From Thach Hall to the Halls of the Governor’s Office: Interview with Callon Schmid, Auburn University History Major
Written by Professor Cathleen M. Giustino
December 2014 was a busy month for Callon Schmid. Shortly after marching in her graduation ceremony, she began a new job in the Office of the Governor of the State of Tennessee just in time to watch preparations for the inauguration of Governor Bill Haslam for his second term. Schmid is certain that her undergraduate history major at Auburn prepared her well for this exciting position in government service.
Growing up in a family of history majors, Schmid has had a long-standing love of history. Schmid recalls, “My grandfather fought in World War Two, so even as a small child I sat with all of my boy cousins and listened to Grandaddy tell stories of his wartime experiences.” Still, she did not always know that she too would become a history major, once thinking it was a male domain preoccupied with war. It was a female teacher in high school that broadened her understanding of history’s diversity. Looking back on her decision, Schmid remembers this life-changing teacher as “a young woman who focused on women’s roles in the Civil War. That class taught me that with a history degree you can focus on ANY aspect in life that you are passionate about and study it in depth. That was the moment that I knew I wanted to be a history major.”
Schmid admits that she did have some concerns about the practicality of her choice. She is unambiguous when she says, “Let’s not forget that I was going to college to find a job, not dilly dally in day dreams and get some degree that would not serve me in real life. With the encouragement of my father, who also was a History major, I reminded myself to take everything one day at a time and be the best I could be at that possible moment.”
Her history classes at Auburn reinforced her love of history and her appreciation of the variety of ways in which one can study the past and benefit from knowledge about it. Schmid maintains that, “At Auburn, I have had amazing professors that opened my eyes to so many different perspectives.” They also sparked her interest in politics and public relations. She reflects on how some of her history classes made her think about politics in old and new ways. She relates, “I took Dr. Carter’s Civil Rights class and discovered my love for all things Civil Rights and how those issues still rear their angry heads today. I have also taken a lot of classes on consumer culture and how consumer goods can be used as propaganda, especially in Europe after the Wars. These European classes made me question how people are persuaded to make the decisions they do.”
Very importantly, Schmid contends that her history classes provided her with valuable practical skills necessary for a career in government. This includes the ability to take a variety of points of view and opinions into account when analyzing and writing. “I knew that with a history degree, I would learn to think and write analytically, making myself consider events and artifacts from multiple perspectives,” she says. Some of her classes also taught her the importance of patience and planning. This was very true for Senior Thesis. For this advanced capstone course, Schmid analyzed primary sources found in NAACP records, in order to write about public relations and volunteer activities in the Voting Rights Campaign of 1965.
The analytic and communication skills Schmid developed while studying history at Auburn will be invaluable in the Governor’s Office. There she will work in Constituent Services, the office responsible for hearing public opinions about state services and issues. When describing her role there she says, “I will be working with the constituents of Tennessee, ensuring that the state is helping them in the most efficient way possible. My history degree will help me take into account the different perspectives and will help me in my correspondence with constituents.”
Schmid also attributes her success in securing a job in the Governor’s Office to the internships that she completed while an undergraduate at Auburn. One summer she interned for a United States Senator; the next summer she interned for the Governor of Tennessee. The latter internship became the full-time job she now holds and that was offered to her during her last semester at Auburn. Schmid found these internship opportunities and others by conducting online searches.
The History Department of Auburn University thanks Callon Schmid for sharing her thoughts on the value of an undergraduate history major and wishes her the very best in all of her future pursuits!
Last Updated: January 27, 2015