Giuliana Vetrano '09
History has always been a part of my life, a part of who I am. I grew up in the historic suburbs of a city perhaps better known for its history than its present--Philadelphia. My hometown was founded in 1682 on land purchased from William Penn, Valley Forge National Park was down the road, and George Washington had apparently slept at my high school (once a farmhouse and tavern). What's more, every family vacation away from home had a historical bent. Civil War battlefields and museums were my dad's favorite, and my mom made sure to bring us to all the "essential" sites in Western Europe.
It was therefore no surprise that I concentrated in history at Harvard, but my decision was as much strategic as instinctual. I love the posters they now have in Robinson Hall -- "History is everything. Everything is history." These were my thoughts exactly when I chose the concentration. History was so much more than a list of dates and monarchs and wars to memorize; it was the entire past -- of economics, science, art, languages, and universities themselves. (Peter Gomes's History of Harvard was one of my favorite college experiences.) Within the history concentration, I could indulge in the brilliant narrative lectures of the department faculty, and count related courses in art history, Classics, and archaeology.
Beyond the fascinating and limitless subject matter, history as a discipline has permanently shaped the way I think. Quite simply put, I learned to write in History 97. In that course and the many that followed, I gained the critical skill of making an argument grounded in carefully sorted evidence. Furthermore, my research in everything from primary sources to historiography taught me how varied the human perspective can be -- a lesson more important than ever in 2016.
My training in history has helped me in every phase of my professional life, which itself has been varied. While obviously applicable when I taught history in a prep school, it was just as useful to my work researching and writing persuasively in the advertising industry. In business school, I found I was more comfortable with open-ended, ambiguous problem-solving after all those years in the archives and depths of Widener. Now, as a management consultant, I help business leaders make decisions through a process strikingly akin to the historian's: form a working thesis, identify the relevant data, analyze that data, adapt the thesis accordingly, and then figure out a way to communicate it convincingly.
History satisfies my curiosity, stimulates my intellect, and resonates with my personality. I am consistently rewarded, reinforced, and delighted by my choice of concentration, and I know many of my fellow concentrators would say the same.