Skip to content

Featured Alumni

The Texas A&M University-Commerce department of history provides students with the skills and content knowledge required to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Both undergraduate and graduate programs have placed students in a variety of careers and graduate programs including PhD programs, public history institutions, and secondary teaching positions.

This page features informal interviews with students whose achievements reflect both the the diversity of career paths for history majors and the value of the skills and knowledge these programs have provided.

Austin Baxley

What is your current employment/career?

I teach US History, US government, and Economics at Como-Pickton High School and teach Dual Credit US History 1301 and 1302 through Northeast Texas Community College. I work with around 100 students each day. I teach them how to think, read, and write critically so that they can be successful on state assessments, prepared for college-level academics, and more knowledgeable about their place in the world.

How did you end up in this position?

I maintained strong connections with my local school district while attending Texas A&M University-Commerce. After graduating a position opened at Como-Pickton and I applied. I worked there full time for the first three years while earning my Master's in history at Commerce. I applied with Northeast Texas Community-College as I finished and now teach students who are dual enrolled at the high school and the college.

How did your time at TAMU-C prepare you for this position?

The courses offered by the history department made me thoroughly familiar with the material I teach on a daily basis. The classes were rigorous at both undergraduate and graduate levels. I most appreciated the access to qualified and talented professors who were very generous with their time from my freshman survey courses to my final graduate courses. The professors modeled how to be a successful teacher and historian.

What advice do you have for students?

Successful history teachers need to have good communication skills. I spend most of my day speaking, listening (often overlooked but the most important component of communication), writing, and reading. Having a foundation of historical knowledge is critical to being a good teacher, but the knowledge is useless if it cannot be effectively communicated. Students should take every opportunity to develop these skills.

A student in the honors college, Austin Baxley received his bachelors and masters in history from A&M-Commerce in 2015 and 2018 respectively.

Nick Sprenger

What is your current employment/career?

I am currently a full-time PhD candidate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick where I study European history. My specific research concentrates on the history of modern Britain and the British Empire-roughly from 1850 to the 1920's-specifically about the state, security, information, and policing.

How did you end up in this position?

I made the change to history at the beginning of my junior year, when I began to seek a different, more personally fulfilling career path. While working on my Masters, I deepened my love for the subject and discovered a passion for educating, service, and research. Under the tutelage of my professors in the history department at Commerce, I applied to PhD programs,thankfully was accepted, and landed at Rutgers where could not be happier.

How did your time at A&M-Commerce prepare you for this position?

It is a bit difficult to put three years of mentorship, coursework, and teaching experience into words. While in my Master's program, the department treated me as a colleague-one in need of training and guidance, to be sure-but never as a lackey. The resultant confidence and trust fostered by that relationship was, to me, the most significant factor preparing me for Rutgers, for my future career, and for encountering life in general. First, they taught me how to read a book. It is a bit of a grad school trope that the student must relearn how to read, but it is true! That practice really honed my skills at taking copious amounts of information and digesting it into usable knowledge. History also retrained my brain to recognize trends and patterns over time. I learned the importance of research and informed, evidence-based critical thinking. The aggregate of these skills not only made me a better citizen, but also provided me with a set of tools highly relevant and easily applicable to any future career.

What advice do you have for students?

If you want to do what I did and follow the traditional academic path to make history your career, you must be sure it is truly what you want. The PhD is a daunting path. There are many perks-you do what you love, you have flexibility and intellectual freedom, you can often work from home, and you dedicate yourself to improving every single day. But the sacrifices are many and great. You must be flexible. You must be okay with living paycheck to paycheck while you watch your friends buy homes and new cars and expensive engagement rings. You have to, like I did, embrace the possibility that you'll move to a wholly alien (and cold!!) part of the country if that is what is best for your career.

If you are sure applying to a PhD program is for you, my advice is to do everything you can to get there. It is a hard, competitive process full of rejection. Stand out. Attend conferences. Foster relationships with professors. Take as many classes as you can. Engage with other disciplines. Inquire about TA/GA or teaching positions. Travel often and frequently (making your archive at least one of the stops!). Get involved in the department. Read everything you can get your hands on, especially if it is outside your coursework, your immediate research, or even your area of interest. If you approach your studies (I speak mostly about the Masters level here) in such a way, you will know what a PhD program feels like and will be prepared to enter one.

A student in the honors college, Nick Sprenger received his bachelors and masters in history from A&M-Commerce in 2015 and 2018 respectively.