July 2023 – When Peter Mabli G’19 was researching graduate level History & Culture programs, the program at Drew’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies offered a unique perspective.
The program prepares students to pursue both academic and non-academic careers.
Tailored to be flexible to cater to individual passions, students leave with the skills necessary to pursue careers outside of academia in publishing, digital media, research, museum curation, and philanthropic organizations, just to name a few.
Mabli’s interest in public history and education led him to Drew, and left him with the skills needed to land his position as a senior technical assistance consultant for the American Institutes for Research (AIR), a large, evidence-based research non-profit organization. At AIR, he specializes in social studies standards and curriculum development for state education agencies around the country.
He is also an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s history department, where he teaches online.
“I’m always dipping my toes in academia, but never jumped fully in,” said Mabli. “Which is somewhat deliberate.”
Students in Drew’s History & Culture program are required to take part in an internship outside of academia, and Mabli was able to gain hands-on research and teaching experience working as a summer school program developer at the Morristown National Historical Park. The internship convinced him he was on the right track at Drew, but he recognizes there are many paths to success.
“For much of the type of work that’s offered outside of academia, a PhD is not always necessary,” he said. “A master’s degree is more than adequate.”
We sat down with Mabli to learn more about how Drew’s History & Culture program helped mold his career pathway. Read on to learn more.
Why did you pursue an advanced degree in History & Culture at Drew?
What really appealed to me about the program was its focus on the non-traditional approach to receiving a degree. They are cognizant of the obstacles for the traditional tenure-track positions. Most graduates are not going to head toward a tenure-track position and those that do are going to find a difficult job market. It’s just not a reality anymore, and hasn’t been for a very long time.
I always felt that Drew’s approach was really forward-thinking and it is still really applicable now.
The program has a focus on public intellectualism and public history to give graduates the skills needed to pursue career options outside of academia.
Also, the size of the program and the community of professors, staff, and students were just the right size for me. You had enough people doing different types of work that you could bounce ideas off of and get different perspectives. But it was also small enough that you felt a real sense of community with the common goal to advance the study of the past. It had a really great vibe and was a wonderful experience. Not only the degree process, but also the people and the community that developed there.
Why is it important to obtain a History & Culture degree now?
There has been an anti-intellectual, anti-expertise undercurrent in the U.S. for generations, but I feel like it has really ramped up in the last few years—to the point where even critical and fundamental questions about what constitutes U.S. history and how it should be presented in schools and to the public are often met with fierce, close-minded reactions.
There have been a lot of faux experts recently with their own agendas who derail a fuller, evidence-based understanding of our history. So having a degree program that focuses not solely on keeping that important academic knowledge at university level, but also going out to the public to present it in effective ways has become even more important now than ever before.
We need to consider methods to present topics and themes in history that are more approachable to the public, and we have to really think about the way the public is going to hear from us because they receive history from many different sources, and that’s where the type of approach Drew offers becomes really essential.
What are the transferable skills offered by the program?
Drew offers two types of skills. First there are the traditional skills you receive in most graduate programs; communicating your ideas properly, researching and asking the right type of questions, thinking critically, and the ability to respond to disagreements respectfully, to name a few. You will cultivate these at Drew; they are essential and foundational to the program.
But the other types of skills you receive in the History & Culture program take those traditional skills and allow you to apply them outside the university walls. You learn how to think publicly, to get people engaged with complex concepts without “dumbing them down,” and you gain experience interpreting the past to a much larger audience.
These are skills transferable in a lot of different ways—even outside of the history discipline—and that’s something I’m very grateful to Drew for providing to me.