After graduate school I accepted a position at a county historical society. I was interested in SHA because I wanted a foundation in historical administration to dovetail with my “baptism by fire” experience. The three-week format covered a great deal of information in a short amount of time which was best for my personal (I had a 3-year-old at home) and my professional life.
SHA is so much more than three weeks of talking about the history field – it’s an opportunity to grow professionally and think about where you want to be in the future, it’s taking time out to really think about the larger field and how you and your organization fit into it, and it’s building a network you can utilize for the rest of your career.
Attending SHA opened my eyes to the possibilities in the field and gave me the confidence to start looking for my next opportunity. My SHA network served as cheerleaders and a sounding board for my search. I went to SHA in fall 1996 and by spring 1998 I started a new position at the Indiana Historical Society (IHS.) SHA faculty and alum from my class and other classes challenged me to think strategically about my career and what I wanted in my next position. After 15 years at IHS, I am starting a new adventure at the end of May 2013 as the Director, Art and History Venues at the Stark Foundation in Orange, TX. I feel confident to move forward in this new leadership position because I do so with a passion for the work, broad experience in the field, and an exceptional network of colleagues around the country many of which I know through SHA. I am proud to be associated with the Developing History Leaders @SHA program as faculty and I regularly encourage colleagues to apply to the program. And note to John Durel and Bob Beatty – I’ve already started thinking about members of my new team that would be great candidates to apply in future years.
If you can’t apply this year, then start planning for a future year. If your employer needs convincing, hook up with SHA alum or faculty to make the case. If you are concerned about the funds, consider applying for one of the scholarships. If you are worried about being away for three weeks, talk to alum who found the time away to be just right. There will never be a perfect time to attend, but it is always the right time to invest in you – personally and professionally.
Trina Nelson Thomas attended SHA in 1996 as the first recipient of the William T. Alderson scholarship. She has served on the SHA planning committee, as local logistics wrangler, as seminar faculty, as most likely to be carried around by loony SHA alum, and as advocate at large (since the title of SHA Tsarina doesn’t exist). She has worked at the Indiana Historical Society for the past 15 years and soon begins her next set of adventures at the Stark Foundation in Orange, TX.