History Alumni Interviews and Senior Profiles

History Alumni Interviews and Senior Profiles

Vincent Lenza

Class of 1997

vinlenza

Q: What is your current occupation?

Vincent Lenza: Executive Director of the Staten Island NFP Association

Q: How has the research and other skills learned in college helped you in your career?

Vincent Lenza: The things I learned as a History major have played a major role in my career success.  Specifically, one of the key things that studying History taught me was how to sift through a great deal of data from many different sources to figure out what information I need to utilize to make the case I am trying to make.

Like all of us, I am flooded with information throughout the day from emails, phone calls, meetings, news stories, and so on.  Quickly but efficiently determining which of these sources of information will be useful in promoting a particular project or making the case to a particular funder is an important skill, one that I learned sifting through dozens of academic journals (when we still had to read them on paper!) in Hormann Library.

Also, learning to write succinctly and compellingly is a skill that is critically, enormously important to my work. Between emails, grant proposals, press releases, meeting notes, policy briefings, and so on, I would say that 80% of my work is done through writing.  And take heart, History majors - writing well is a skill that's very much in demand.

Q: Do you have any advice for graduating seniors?

Vincent Lenza: My advice to graduating seniors looking for work is - explain to a potential employer how you're going to make their life easier.  If you can explain to an employer why YOU are going to be able to address their specific business needs they will be much more interested in talking with you about an open position.  Remember that employers have a business problem (a job opening) that they want fixed as quickly and easily as possible. If you can show them how you can be the person to fix it for them they'll want to talk to you.

For example, if you are applying for an entry level position in the development (fundraising) department of a museum, you might include in your cover letter something like : "I know that a component of this position includes drafting stewardship letters to museum donors. As a History major I know how to take information from several different sources, analyze it, and create documents that are succinct, compelling and effective.  I will use this experience to draft letters like this for your department."  A few simple sentences like these show that you understand the need of the employer and can meet that need directly.

Another tip: take the time to create an additional sample piece of material that goes above and beyond what the employment posting calls for.  Using the example above - actually write a sample donation thank you letter and include it with your cover letter and resume.  It shows that you're willing to take the extra time and initiative to demonstrate your interest in the position and it makes your resume stand out, because almost no one else will have done this extra little bit of work to demonstrate how they will do the job well.

Q:What was your senior thesis topic?

Vincent Lenza: I completed my thesis on the topic of women's inheritance rights in 18th and 19th century Staten Island, based on research focused on women and families buried at a place called Blazing Star cemetery in Rossville.

Q:  Do you have a story about Wagner or afterwards you would like to share? Or what was your fondest memory of Wagner?

Vincent Lenza:I had a truly spectacular time as a Wagner student. I have a bunch of good stories to tell about Wagner - I got to play in the pit for all the Wagner Theater shows for a few years.  I was a Student Ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and had a great time "showing off" the campus.  I had my own key to Reynolds Hall (at the time it was called North Hall and was the music building) that allowed me and a bunch of friends to get in there and make music until all hours of the night.  I got to be Songfest King my senior year, and I proposed to my wife in front of Main Hall six years after I graduated. And I especially remember those days on the Oval when the weather was lovely and it seemed like the whole campus was sitting out there together. Still on nice days in April and May I think about how nice it would be to get outside and sit on the grass all afternoon.

Q: Are you glad you majored in History?

Vincent Lenza: Sure!  Studying History taught me to look beyond the immediate aspects of whatever cultural, social, or economic problems our community happens to be facing right now in order to figure out the real questions that we should be asking about what those problems actually mean.

It's one thing to be faced with an immediate issue and to then spend some time figuring out the most expedient solution to that problem.  But my training in History encourages me to go beyond that initial problem solving to ask "is this even the problem we should be focused on in the first place, and why?"   Frankly, I think it's a lot more difficult to answer the larger question than to just figure out a way to fix the problem in front of you, but thinking of a situation in that kind of a broader context is something that I find only those who have studied History and other social sciences know to do.


Ellen (Egan) Krant

Class of 1998

Q: What is your current occupation?

