Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Jonathan Garon

garonName: Jonathan Garon

UR Major:  History

Other UR Majors/Minors: Political Science

Current City, State of Residence: Washington, DC

How did you choose your major(s)?

I’ve been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember.  Growing up in Virginia, where 70% of the American Civil War was fought, my parents would take my siblings and me to pastoral fields that were scenes of carnage 150 years ago.  Growing up, I began to eye history through a lens of how it has shaped who we are today, but I’ve still never lost that wide-eyed wonder I experienced as a child standing on the same ground of my American ancestors.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

My most significant activity was my undergraduate research, which ended up serving as my senior year writing history requirement.  Based on a series of letters written by my grandfather during WWII, I designed a research project centering on de-Nazification in post-war Germany and the onset of the Cold War.  If you can find a project that truly fascinates you, it is beneficial in so many ways.  Not only do you get great things to put on your resume, but you really are able to extract the most value and worth from your history major and set yourself apart from your peers in your desire to work hard and learn.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

Unless you are 110% sure about the career path you wish to pursue, I am a huge proponent of taking at least one year post-college to work, save money, and think about your future.  When I graduated, I had neither the funds nor the knowledge of exactly what I wanted to pursue to justify entering into a graduate program.  I think a lot of people panic and continue with more schooling to avoid some kind of bleak work future or unemployment.  But whether you are working an unpaid internship in your field or working retail at The Gap, I think that down time is important – to give your school mind a rest, really think about your strengths, what you want to pursue, and how you want to pursue it.  I have just moved back to the East Coast after three years waiting tables in San Francisco.  I also worked two part-time unpaid internships in my time there.  Now, I feel rested and renewed and ready to pursue what I actually studied.  Side note – four of my close friends from UR went directly into law school after graduation.  I remember speaking with three of them during their first year and all of them expressed the same sentiment – they wished they had just taken one year to relax and think about their future.  For some people, going straight into more school may be the right step.  But I would take some time for serious thought and reflection before making a decision.

What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying history?

I would say do your best to focus on accomplishing a lot during your time at UR.  That means taking on greater academic challenges to set yourself apart on your resume post-graduation.  Every student at UR is smart and has a lot to show for themselves.  Make it a point to do something different that makes you stand out.  Take an active role in a campus organization, take on an undergraduate research project, etc.  Something, anything that will make you stand out as unique to future employers.  It does not have to be something larger than life – just something worth mentioning and being proud of. 

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

I work as the Associate Program Director at the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, a Washington, D.C.-based business advocacy organization that works to foster stronger trade and commercial between the corporations operating across a variety of sectors in the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.  One of my driving moves in relocating back to the D.C. area was the desire to find work in international affairs, specifically in the Middle East, which has always been my focus.  I find my current role interesting as it touches on a unique cross-section of business, government, and international affairs.

In five years, I would like to be working in business development for a multi-national corporation, hopefully with a focus on alternative and renewable energy development.