History and Political Science Department

History and Political Science Alumni Spotlight

Tony Barra

Job Title: Content Marketing Specialist
Institution: Power Equipment Direct
SXU Major: History Secondary Education, Class of 2013

How has the SXU history department helped prepare you for your career/job/life?Tony Barra

Contrary to popular belief, history is not limited to the rote memorization of facts, dates, and dead personages. This unfortunate misunderstanding has led many to dismiss history as a “useless major” that cannot translate into real world success. As a graduate of SXU’s history department, I beg to differ. History’s foundational skills--critical thinking, research, and writing--prepared me for virtually any career path I wanted. Sure, understanding the causes of Japan’s Meiji Restoration or why the industrial revolution began in England may not have gotten me any job offers, but the skills I developed to arrive at those answers serve me to this day.

Ultimately, I have chosen to become a content marketer in part because it taps into my skills as a historian. I need to know how to develop ideas, research answers, and write engaging, informative content for my audience--these are all things I had to do for my history professors way back when. I am particularly grateful to have had Professor Peck and Professor Lopez during my time at Saint Xavier. Both pushed me out of my comfort zone to become a better researcher, writer, and thinker.

What aspects of SXU (campus involvement, internship opportunities etc.) were specifically helpful?

Being a part of The Xavierite student newspaper shaped my career path. It was there that I truly fell in love with writing and began entertaining the idea of doing it professionally after college.

In fact, it was largely thanks to the written portfolio I developed, both at the newspaper and in my history classes, that I earned my first job. This would have never happened had I not branched outside my typical class schedule to explore an extracurricular activity that I ended up loving.

Marianna Boyd Patterson

Marianna Boyd PattersonJob Title: Public Policy Counsel
Institution: Amazon
SXU Major: Political Science, Class of 2006

How has SXU political science helped prepare you for your career/job/life?

The SXU political science program provided me with a strong basis for my understanding of government organization and political theory, which ultimately led me to obtain a master's degree in public service management and a law degree. SXU helped me to excel in my graduate programs by giving me a strong foundation in research, writing and critical thinking skills. Additionally, the political science faculty were one of a kind. They always challenged me to cultivate good study habits, actively engage in class discussions, and use strong analytical skills.

What aspects of SXU (campus involvement, internship opportunities etc.) were specifically helpful?

The SXU Honors Program was particularly helpful in my academic development. Two requirements of the program were to conduct fieldwork and prepare a thesis, which included extensive research, data collection, and findings. We were also required to present our final thesis at an annual Honors Senior Project Conference. I hadn't completed a project of this magnitude prior to that point in my academic career, so the thesis challenged me to learn and develop new research, writing, and public speaking skills. I worked very closely with my advisor in the political science department, Dr. Michael Clark, and the director of the Honors Program at the time, Dr. Judith Hiltner. They both assisted me in formulating my research proposal and methodology and answering various questions I had throughout the process. Completing this thesis helped to stimulate my interest in public policy issues and gave me the confidence to conduct complex research projects later in my career.

Matthew Fay

Mathew FayJob Title: Director of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies
Institution: Niskanen Center
SXU Major: Political Science, Class of 2007

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

I graduated from Saint Xavier University with a degree in political science in 2007. The most important aspects of the program for my current job were the classes I took and the mentoring I received from members of the political science faculty. When I transferred to Saint Xavier in 2002, my first class was World Politics. I wasn't sure at that time what I wanted to do in terms of a career, nor did I have any idea that I would eventually find one studying international security. That class led to a passion for international politics and American foreign policy that still animates my work today.

The support I received from my professors was perhaps the biggest factor in my success though. I was a poor student for much of my life. SXU faculty pushed me to reach my potential, though. While I suffered a number of setbacks during my time as an undergrad, I've since earned two master's degrees. I'm currently working on a Ph.D. in political science, while also working full time as director of defense and foreign policy studies at a think tank in Washington, DC. Even after graduating, the faculty were willing to offer advice and to write recommendation letters that helped me get into more than one graduate program and pursue the opportunities I have today.

Chance Cutrano

Chance CutranoJob Title: Director of Special Projects and Strategic Initiatives
Institution: Resource Renewal Institute
SXU Major: Political Science, Class of 2015

How has SXU political science helped prepare you for your career/job/life?

