Studying History Prepares Alumna for Future: Jane Marion Wilson ’04
Career experts say that the average person graduating from college today can expect to have ten or more careers during her lifetime. Jane Marion Wilson ’04 can attest to that. She has already changed career directions four times. A double major in History and Art History at Converse, she also attended the University of Delaware, where she was a Winterthur Fellow, and earned both a Master of Arts and a Museum Studies Certificate.
Just before completing her graduate degree, Jane learned that the position of Alumnae Director at Converse College was open. Jane said, “Because of my work with that department as a student, love of the history of the college, and passion for Converse’s mission of advancing women and girls, I decided to apply.” She served in that position for 3 years.
Then, once again, life led her in a new direction.
After the birth of her first son, Jane segued into part-time work. During a span of three years she served as the History Camp Director at Historic Brattonsville, Adjunct Instructor of Public History at Converse, and Membership Coordinator at the Culture and Heritage Museums of York County. She recently returned to a full-time position as Director of Admissions and Development at Westminster Catawba Christian School in Rock Hill, SC.
Jane’s background in history has been a major asset in her career. “I think being a history major was the perfect prerequisite for my work in advancement,” Jane said. “The same is true in working with families who are considering enrolling their children in a private, Christian school or in asking a donor to contribute to a strategic initiative. You have to know what each individual’s passions and concerns are in order to be able to effectively communicate with them, and many times that is directly related to their own ‘historical’ experience in school.”
“At Converse, I felt free from the restraints of trying to impress others and was challenged to develop leadership, in and out of the classroom.”
While a student at Converse, Jane was an active campus leader, including serving as SGA president. “My co-curricular experiences really helped me to develop as a leader, understanding what it truly means to work with others to accomplish a common goal,” Jane said. “Some of the very same skills that we learned as student leaders, like budgeting, event planning, fundraising, and goal setting, are what I do a lot of today.”
Jane said the experience of attending a women’s college experience gave her the skills and self-confidence necessary for a strong future. “As a high school student, I was entirely focused on academic work and quite intimidated by the social pressures of a girl to be “popular” among her peers,” Jane said. “At Converse, I felt free from the restraints of trying to impress others and was challenged to develop leadership, in and out of the classroom.” She credits the enduring female friendships she developed at Converse for helping her along her path. Jane said, “I also learned at Converse how important it is to surround yourself with great friends, and the relationships with my classmates and mentors have stood the test of time as I have gone through all kinds of different decisions.”
“Get out of the classroom and put what you are learning to work.”
Jane has judicious advice for students considering a history major: “Get out of the classroom and put what you are learning to work. Volunteering for local historical agencies is fulfilling, both academically and personally, and can give you a sense of what the real world is often like for history majors. In addition, fill each summer with an internship, a special summer program or class, or employment that is related to what you want to do. This not only builds your resume but can often direct your scholarly pursuits once you return to the classroom. And, finally, pursue leadership and service opportunities at Converse. This made a difference to the interview committee in their acceptance of me to graduate school, and I fully believe it is the main reason I was offered my first job at Converse.”
But work is only one facet of Jane’s life. She, her husband, who is a multi-generational farmer, and their two sons reside on the same farm land that has been in her husband’s family for generations. “I am a Farm Bureau member and work to promote agriculture through educational programs, legislative activity, and public awareness,” Jane said. “In this season of my life, I do often struggle with balance because I love being involved in the growth and success of our communities. I also have a strong call to use my gifts to serve and help others, but I try to keep my priorities in focus and remember that doing one or two things really well is much better than trying to be a part of everything and not making much impact.”