Career Q&A: Lauren Bucca ’13, English

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we catch up with Lauren Bucca ’13, English, who, after an internship in the Medieval Manuscripts Library at the Walters Art Museum and graduate studies at the University of Durham, now works for the Rowman & Littlefield publishing company.

Name: Lauren Bucca
Job Title: Publicity Assistant, Rowman & Littlefield
Major/Minor: English, double minor in History and Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Grad Year: 2013

FB_IMG_1444088617770What led you down the path to publishing?

The world of publishing is a kind of haven for someone with deep literary inclinations. I have always been interested in book publishing, having been intrigued by the way a manuscript becomes a finished product. But I didn’t think I could get into publishing, since I had always heard that it was competitive and had never before interned with a publishing company. I applied to many publishing jobs before I obtained an interview with Rowman & Littlefield, and was fortunate to get the job; I believe that my library and archival experience made me a suitable candidate. Academic publishing seems like the perfect fit for me since it combines my love of learning, writing, and communicating with diverse people.

You went to graduate school at the University of Durham in England. What was that like?

I loved my experience in Durham, England, mostly because it was the ideal location for studying medieval history and literature. Durham is situated on a peninsula, and is an idyllic medieval city with a castle, cathedral, and winding cobblestone streets. The university also provided a unique experience, since it is separated into different colleges which were essentially hubs for social events (including Harry Potter-like dinners, complete with black robe attire). I even joined the graduate rowing team of my college as a coxswain, which was a challenging experience as I attempted to steer the boat away from Durham’s many bridges.  I greatly enjoyed living with people from my college, as most of them were from other countries[,] which gave me the opportunity to learn about other cultures and to make life-long friends. In my Masters course, I had the chance to study medieval manuscripts, catalogue 14th century charters, and discover the historic locations in and surrounding Durham. Overall, the academic community and beautiful city (especially the cathedral) provided for an exceptional opportunity to immerse myself in researching the early medieval period.

What stands out to you the most about your UMBC experience?

The academic support from my English and Honors College professors stands out the most to me, besides making wonderful friends and spending three years working at the library. At UMBC, I was never “spoon-fed” information, but [rather] encouraged to ask questions and find the answers through my own research. I was able to do an independent honors study with Dr. Gail Orgelfinger from the English department (she’s amazing), which later turned into [an undergraduate research] project in the UK. This project, supported also by funding and advice from Dr. Simon Stacey at the Honors College, helped me develop into a scholar and gave me the confidence to continue my research at the masters’ level.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give an incoming UMBC student?

Besides having fun and not stressing yourself out, this is a great time to take advantage of your professors’ knowledge and
advice. Try to see how your current academic plan can transfer to a job. Also, make sure you have at least one internship, because it is way easier to get a job after graduation if you have some work experience. I am grateful that my advisor, Dr. Kathryn McKinley, provided me with an opportunity to intern at the Walters Art Museum. I worked with the manuscripts and rare books, and loved it so much that I continued volunteering there after graduation. Though my career isn’t in an archive or a museum, the skills I obtained there transferred well into my current job.

Roundup: UMBC in the News

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

Career Q&A: Robert Bennett ’12, Ancient Studies and History

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with Robert Bennett ‘12, Ancient Studies and History, about his work as the executive director of the William Brinton 1704 House and Historic site. 

Name: Robert Bennettrobert bennett
Job Title: Executive director of the William Brinton 1704 House and Historic site
Major(s): Ancient Studies and History
Grad year: 2012

Q: What drew you to UMBC for your studies?

I was originally drawn to UMBC’s Ancient Studies department because of its well-rounded curricula, which focused not only on Classical languages, but also ancient history and archaeology. However, UMBC was approximately 70 miles from my home, and, being a non-traditional student, living on campus was not an option for me. Eventually, through the efforts of a professor at my local community college, I was offered a full scholarship by President Hrabowski that made my long daily commute financially feasible. It was an absolutely life-changing moment.

Q: Can you recall any professors or advisors at UMBC who inspired you?

It would be near impossible to list all of the faculty who inspired me, so I’ll mention only a few. President Hrabowski always made time for me, and would speak to me whenever and wherever he saw me. Ancient Studies faculty such as Dr. Marilyn Goldberg and Dr. Jay Freyman were instrumental in advising me as well as helping me through difficult times. In the History department, Dr. James Grubb and Dr. Joseph Tatarewicz encouraged me to get a second BA in History. Dr. Simon Stacey, Dr. Anna Shields, and Dr. Ellen Spitz provided direction and guidance.