The SXU Political Science program provided me with the frameworks and the environment to enhance my critical thinking, public speaking and empathic listening skills. These skills are highly valued in the job market as well as the public arena, where we are able to apply our training as civic leaders.

Moreover, the Political Science professors seamlessly integrated multiple academic disciplines into lectures and classwork. This interdisciplinary approach has greatly benefited me in the workplace, where I must strategically manage a variety of economic, environmental and political assignments.

Studying qualitative and quantitative research methods in my political science classes at SXU has also prepared me for advanced educational pursuits; I am currently pursuing my Master of Public Administration degree in Sustainable Management. Most importantly, I have a significant edge in all my political arguments with friends and family on Facebook.

What aspects of SXU were specifically helpful?

While SXU's Political Science program provided me with the tools to make effective change in the workplace and in my community, their partnership with the Washington Internship Institute in Washington D.C. gave me space and time to apply all of the knowledge I acquired at SXU. The successful experience I had while interning in D.C. is a testament of the quality of education imparted by SXU's Political Science department.

What did you like about Saint Xavier University?

SXU isn't a big institution where you get lost in the crowd. At SXU, and particularly in the Political Science program, I found a tight-knit, diverse community of passionate individuals constructively working to provide me with new ways to look at the world and my role in it. There are plenty of opportunities to learn, to lead and to make lifelong friendships.

Mark Piper

Mark PiperJob Title: Marketing Specialist
Company: J.S. Paluch Company, Inc.
SXU Major: Political Science

Please explain how campus involvement paved a path for you in regards to career paths.

Being involved on campus while also maintaining a focus on one's academic work is the surest way to prepare for everyday work life. Time management, prioritization skills and networking are three skills that will develop when one is involved in campus activities and those three skills will prove beneficial for not only doing a job adequately but for career advancement and professional satisfaction.

MaryAnn McCabe

MaryAnn McCabe Job Title: State Government Relations Manager
Company: The Heartland Institute
SXU Major: Political Science

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

The curriculum I took was heavy in qualitative analysis. At the time I found it to be a really difficult curriculum. However, the curriculum was truly what was needed to be well prepared for a data-centric workforce.

What is the importance of internship experience?

Saint Xavier's political science department partnered with the Washington Internship Institute while I was a student. I decided to partake in the Washington Internship Institute's semester program. The program consisted of me working an internship while obtaining credits towards my degree. It was a fabulous experience which actually allowed me to graduate a semester early and start working! Also, the program transplanted me in D.C. and allowed me to develop a new peer base. That experience has given me contacts from the east coast that I am able to still contact. I highly recommend any student in political science to partake in this program. It is also entirely affordable. Your tuition covers all the expenses (including housing).

Please explain how campus involvement paved a path for you in regards to career paths.

I was a transfer student and commuter student who also worked. My only involvement was founding the Young America's Foundation chapter on campus. It was a fun way to increase the numbers of young Americans to understand and be inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise and traditional values. Ultimately, the experience allowed me a travel scholarship to visit former President Ronald Reagan's Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, California. A cool fact about the ranch is in 1981 Ronald Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act at the ranch.

Emily Borchardt

SXU Major: History, Class of 2012

How did your major prepare you for the job you are pursuing?

I began my undergraduate education at SXU in 2008 as a history/art history major (I quickly dropped the art history major). It was the school's location that first caught my attention. Like so many other students from small cities and towns, I was thrilled by the idea of relocating to a big city. Also, I knew that Chicago would be a fantastic place to study history.

As I began taking courses at SXU, I realized that the benefits of SXU extended far beyond its location. The faculty and staff were particularly helpful in shaping my academic course. Membership in the undergraduate honors program was particularly helpful because it provided more challenging coursework and highly invested professors. During my sophomore year I was hired as the honors program student worker, and became a member of the honors program student advisory council, which allows students to play a hands-on roll in the formation of the program. With help from the anthropology department and campus life I was able to start the Anthropology Club with a few of my classmates. As I continued my career at SXU, I sought to become more involved in campus activities and daily life. I became an RA my junior year and worked a writing tutor in the Learning Center my senior year. All of these opportunities provided rewarding challenges and allowed me to shape my own academic and extracurricular path.

