FHSU University Relations and Marketing
By Randy Gonzales
HAYS, Kan. — Kim Grant told a group of Fort Hays State University history majors the path to success included having a Plan B.
Grant knows all about change; he enrolled at FHSU planning a career in journalism but after taking Dr. John Klier’s Modern Civilizations class, he knew history was for him. Grant graduated from FHSU in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in history, with a minor in political science.
Grant was on campus recently to give advice to current history majors. After graduating from FHSU Grant taught in high school while pursuing his master’s. He graduated with a master’s degree in public administration at Wichita State University in 1989. Grant went on to a 35-year career in state and local government and the non-profit sector and lives in Denver. He now works part-time as the Director of the Arvada Historical Society and as a consultant to other non-profit organizations. Much of his career has focused on historic preservation and downtown revitalization, two areas that go hand in hand.
“(Klier’s) class was just like a revelation,” said Grant. “I decided right then and there that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a college history professor.”
Grant also credited an aunt for sparking his early interest in history. She was the first in their family to go to college, getting degrees in history and library science. She taught Grant about history and the arts.
“She really inspired me to broaden my horizons and to study history in particular,” Grant said.
Another FHSU instructor, Kenneth Oldfield, also was an inspiration when Grant took his public administration and political science classes. That got Grant to thinking.
“I began thinking maybe — like all of you, I started to ask myself what am I going to do with this history degree,” Grant said. “Am I going to teach? Am I going to work in a museum? Am I going to work for the government or non-profit sector? What am I going to do?”
Grant did what he encouraged the assembled students to do.
“I began developing a backup plan,” he said. “I got four years into my degree program and kind of panicked.”
Grant came up with a list of 10 lessons he has learned that he shared with the students:
1. Be open minded. Think broadly about opportunities, but seize them when they come.
2. Develop backup plans and strategies that link related careers and opportunities.
3. Have confidence in your knowledge and skills, but don’t be arrogant. You have to pay your dues.
4. Accept constructive criticism; learn from the practitioners with whom you work.
5. Be prepared for some disappointments along the way. Learn from your mistakes.
6. Maintain ties with mentors/schools/professors/previous colleagues on the job.
7. Track the evolution of your career/reflect on what you’ve accomplished and build on it.
8. Develop good writing and public speaking skills.
9. People from all walks of life have an interest in history — finding ways to engage them leads to work opportunities.
10. Never forget that this is supposed to be fun! If it is not fun, find something else to do.
Grant has enjoyed a varied professional career. That’s all part of the plan.
“Sometimes you just have to take a risk,” he said. “Sometimes you have to take a step back before take a couple steps forward.”
FHSU is a good starting point, Grant said.
“You’re going to get a good education here, so have confidence in your skills,” he said.
Grant also reflected on his time as a student at Fort Hays State.
“It was a comfortable place,” he said. “It was warm and welcoming. It was like a real community.”
His professors stood out, Grant said.
“The professors were not just knowledgeable about their subject, but many of them were terrific classroom teachers,” he said. “They were inspiring.”