Alumni Profiles

We enjoy keeping up with our alumni and sharing the events of their lives with the rest of the Tulane History community.  When you have something special to share, please let us know.

 LAW

Erin A. Donelon                                                                   edonelon@tulane.edu

B.A., Tulane, 1994

Erin Donelon is lawyer, the Director of Legal Research & Writing and Professor of Practice at Tulane University Law School.  After graduation from Tulane, Erin worked as a teacher in California, but returned to New Orleans to pursue a law degree at Loyola University.  After graduating first in her law school class, she clerked for Judge Eldon Fallon on the US District Court and then for Judge Jacques Wiener on the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  She also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Loyola Law Review.

Erin reflected on her experience as a History major...

Why did you choose to major in History?

I chose to major in History because I had several outstanding high school History teachers.  During my first semester at Tulane, I took an honors History seminar and I was hooked.

 

How has your History major helped you since graduation?

My History major has been a tremendous asset.  I eventually chose to pursue a career in law, and the research and writing skills that I learned in my History classes were invaluable in law school.  The History faculty took time to provide constructive feedback on papers and exams, and that feedback really helped to improve my writing.  I now teach legal writing and I advise pre-law students to take as many history classes as they can and to take the courses that require a lot of writing. 

 

In hindsight, what would have you done differently as a History major?

In general, I would not have shied away from challenging classes.  I was risk averse as an undergraduate, and I was reluctant to take courses from professors who were notoriously "hard".  Now I realize I should have embraced the challenge.  I also wish that I had taken Prof. Powell's Civil War course.  I was never able to fit it in my schedule.

 

Any words of wisdom for History undergraduates?

I would advise undergraduates to take advantage of the accessibility of the History faculty.  It is very easy to find a mentor, and faculty advice can be very helpful in course selection and career planning.  I would also take advantage of Tulane's JYA and other study abroad programs if possible.

 MEDIA

Spencer Wilking
B.A., Tulane, 2004; M.A., Tulane, 2005
Spencer Wilking is currently enrolled in Master's program in the Columbia School of Journalism and works as a production associate for HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble".  After graduating as a Tulane History major, he stayed for our Accelerated Master's program, before entering the world of journalism.  He began working for "The Brian Lehrer Show" on public radio station WNYC, freelancing for NPR, and interning for the PBS news magazine show "NOW".

The History major served as a perfect springboard for Spencer's journalistic aspirations.

Why did you choose to major in History?

I like events, faraway lands, and people.  History always represented the place where thy all intersect.  As someone with an "active" attention span my interests were too scattered and varied to be sewn up into a single academic discipline.  History requires you to engage a spectrum of fields whether it be political science, psychology, sociology, international relations, anthropology, writing and numerous others.  I chose history because I wanted to learn more about people and the way individuals come to shape culture and society.  With history you're not limited to one section or path you're able to illuminate all the humanities.

How has your History major helped you since graduation?

The History Department at Tulane provided me with a wonderful background to be a journalist.  History, like journalism, affords you an all access ticket to the world.  In both fields you can explore any idea and study any topic so long as you can justify its importance to a wider audience, that is, see you idea as part of a larger debate.  But you can't do that unless you can employ critical thinking and analysis to identify themes and issues.  Tulane taught me how to process large tracts of information, focus on the significant elements, and then weave those elements into a larger narrative.  As a journalist, I use these skills everyday.  I gather information through interviews, research and observation; pour all that information through this filter that Tulane helped me develop and tell a story that others can understand, and hopefully connect with.

In hindsight, what would have you done differently as a History major?

I would have used my professors more as a resource.  I was prone to sitting in class listening to my professors but not interacting with them.  These people are experts in their fields and have a wealth of knowledge that you're paying them to dispense.  I wish I had skipped some happy hours and gone to office hours to discuss material in greater depth.  I wish I had asked more questions in class- not to hear myself speak or because it was expected, but to gain more experience in speaking in public and communicating my thoughts and ideas.  In addition to helping my studies, it would have been great to develop more rapport with people who have a true passion for history.  

Any words of wisdom for History undergraduates?

Read and write as much as you can, go to class and take copious notes on everything that comes out of your professor's mouth.  Remember, however, that your professors aren't always giving you the "answer" but helping you learn to formulate the "questions" and answer them yourselves.  Also, don't forget to complement all the book learning with worldly, visceral experiences.  Before settling on journalist, my job titles included: bartender, cab driver, gardener, political campaign worker, and grant writer.  You have to try stuff out and live numerous lives.  Travel as much as you can, especially to the places you're studying.  When I was at Tulane, I did two great summer programs, spending one summer in Cuba and another in Mexico.  As a history student, it's amazing how outside experiences will strengthen your academic knowledge and understanding of the world.  Also realize how special this time in your life is.  In a couple years life speeds up.  All of a sudden you're barreling through the cosmos with career and family responsibilities you can hardly imagine.  You will wonder where all that time to ponder, argue and pontificate went.  Take advantage of it now!