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History Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Prouty '14G

From Salem State's history department to regional administrator of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities in Brookline

What was your hometown, major, minor(s), concentration and year of graduation?

I have lived all over, including Virginia Beach, Des Moines, Chicago, London, and Brescia, Italy, but technically, my hometown is Annapolis, Maryland. In 2004, I moved to Salem and I have been here ever since. My undergraduate major was history with medieval and Renaissance studies as a concentration.

My first master’s degree was in education. At Salem State, I got my master’s in history with a focus on witchcraft history and social history, which are my own foci and not exactly departmental. I graduated from Grinnell College in 2003, Lesley University in 2005, and Salem State University in 2014.

What is your current title and role? What are you responsible for day-to-day?

I taught for ten years in Melrose Public Schools before I entered the non-profit world as an outreach director for Educators for Excellence. I now serve as the Regional Administrator for New England Yachad, part of the National Jewish Council for Disabilities. I run the daily operations of the office, train and oversee staff and interns, work a lot with data, maintain our accounting and budgeting, am the liaison to National, and all the layers in between. 

What encouraged you to pursue this career?

I truly loved being a teacher but I did not love all of the initiatives and the lack of autonomy so I left teaching; that was not an easy choice. I do what I do because, and this will sound very cliché, I want to change the world. At my educational non-profit, we elevated the concerns of 100 Boston teachers to the State House and Boston Teachers Union as key issues. Now, I work at an organization that helps those with all different types of disabilities—physical, mental, emotional—live a more full, inclusive and social life. Seeing others thrive because of an organization I am a part of means so much and lets me know I did good work. 

What skills did you learn as a history major and how did your time at Salem State prepare you for life after graduation?

At Salem State, I became a proficient data analyzer, researcher, reader, and note-taker.  These skills were vital to digesting vast amounts of information and ultimately producing a thesis. As a part-time graduate student who worked full-time and chose to write a thesis, it was very intense but worth it. My analysis of data has served me well in all of my vocations.

I was also able to apply the concepts of material culture and oral history to my classroom and I taught a historiography course to middle school students. I do not think any of that would have happened without Salem State. Toward the end of my time at Salem State, I worked with Dr. Darien on his book for the 75th anniversary of Temple Sinai in Brookline. That work exposed me to so much more Jewish culture than I had ever learned before and taught me a lot about the Jewish community in Brookline.  Currently, I work for a Jewish organization in Brookline and I am able to use that knowledge. My Hebrew is still horrible though.

Was there a particular faculty member or class that had a lasting impact on you?

I loved and enjoyed so many of my courses; I could easily go into how much I adored my professors and what I got from courses. The two courses that will always stand out most are The Balkans and Pre-Colonial Africa. Those courses were taught very differently than any of the others and I learned history to which I had never been exposed. They were tough courses but completely worth it as I learned so much that I had never known before and it has made me want to learn even more about those areas and times.  

What is the most exciting professional opportunity you have had since graduating?

The most exciting professional opportunity I had was attending a summer seminar with the National Endowment for the Humanities. They are available to teachers and the options change yearly. I took a seminar on Native Americans in New England. The class carried over pieces of Salem State, such as material culture, oral history, and landscape, and I brought some ideas back to my classroom. Not only did I learn a good deal but I also met amazing teachers and speakers. We went to the incredible Mohican Tribal Offices and Mashantucket Pequot Museum, which was fascinating. I still talk about that museum today.

What advice would you provide to an incoming history major at Salem State?   

Keep your notes! Keep your textbooks! There are many times I wish I had my history notes from undergraduate and high school as well as certain texts. History changes all of the time and most of the texts in college are highly specialized; an idea expressed in one may not be in any other book. It is also important to talk to your professors. The history department at Salem State is full of amazing professors who want you to succeed. They will push you and you will be a better historian but do not be afraid of office hours or going to them with questions. 


Learn more about the history department at Salem State University.

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