History Graduate Interprets History Outdoors

by   |   mrsidwel@bju.edu   |  

If your idea of the perfect job environment is the outdoors, you might not think to prepare as a history major.

But Jessica Billet, a 2019 BJU graduate with bachelor’s degree in history, did. She works at the Cleveland (Ohio) Metroparks as a naturalist. This park system covers more than 23,000 acres and offers more than 100 hiking trails. Billet says her position is like “a park ranger in the national parks” because she’s “interpreting both natural and cultural history.”

Combining Communication Minor with History Major

Billet, who describes herself as a “people person,” chose the BJU history major because she enjoys “learning about people and their stories.” She says she enjoys taking “apart a story and looking at the huge string of events that goes into one tiny piece of history.” She adds that knowing the whole story allows her to “understand someone better because I understand their context.”

However, Billet also chose to combine a communication minor with her history major. Minors are optional for most majors but pair well with the history major. Billet says she really liked the way the programs intersected. Taking several communication classes helped her polish her speaking skills. History classes focused more on writing and research skills.

As a naturalist in an extensive urban park system, she explains she will be “leading hikes and programs (many that I will have to create myself) and will interact with the public directly.” She credits her history training for teaching her “how to dig through facts” and how to “put them together in such a way that they will make sense.”

Her communication minor gave her the “skills necessary to share what I have learned with an audience.” She points out that in the park environment the visitors are the audience “who support us and keep us in business. This makes being audience-centered even more important” in maintaining public backing for park funding.

Internship Opportunities

During her senior year, Billet interned at the Museum & Gallery. Faculty advisors encourage students in all majors to pursue internship opportunities, attend conferences, enter competitions, go on summer mission teams—whatever it is that will help them put into practice what they’ve learned and clarify their direction for the future. And she loved this real-world opportunity to use the skills she’d been learning in the classroom—researching staff-written articles, writing program curriculum and teaching a group of more than 200 students.

M&G also sponsors a busy event schedule, and Billet learned registration management with the Database Manager, digitization of documents and how to run campus events.

Christian Support

BJU faculty get to know students individually and encourage them to follow God’s will for their lives, even when discouragements crop up along the way. Billet reminds future students to take advantage of this window of opportunity while in college. She says “there will be precious few times in your life you will be surrounded by so many knowledgeable professionals who are also such dedicated Christians. Each professor has a specialty and they are all so willing to help you better yourself in any way they can.”

Like many students, Billet said that her studies were not always easy and that “studying at BJU definitely reinforced the need to work hard. It sharpened my self-discipline and drove me to push for more.” But she found support from caring teachers. Although she says she “cried in more offices than I would like to admit,” she was also “comforted, encouraged and invested in more times than I can count.” Her advice: “Don’t be afraid of your professors; you are much more than a grade to them.”

The most important lesson, Billet said, was learning that “my worth is not in academics, extracurriculars or even people but in Christ alone.”

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Mrs. Mary Sidwell is the Writing Center Coordinator in the Academic Resource Center at BJU.