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.  I have a part-time job in a local library and also an internship at the Indiana Historical Society working in the press.  The history part of my degree will focus on European history.  This semester I am working on a project exploring social mobility of a family in Early Modern England via their choice of burial location.

How have your history studies helped you in life?

In practical ways, studying history prepared me for the jobs I have held since college.  First I was a teacher (World History and Latin) in a volunteer program in Chicago for two years. Now at the Historical Society, just having that frame of reference helps when editing or writing articles for the Society’s publications. In my library science classes I have found myself thinking that asking how to utilize resources to help patrons find what they are looking for, and to simply put information at their fingertips, has been made easier having learned how to do a lot of that already.  Being trained in the art of doing research at Valpo has certainly provided a good base for me.

In less tangible ways, I think the study of history has helped me to empathize.  Just as we try to examine the past and understand it on the level of the people who lived back then by examining it from many sides, I think has bled over into my day-to-day life as well as I try to understand and empathize with people who I might see eye to eye with.  Being a Christian, there are certain things that I have to take as historical fact that may not be able to be proven, which can be hard to swallow sometimes.  However, being part of something so much bigger than myself and being able to examine how people have wrestled with similar issues throughout time has in my ways deepened my faith and appreciation for Christian development.

What are your best memories associated with the Valpo History Department?

I always enjoyed Professor Schaefer’s attempts at drawing maps.  Also, all of the random stuff the professors seem to be able to pull out of nowhere; “cocktail facts” as Professor Farmer used to call them.

What would you want a prospective major to know about history at Valpo?

Professor Bloom used to tell us we wasted thousands of dollars every year by not going to office hours.  I definitely think he was right and would urge students to make time to go just talk with professors who make themselves available.  Valpo has such a great faculty (and not just in History) who are not just knowledgeable about their subject areas, but are great to talk to about anything – not just class work.