On Friday, Feb. 1, Richard Dennis, the superintendent of education for Elmore County, came to UA to talk to history students who are interested in turning their history degree into a career in education administration or politics. Dennis, a UA graduate, believes that his academic background in both History and English helped him hone the skills that enabled him to become an effective teacher and administrator. He always enjoyed studying history and encourages students to take what they love, develop their skills, and be able to communicate them to shape future career opportunities.
Dennis emphasized the advice his father planted in his mind as he grew up: “Do what you love, so when you wake up for work in the mornings you don’t dread it. That is what a real, fulfilling career is about.” For Dennis, the true reward of his career is in the lives of the students who he has helped. When former students come back to see him, or when they write him letters, he is able to appreciate how he has positively influenced their lives.
His piece of advice for those graduating and preparing to enter the workforce is to leave college behind after graduation. When that chapter closes, it is time to move forward. He encourages students to make the step, be prepared and mature. “Show up to work on time every day, communicate and work well with others, be drug free and put up your phone,” are important points that he wants to pass along to students as they enter the adult world.
A powerful lesson that Dennis has learned in his career that he can pass on to history students: history repeats itself. He tells students to learn and extrapolate from that. Pay attention to the impact of the past, learn from the lessons of the past, and use them to draw on the future. That is a connection that students can take from their history studies and use for the rest of their careers.