My favorite part of my undergraduate education began when I finally completed all of my core classes and was able to focus on my history major and political science and anthropology minors. Every semester I looked forward to choosing my history classes from a wide range of subjects. I was thrilled with the opportunity to take a course about Mexican history one semester and a Modern Japan course the next. History courses at SXU were always surprising and challenging. I did not expect to take part in the production of a biographical documentary in an Illinois History course, nor did I expect to gain so much interest in modern city development from an urban and suburban history course. These courses have stayed with me, largely because of the amount of time and effort professors have put into these courses and their willingness to work closely with students.

The primary research required for upper level history courses had the largest impact on my current graduate school plans. By spending time in archives and libraries I discovered my interest in archives and research, and fostered a great admiration for research librarians. I am just about to begin my dual M.A. in history and library science at Indiana University. I hope to become a research librarian so that I may help other students with their research ambitions. I definitely wouldn't mind finding myself back in Chicago.

Kenya Morris

SXU Major: History, Class of 2011

How did your major prepare you for the job you are pursuing?

I graduated from SXU in the fall semester of 2011. I am now studying Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, concentrating on community development. This is a two year Masters program that covers a broad range of urban topics such as environmental, land-use, economic development, transportation, and overall planning to improve the quality of life in urban areas. While studying history at Saint Xavier, I was always interested in a variety of subjects in addition to history; specifically sociology, political science, geography, and urban studies. While taking the seminar course Urban and Suburban History in the United States, I was introduced to Urban Planning which is an interdisciplinary field that covers all of these subjects. We also learn technical skills such as map-making and spatial analysis using Geographical Informal Systems. Although people from a wide range of undergraduate fields are admitted into the program, I find my history background extremely useful and I am still able to use the skills acquired from my history training. It is a great field for liberal arts students looking to expand their career options.

Erin Slifka

Job Title: Instructor
Institution: Eric Solorio Academy
SXU Major: Social Science Secondary Education, Class of 2009

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

I graduated from Saint Xavier University with a degree in Social Science Secondary Education in 2009. After graduating from National Louis with a Masters in Urban Education, I joined Eric Solorio Academy, a new school located at 55th and Saint Louis in the west Gage Park neighborhood. So far we only have freshman and sophomores in our school and we are looking forward to adding new classes in the upcoming years. The kids are absolutely wonderful and teaching them is a joy everyday. Like with every urban school we have our own unique problems but we don't let any of them slow us down! Our ultimate goal is to have ACT scores that will open up real opportunities for our kids and their futures. Keep an eye out for great things to come from Solorio.

The single most important thing that urban students need is a fully dedicated teacher who will go the distance. That is why it is so important to stress to good students that they should bring their talents and enthusiasm to the city. Kids are kids no matter what their zip code and every one of them needs a good teacher. I would love to talk to any candidates SXU has that would consider going into urban education!

Ana Rodriguez

Job Title: Dean; Bilingual Lead Teacher
Institution: Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center
SXU Major: Social Science Secondary Education, Class of 2007

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

After graduating from Saint Xavier in 2007, I began my teaching career with the UNO Charter schools as a sixth grade teacher, and subsequently joined the Chicago Public Schools system. I taught Social Studies and Language Arts to middle school students at Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center for ten years. I was able to adapt and implement what I learned at Saint Xavier into my curriculum, such as teaching students about the Pullman community in South Chicago. As I taught, I worked on getting my National Board Certification, which I achieved in 2013. Right after, I completed a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration, which I am currently using as I serve as dean of students at Salazar. I am also their Bilingual Lead Teacher and continue to work on obtaining my Bilingual endorsement and Math certification. I definitely had an excellent foundation established at Saint Xavier University, which I continue to build upon.

I am most grateful to the faculty at Saint Xavier for welcoming me every time I visit and encouraging me to continue to strive to achieve my professional goals. A special thank you to Professor Peck, who continuously finds the right words to motivate me.

Tony Sosnowski

Job Title: Social Studies Teacher
Institution: District 218
SXU Major: History Education, Class of 2007

How has SXU History education helped prepare you for your career/job/life?