Ellen (Egan) Krant: I have been a NYC public school teacher since 2001.  I am certified to teach middle school Social Studies and did so for 10 years.  I have spent the last 4 years as the lead Social Studies Teacher and Magnet Resource Specialist at IS 204 in Long Island City, Queens.
Q: How has the research and other skills learned in college helped you in your career?

Ellen (Egan) Krant: I enjoyed Social Studies in HS but it wasn't until I took my first history class at Wagner that I truly fell in love with history.  The skills I learned at Wagner have helped me pursue a Master's Degree in Education, as well as, further my career in the NYC DOE.
Q: Do you have any advice for graduating seniors?

Ellen (Egan) Krant: My advice to graduating seniors is to find what you are passionate about and go for it.  As I was finishing my senior year I thought I wanted to go to law school.  So, after graduating in 1998 I took a job in the legal department of a large investment company in Manhattan.  The plan was to save money and study for the LSATs.  As the months went by, I realized  that I wanted more than just a job, I wanted a career that I could be passionate about.  I called my former Adviser, Dr. Rappaport, as well as another professor I had known from the Education Department, to ask for advice.  I returned to Wagner in January of 1999 to pursue my Master's Degree in Secondary Education.  I realized that I needed to share my passion for history with others and the best way to do that was through teaching.

Q:What was your senior thesis topic?
Ellen (Egan) Krant: I spent the fall of my senior year as an intern for the US State Department in Washington, DC.  At the time there was a huge Civil War photography exhibit at the National Gallery and I received permission to do my thesis on photography's impact on the Civil War and public opinion.

Q:  Do you have a story about Wagner or afterwards you would like to share? Or what was your fondest memory of Wagner?

Ellen (Egan) Krant: I have many fond memories of Wagner, the first being the number of trips I went on to Washington, DC  which ultimately led me to pursue the internship there.  In addition, my senior year I took a history course on the 1960's and Dr. Rappaport had his students over his house for dinner and to listen to Lenny Bruce records.  One of my favorite parts of Wagner and being a history major was the small class size and the personal attention we received from the Professors.
Q: Are you glad you majored in History?

Ellen (Egan) Krant: Majoring in history was one of the best decisions I ever made.  I have a 4 year old son, whose name is George Thomas Washington,  and I hope that he too will share my love of history.


James  Fagen

Class of 2002

FAGEN (2)Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself? What did you do after Wagner and what are you doing now?

After Wagner, I attended and graduated from Seton Hall Law School.  I worked as a prosecutor for a while until decided that it was not for me and went into teaching.  I started working at Manasquan High School in 2006 and have been here since.  I teach U.S. I, U.S. II, U.S. II Honors, and Sociology.  I also run the school’s History Club, Mock Trial, and Model UN Teams.  Last year the History Club, with is a History Honor Society through Rho Kappa, was recognized as one of the Top 10 History Clubs in the country by National History Club.  My other big news is that last year I was awarded a James Madison Fellowship-http://www.jamesmadison.com/- and I have begun working on my Masters in History with a Concentration in American Studies.

Q: When did you graduate?

I was in the class of 2002, which was the first class to go through the Learning Communities.

Q:What was your senior thesis topic? Where did you intern?

My internship was with AFL-CIO representing the Longshoreman Union.  My thesis was a comparative study on the role of longshoremen union leadership in representing in the early 1900s in New York and Chicago to New Zealand in the late 1990s/early 2000s.


Jonathan Chase

Class of 2006

Q: What is your current occupation?

Jonathan Chase: My current occupation is an Attorney. I am licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Q: How has the research and other skills learned in college helped you in your career?

Jonathan Chase: I think the skills I learned at Wagner that I am most able to use in my job, as well as during law school, are critical reading and writing, and general research skills.

Q:  Do you have a story about Wagner or afterwards you would like to share? Or what was your fondest memory of Wagner?

Jonathan Chase: My fondest memory of Wagner is simply spending time with my closest friends while I was there.

Q: Are you glad you majored in History?

Jonathan Chase: I am glad I majored in history for two main reasons. First, I chose history as a major because I enjoyed learning about and studying history. At the time, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my history degree, just that it was a subject I enjoyed. Second, I am glad I majored in history because the skills I learned while doing so are transferable to my current profession and helped me succeed in law school.