Emilie Raymond, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Hometown: St. James, MO

Graduation year: 1995

Major: History

Sorority: Kappa Kappa Gamma

What other degrees have you earned?

M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of Missouri-Columbia

What is your current career position?

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, History Department, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia

Please describe your current work.

I teach undergraduate and graduate history courses, direct the History Department’s M.A. program, and research and write on American political culture from 1945-present.

What are your future goals?

Some days I see myself teaching history until I am 90, and other days I want to retire and start a new career in politics! I would love to travel more and to continue my work as a historian in a variety of settings.

In terms of your professional life, what would you say is your overarching purpose today?

My goals as a history professor are to help students appreciate the value of studying history and to help them polish the skills utilized by historians — research, analysis and writing — in order to prepare them for whatever their calling may be. As a scholar, I hope to contribute not only to academic research, but to help the public understand how historical events are shaping the present political culture.

Did your liberal arts education allow you to uncover particular passions that you’ve carried into your career?

My senior year proved especially important.  As much as I loved history, I also had a lot of other interests and considered going to law school, trying to break into the foreign service, and possibly double-majoring in biology in order to enter a health science graduate program: all goals that Westminster could have helped me accomplish. History majors were required to write a thesis based on primary sources, and it is that experience that convinced me to go to graduate school to become a professional historian. I loved going to the archives, tracking down a variety of primary sources and pulling all of the material together into a finished product. My professors encouraged me to attend an undergraduate research conference at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and when my paper won a prize, that boosted my confidence even further to pursue a graduate degree in history. The history program at Westminster was extremely challenging. Not only were we required to write and defend a thesis, but we also took an oral exam our senior year covering all of the upper-level history courses we had taken. I hated some of that at the time (and even shed a few tears!) but appreciated the experience once I realized I would have to do all of this and more in graduate school.

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Were any relationships you formed at Westminster particularly influential in helping you find clarity of purpose?

All of the faculty were extremely supportive, and especially the history faculty. I took a lot of classes with Prof. David Southern with whom I had similar intellectual interests, and through his mentorship I decided to focus on 20th-century history. My thesis advisor was Prof. Samuel Goodfellow, and he offered important guidance not only on my thesis, but on graduate school and academic careers. And near the end of my Ph.D. program, they hired me to teach several classes at Westminster, which was a fun coming-home. Prof. John Langton also influenced my approach to teaching, because he did such a good job of getting to know the students as people.

What did you learn about leadership while at Westminster, and how has that translated into your life since graduation?

I believe that the best leaders are honest, positive, solutions-oriented individuals who can empathize with various perspectives. My greatest leadership experiences came through my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, for which I held a variety of different offices. The most valuable lesson I received was figuring out how to find ways to work with very different people to achieve a common goal.

What does success mean to you?

For me, success means pushing yourself to do your best professionally while also maintaining a balanced personal life with friends and family and with a healthy lifestyle. I also believe that giving back to society through time, talent and money is another aspect of success. These are all fundamental to a liberal arts education.

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What is it about Westminster that makes it the kind of community that empowers students to discover their purpose and find success?

The small class sizes, the rigorous academics, and the focus on writing, which is such an important skill that employers covet, all foster independent and high-achieving students. Its connection to high-achieving alumni and historic international events allows students to see themselves as part of something bigger than our little campus. The Greek system helps students develop personal bonds and leadership skills that will continue well beyond college.

Favorite Westminster faculty member?

Prof. John Langton

Favorite spot on campus?

5th Street Hall (I had a great junior year there)

Last book you read?

Hitler in Los Angeles by Steven J. Ross

Favorite movie or TV show?

Some Like it Hot

Favorite app?

Wall Street Journal

Favorite way to spend a Sunday?

Going for a run, having brunch and spending outdoor time with my husband and daughter, topped off with dinner and a movie at home

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is a Media and Content Strategist at Westminster College in Fulton, MO. A 1992 graduate of the College, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communication in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.