Q: Can you explain a little about the research paper you had to write for your history class, and how it opened the doors to your career path?

I was instructed to write a paper concerning some historical event in my family’s history. Unfortunately, I knew next to nothing about my family, and what I did know only went one or two generations deep. My girlfriend (now wife) suggested using my newly acquired historical skills to research my father’s line and, when I did, I found that I was descended from some of the first English settlers of Pennsylvania! I wrote about how this discovery changed my perspective concerning what it meant to have deep roots and the connection to a place. Through my research, I discovered that the descendants of one of the branches of this family owned and operated an historic house museum in West Chester, PA. I visited the house, told the Executive Director about my paper, and she asked to read it. She was retiring soon, so she sent the paper to the board of directors. The board asked to meet me, and, upon the former director’s retirement, offered me the job!

Q: What has been your greatest achievement in your career as Executive Director? Your greatest challenge?

My greatest achievement thus far has been to increase visitation and admissions by 75%. An enlarged social media presence, as well as good word of mouth, have contributed to this increase; but I believe it is really due to the personal connection to the house I possess and am able to convey to my visitors. My greatest challenge has been to keep the museum relevant to succeeding generations whose values are shaped by a changing historical landscape.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your profession?

To put it simply: making history come to life.

Q: Is there any advice you’d like to give to students at UMBC?

When I was offered my scholarship to UMBC, I was asked by family and friends what I would study. After telling them that I would major in Ancient Studies and History, most asked why I would not study something with more earning potential and employability. The answer I gave is the advice I would give: One must do what one loves.

Alums in the News: Bailey, Walker

Here at UMBC, we take pride in what our alums accomplish after graduation. Take a moment to see which Retrievers have been on the move and making news!

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Baltimore’s Fort McHenry recently celebrated the 200th- anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key in September 1814. Jim Bailey ’03 and ’08 M.A., history, took part in the festivity by portraying Major George Armistead, the fort’s commanding officer. Dressed in uniform, Bailey played his role and told history’s story, patrolling around the fort with thousands of children watching. Read the full article.

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Brittany Walker ’12, sociology, was one of the first to train as a peer leader for Upward Bound at UMBC, a program which helps high school students with low-income families to prepare for college. Working as a mentor gives the mentor leadership skills and proves the younger students someone who can give them guidance. Walker now works there as a full-time academic advisor. Upward Bound is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. See the complete story.

Have a story of your own to share? Submit a class note.

Round Up: UMBC in the News, 10/31

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

Read more at UMBC Insights!

Round Up: UMBC in the News, 9/19

One of the things that makes UMBC great is how wonderful our alumni, students, faculty, and staff are. Because of these amazing people, UMBC often finds itself “in the news,” so each week, we’ll be sharing with you a round-up of the most newsworthy achievements from our community.

Read more at UMBC Insights!

Estonian Excellence

There isn’t an NCAA in Estonia. No college recruiters or flashy promoters. So back in 2011, rising UMBC senior Lauri Käi had to get onto the radar of UMBC men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Chad Cradock ’97, psychology, the old fashioned way: grit, determination, and some timely word of mouth from other Estonians – including Herol Marjak ’13, history, and Johan Rohtla ’14, biochemistry – who have swum competitively at UMBC.

Flash forward three years. Käi is one of the top performers on UMBC’s successful swimming and diving teams, chalking up individual achievements and s14-atplay-kaeiflyhelping the university’s 200- and 400-yard medley relay teams finish at the top of the America East Conference.

And like many UMBC student-athletes, Käi has been just as successful in the classroom, double majoring in political science and philosophy with minors in international affairs and legal policy.

UMBC was a very different experience from higher education in Estonia. “It seemed really big!” Käi observes. “Universities back home are just buildings that are spread out around the city, but there’s no actual campus.”

Käi hopes to attend law school in the United States after graduation and plans to enjoy his last year of competitive swimming for UMBC.

Cradock observes that “it has been great to watch [Käi] grow as a person. He’s someone that supports his teammates, cares a lot for the sport, and is invested in the betterment of himself. I know when he gets into the real world, whatever he does, he’s going to be extremely successful.”

— Katharine Scrivener

Read more from the UMBC Magazine!