Mark Walker graduated with a BA History in 2009 and a PhD History in 2016.
Why did you decide to study History at Essex?
History has always been the subject I am most passionate about. While it seems a cliché the study of the past does help us prevent making the mistakes we made before, but it also builds a greater understanding about why societies function the way they do and how we as human beings interact with each other.
I was a History undergraduate at Essex from 2006-2009. I loved the ability to dive into the primary material and be allowed to explore at my pace to find new or overlooked areas of knowledge. When I decided to apply for my PhD I wanted to go somewhere I knew would be welcoming and supportive, with a really knowledgeable staff.
Did you use the Employability and Careers Centre while you were at Essex, or take part in the Frontrunners internship scheme? How has it helped you in your career?
I had two Frontrunner positions: one at the UK Data Archive and one in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Since both of them were based in subject areas outside my own it broadened my understanding of higher education and academia. Both positions were related to outreach and communications which I use everyday in my current position at Temple University in the USA.
What employability /further study skills did studying at Essex give you?
Essex helped hone my teaching and communications skills by allowing me to spend three years teaching undergraduate students. While my degree taught me how to be a better academic writer, the Frontrunner positions I held developed my skills at writing and communicating to wider audiences outside the academy. I can now convey complex or detailed academic research to specialty and general audiences. My time at Essex also exposed me to the inner workings of the higher education field which has proved valuable when establishing my career within that sector.
What have you done since graduating from Essex?
After graduating I moved to the United States and taught at Drexel University in Philadelphia for a short period. At Essex I had been a teaching assistant on US history survey courses and I taught my own version at Drexel. After that I switched careers away from academia and now work at Temple University in Philadelphia in the College of Liberal Arts as an Academic Advisor. I work daily with undergraduate students helping them navigate their college careers, professional development options and academic progress to make sure they maximise their experience at university.
As a historian who became an advisor, I also act as a liaison between advising and the Department of History. In a world where liberal arts subjects like history are under attack from budget cuts, academic advisors are core advocates to students about the importance of these degrees to building transferable skills.
What advice would you give students who are thinking about studying your subject?
Really think about studying or researching something that makes you passionate. If you don't love what you are studying then you will not make it through; the best way to make it through in one piece is to make sure you are 100% interested and motivated by your chosen subject every day.