Anne Berry ’86, History major, French minor
State Government Affairs at Novo Nordisk, Northern Virginia
Why did you choose to come to UK?
My father was in the military and we moved around frequently - I went to 4 schools between 9th & 12th grade - but the one constant was Kentucky, where my maternal grandparents lived. From the time I was 9 years old I wanted to go to UK. It was the gold standard according to my Kentucky family. Upon graduation from high school, my father was assigned an overseas posting and it was important for me to be near family. I applied to two colleges, but there was really only one choice for me.
How/why did you choose your major?
I loved stories about America when I was growing up - Dolley Madison, Lewis & Clark, Laura Ingalls Wilde r- and when I was 15 I had an inspirational AP History teacher who made history come alive beyond the books I'd read, making it both relevant and fun. I wanted to be like her. I was also incredibly fortunate to meet Prof. Charles Roland when I was a senior in high school. He gave me hope that UK & the History Department could be everything I hoped it would be. The history degree would be first and the teaching certification would be second.
Tell me about your career path and current job.
While I had hoped to teach history in high school upon graduation, I ended up teaching French and, after two years, determined that being a teacher wasn't a good fit for me. I did love teaching, though, and ended up as Curator of Education at a museum where I created programs for all ages that interpreted the history and culture of the region. I loved the work and went to graduate school to get a degree in American Studies which I felt would advance my museum career. Unfortunately, museum jobs are both highly competitive and few/far between, even in the Washington, DC, area, so I was a temp while I was looking for a permanent job.
One of those temp jobs was at a health care association where I was eventually offered a permanent position. As an administrative assistant. With a master’s degree. But it was something. To quote the Wizard of Oz upon landing his balloon in Oz & being offered the position of Wizard, "Times being what they were, I accepted the job." The admin position was a starting point and, in short order, it led me to work in their Government Affairs Department - a field I didn't even know existed. I fell in love with the work and have been working in advocacy ever since.
What do you feel is the importance of a liberal arts education in today’s world and/or workplace?
My training as a history major was perfect background for a life in Government Affairs. As a lobbyist, you're educating elected officials about policy in a way that, hopefully, compels action. You have to be able to articulate an argument based on facts & data; to break down complex concepts and put a story together in a coherent narrative. You have to explain how things inter-relate and know enough about the other side's arguments that you can refute their case on the spot. You are expected to be able to forecast consequences based on past action and future trends. In short, you have to explain the "why," something a history major does every day.
The world rightly celebrates STEM careers, but where would we be without the people to make innovation relatable, to help shape its meaning to society or to facilitate public policy that supports it? What value does it have otherwise? Liberal arts majors are the ones who explain why something matters. To me, life makes sense only through the lens of "why" and UK was where I learned how to answer that question.