Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Caitlin Meives
UR Major: History
Other UR Majors/Minors: Spanish Major
Additional Education: M.S. Historic Preservation (University of Vermont)
Current City, State of Residence: Rochester, NY
Job Title: Preservation Planner
Employer: The Landmark Society of Western New York
Community Activities: I’m involved with a number of organizations and loose affiliations of folks who are interested in making Rochester the best possible place it can be.
How did you choose your major(s)?
I knew going into college that I wanted to be a history major. I had always been a bit of a history geek so that was a no-brainer. I took a lot of Spanish in high school and enjoyed that so decided to keep taking classes and major. After being miserable taking calc and bio my first semester and loving my history and Spanish classes, that decision was solidified pretty quickly.
What are some specific skills students should develop during an internship?
If you think you know everything, learn how to be humble. Develop the ability to absorb information at all times and make everything a learning experience. Even if you might not have the coolest internship project, you can still learn a lot just by listening to people around you do their jobs.
What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?
The one (or two) regrets I have are: I wish I’d made a greater effort to put myself out there–join different groups, do social activities, just generally meet different kinds of people. I have a great group of friends from undergrad but I know I didn’t take full advantage of the excellent opportunity that college offers you to easily venture outside your bubble and try new things.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?
I work for a nonprofit organization in the historic preservation field. I spend most of my time advocating for historic resources (all types of older buildings, structures, landscapes) and educating folks about the economic and environmental benefits of reusing and revitalizing older buildings and neighborhoods. I chose this career because it allows me to do something that I’m passionate about, make a difference in communities, and connect to history in a tangible way. In five years, I hope to feel like a seasoned professional and be a bit more confident in my knowledge and abilities. I also hope by then that I’ve actually made a difference in a few western New York communities.
What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?
Right after graduating, I took a year to live at my parent’s house and work part-time tutoring and subbing at my high school. I was planning on going to grad school but couldn’t get my act together during senior year to apply and was burned out and sick of schoolwork anyway. Taking that year was a great decision—it gave me a break from reading and writing papers so that I was ready to buckle down again when I went back to school. I’d say you have to do whatever works for you in your particular situation, whatever feels right.
What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying history?
Figure out what you love and do it. The best way to do that? Try as many different avenues as possible. An undergrad internship taught me that maybe I wasn’t so into archeology. A graduate level history class made me realize I didn’t want to spend six years getting a PhD. Talk to people—especially young professionals—in the fields that you’re considering. People are usually happy to talk about themselves and the paths they’ve taken. Finally, seek out career opportunities that you may not already know about it. For me, I’d never even heard of historic preservation. I just happened upon it looking at a history major career flowchart. It turned out to be the best random discovery of my life.