I am currently in my twelfth year as an educator and have been lucky enough to experience a wide variety of positions and work in several schools. My preparation at SXU has directly supported my work as a teacher, coach, and administrator. In teaching a range of courses from U.S. History, Geography, AP World History, AP Human Geography, Global Issues, English 1, English 2, US Geography, and Psychology, my experiences in those classes at SXU helped prepare me to teach at a high level. The History department fostered a strong sense of literacy instruction and the importance of developing students' abilities to form their own interpretations of history. This has been a foundation to my philosophy of social studies education, and something that has guided my work as both a teacher and school leader. With my SXU education, it also prepared me to pursue an advanced master's degree at UIC for Teaching History and a master's degree in Educational Leadership. SXU prepared me with the skills and content knowledge necessary to navigate those degrees, as well as helped me with applying the learning I was lucky enough to experience. In 2013 I was also able to successfully achieve National Board Certification for teaching, and my preparation at SXU was crucial to being able to complete this reflective process. While I am still relatively young in my career, I know that what I learned and experienced at SXU will help me to continue growing and working at a high level in my schools.

What aspects of SXU (campus involvement, internship opportunities, etc.) were specifically helpful?

At SXU I was lucky enough to take several classes within the Honors program which have helped with fostering my understanding of interdisciplinary connections. In my teaching I find it important to make those connections for my students, and I am better able to make those connections across disciplines because of my experiences in those honors courses. The passion of the teachers at SXU, furthermore, is probably the most important aspect of SXU that has helped me grow as an educator and professional. Professor Peck made history come to life when I took several courses there, and the passion he brought to each lesson is something that I try to do every day I teach my students. While it is important to remember what was learned from the classes and the tasks accomplished, seeing the passion of other educators and trying to instill that passion in others is the most important aspect I took away from my experiences.

Eric Dykstra

Job Title: Educator
Institution: Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice
SXU Major: Social Science-Education, Class of 2006

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

I have taught high school Spanish for the past 12 years in a few suburban public schools. My preparation at SXU allowed me to connect with some of the most underperforming students and raise their levels of self-expectation in order to set them on a course for future success. I also taught students in one of the top 10 performing high schools in the State of Illinois. Saint Xavier prepared me to excel in a variety of classrooms because my professors taught me that education is about relationships. By building professional relationships in which my students understand my high expectations and my deep concern for their future success, I can work with them to bring them to the next level.

I recently took on a Social Studies teaching position for the Department of Juvenile Justice and work in a high school housed within a prison. I still rely on the classroom management skills that I learned in my education courses, even though student behavior is now extremely challenging. Although my students have poor educational backgrounds, I am able to connect with them through stories. My professors at SXU were excellent storytellers. They brought history, sociology and politics to life. Learning was so much more than memorizing dates and other facts. It was understanding the way the world works via real-life stories. I was very appreciative of that style of teaching and my students are too.

What aspects of SXU (campus involvement, internship opportunities, etc.) were specifically helpful?

Early on at SXU, I had a passion to learn Spanish. Even though I was a Social Sciences major, I took extra Spanish courses. In my third year I studied in southern Mexico as part of the University's Oaxaca Project. This life changing experience gave me the skills and the confidence necessary to lead a successful career as an educator. The adventures that I had during that time abroad have provided me with countless stories to tell within my own Spanish or Social Studies classroom. I am able to bring the curriculum to life and get the students excited about places in the world they can explore, what they will learn there, and what stories they will one day be able to tell.

Jeremy Mancilla

Job Title: Middle School Educator
Institution: Palos South Middle School
SXU Major: History, Class of 2004

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

History is a passion of mine, thanks in part to my family vacations as a child where we always found something historical in every place we encountered. The problem for me was that I never knew how I could use history in my everyday life. That was until I enrolled at Saint Xavier University. As a young student-athlete, I quickly learned the values of putting education first. I received my undergraduate degree is History with a minor in Secondary Education. The small class sizes provided me an opportunity to build better relationships with my peers and professors. This was the optimal situation for me to not only learn academics but also how to collaborate with peers. I welcomed the rigorous and challenging curriculum and appreciate it now that I am an educator myself.

