Notes From The Workfront: Weston Nunn (MA 2010)

Thu, 01/19/23
Weston Nunn

Many people think history degrees only equip their holders for careers in academia, education, or success in Tuesday night trivia tournaments. Though others may appreciate our ability to provide historical context at the drop of a hat for current events like the war in Ukraine or the protests in Iran, they may not be convinced that a historian's training has any usefulness outside of an academic setting. But it does.

I've been a grant writer for the foundation of a regional hospital system since August 2021, and I love it. Our goal is to raise money to support and expand the system's operations, like establishing new clinics and programs, or purchasing cutting-edge medical technology. The Healthcare grant applications I write come in all shapes, sizes, and from many sources, but what unites them all is the fact that I have to convince the grantor that my project is worth funding. I must clearly articulate the need the project will address, describe how the project will work, outline what we expect to achieve through it, explain how we'll measure success, and create and justify the project's budget. Since I have two history degrees, doing all of these things is practically second nature.

The training I received in college and at FSU prepared me well for a career in healthcare that at first glance has nothing to do with history but is actually ideally suited for people with our expertise. For example, both historians and grant writers have to do their homework to be taken seriously. As far as research goes, I have to get to know the problem each project is trying to correct, from the prevalence of diabetes or negative perinatal outcomes to the challenges of delivering healthcare services to rural communities. Researching the many factors that create and perpetuate poor health involves asking the right questions, looking at issues from multiple perspectives, identifying and critically analyzing reputable sources, and discerning the most reliable statistics and data trends. Honestly, this doesn't feel dissimilar from doing graduate coursework in history.

The writing element is also crucial. My prose must be efficient, convincing, data-driven, and, most importantly, interesting. Writing, revising, and working collaboratively with the clinicians and administrators who will manage the project are not foreign to me because of my historical training. And, of course, just as historians do, I must know when my deadlines are, how to work backwards, and how to juggle multiple projects at once.

When my efforts pay off and a proposal is funded, it is tremendously gratifying. Receiving a five- or six-figure check for an initiative that will benefit others is actually a ringing endorsement of the usefulness of a history degree. In fact, all the grant writers I know have one. So, when people scratch their heads and say to you, "Studying history is interesting and all, but what can that do in the real world?", know that in my experience, it helps save lives.