Department of History

Bridget Fields

Date of Degree: Bachelor of Arts in History and Anthropology, 2011

Current Position: Director, Acquisitions, Centers of Excellence (CoE), General Services Administration (GSA)

At the University of Pittsburgh, I pursued History as my major in order to satisfy my curiosity for understanding the background of places, people, and events. It was when I took a class on Northern Ireland with Professor Tony Novosel that I realized the incredible life skills the history department was providing as well. We immersed ourselves into researching, understanding, and then finally documenting the multitude of perspectives and experiences for this specific facet of Irish - and human - history. Our professor not only taught us in the classroom but connected us, through phone calls and virtual meetings, directly with the very people who shaped and lived that history on both sides of the conflict. This multi-perspective approach that emphasized learning from the people who lived or live the topic being studied engendered a deep empathy and showed me that there was more to history than what could be taught in a classroom and read out of a book. 

With that approach and with a certain amount of eagerness instilled in me by the great students and staff in the History program, I was ready to learn as much as I could about places as far from my “reality” in Pittsburgh as possible. So, I joined the Peace Corps! I was lucky enough to spend three years as a volunteer in Panamá in both DayPuru, Comarca Emberá-Wounaan Area #2 Sambú and Santiago de Veraguas followed by a year as a Response Volunteer in Lanzhou, China. In the Peace Corps, I spent a great deal of time teaching and sharing best practices, continuous research, incorporating different perspectives into the outcome of that research, and transferring complex knowledge in a digestible manner, all of which I picked up at Pitt’s History Department.

These skills, essential in my work as a Peace Corps volunteer, are even more important now in my role shepherding technology modernization efforts in the federal government at the Centers of Excellence of the Technology Transformation Services, located within the General Administration Services. The ability to document a new concept, built on successes and failures of the past, with enough detail that it can be referenced by those new to a particular topic or issue, is the type of work that provides my colleagues with a great deal of value - and it was something I know I picked up from my classes at Pitt. I credit this ability to perform research, write about what I learned clearly and concisely, and being able to then defend or adapt the information I relied upon once the conclusions I drew were tested, that gave me some of my proudest moments and greatest successes.

Being able to learn, share, and also teach others how to not only make the best use of technology in the public sector, but to then also help practitioners improve their work to the point they are able to use their subject matter expertise to enhance the lives of the citizens they serve in their particular role, has been incredibly rewarding. What still pleasantly surprises me is that, although I have changed projects, countries, and now careers, I have never stopped using the very skills I cultivated as a History major at the University of Pittsburgh.