Over the past thirteen years I have been employed at Palos South Middle School in Palos Park, Illinois. I have taught many different subjects including Ancient Civilizations, World History, and U.S. History, but currently I am a STEM Lab Instructor and 8th Grade Capstone Program Facilitator. Both programs tie heavily back to the ability to research and applying that research to real life problems. The values learned from the History and Political Science programs at Saint Xavier University have allowed me to facilitate research strategies to my current students and they develop inquiry based research. One of my goals as an educator is to provide my students with the same quality education, rigor, and values that I experienced at Saint Xavier University.

Jon-Pierre Bradley

Job Title: Assistant Director of Alumni Relations
Institution: Saint Xavier University
SXU Majors: Political Science and Organizational Communications, Class of 2006

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

I came to SXU from Jones Academic College Prep High School in Downtown Chicago, IL. SXU was in the same city in which I was born and raised, but I had heard virtually nothing about this relatively small private institution on the south side of Chicago. However, from the moment I first stepped foot on the SXU Chicago campus I knew that this was the place for me. After just a few weeks I came to know many of the faculty and staff who would become pivotal in my academic success, many of whom I have remained in contact since Graduation. At Saint Xavier I learned the importance of community, service, academic excellence and the importance of purpose.

I chose political science as a major to study political systems and how they affect the everyday lives of citizens. Within my coursework I met professors who showed personal interest in my success and gave the attention I would need to succeed. Many of my professors encouraged me to seek out opportunities to give outreach to fellow students. This inspired me to found a student organization entitled "Barrier Breakers." The purpose of the organization was to encourage students from different socio-economic, political, racial, religious, sexual preferential backgrounds to come together to exchange cultural ideas and appreciate the diversity within Saint Xavier. As founder and president of the Barrier Breakers Club, it was my honor to plan many thought provoking events which exposed many stereotypes and brought people from various backgrounds to better understanding.

Please explain how campus involvement paved a path for you in regards to career paths.

The work I started with the Barrier Breakers Club was the pivotal reason I was selected to become assistant director of Alumni Relations here at SXU. Within my current position it is my job reach out to alumni in many different region through events, program, social and conventional media. The goal is to bring alumni back to SXU to see what great things are happening at their alma mater. With the foundation I received at Saint Xavier University, I am fully prepared to continue outreach to those from various places in life. I am proud to be a part of one of Chicago's oldest south side traditions.

John Naisbitt

Job Title: High School Teacher
SXU Major: Interdisciplinary Social Science, Class of 1991

How did your major prepare you for the job you are in?

The effects of my time at Saint Xavier are woven throughout my professional and personal life. Whether I look at the rich experiences in and out of the classroom with professors, classmates and teammates or consider the academic and communication skills I developed in order to succeed, the impact of the time and effort I put into St. Xavier and the time and effort the people of Saint Xavier put into me resonate throughout my classroom, my team and my family. At Saint Xavier, I experienced an academic setting with engaged instruction and support given to me as an individual. We tackled historical material with enthusiasm and examined current events for historical relevance and future implications. This experience is what I hope my students receive when they step through my classroom door today.

Please explain how campus involvement paved a path for you in regards to career paths.

As a student of history at Saint Xavier I participated in meaningful discussion of other cultures and time periods, debating the merits of decisions made by leaders and examining the record for the patterns and themes that make up our shared human experience. As part of a history award Saint Xavier granted me I traveled to Germany just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and was part of a meeting with the German economic reunification leader. As a high school teacher I have found that examining these patterns of history with students both in the classroom and at the site of important historical moments can have a significant impact on a student's connection not just with history but with their academic career. Through the years I have had wonderful personal experiences traveling throughout Europe and the U.S with my students and family. Weekly meetings of the Citizen Club my students and I formed result in lively discussion that clearly connect history with current politics and policies and remind me of my time with Saint Xavier professors.

I greatly enjoyed the role I was able to play on the Saint Xavier basketball team. Our strong connection and camaraderie as teammates was a great support on campus and resulted in lifelong friendships and even professional opportunities. The fun my Saint Xavier team had together while putting in tremendous effort and time impacts my coaching of high achieving high school tennis players.