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Careers in History: Business

Dave Riley ('06)

Business Research Manager, Grand Rapids, MI

Dave Riley next to The Right Place logo

I graduated in December ’06 with a double major in History & German. I recently finished graduate school and earned a Masters in Library & Info Science. I am currently working for The Right Place, Inc, which is an economic development organization in Grand Rapids focused on the West Michigan economy, as their Business Research Manager. In the position I get to utilize research and writing skills that I developed at Calvin as well as my reference librarian skills from graduate school.

Why did you choose to major in history at Calvin? Why did you choose your minor?

I chose history because it touches everything and everyone. We are who we are because of our own history – whether that history be personal, familial, social, national, or global. Everything has a story and context. Calvin’s History faculty showed me that history isn’t just about the past. It can help us understand how and why we arrived at our current state and why we are facing issues of the future. As a 19 year old I figured developing the skills and desire to learn why things are the way they are can only help me. I added German to my plate because I was an exchange student in Vienna before starting at Calvin and wanted to build on those language skills. I also believe studying another language is a good practice to connect with the world outside our immediate experience.

How did your time at Calvin prepare you for what you are doing now?

I learned critical reading and communication skills at Calvin. It wasn’t long after graduating that I realized most of my peers (both professionally and at graduate school) didn’t develop the same skills I did at Calvin when it came to reading articles, writing, and speaking about a topic. The ability to learn about a topic and to then communicate effectively and clearly is critical in every position I’ve had since graduating. In my current role, I am often faced with having to take somewhat detailed and complicated (read: boring to most people) labor market information and re-communicating it to my colleagues in a way that explains why it is important to them.

What are some of your memories of the Calvin history department? What was your favorite class?

One of my favorite memories is touring Grandville Ave with Professor Dan Miller as part of our Mexican History course.

My favorite courses (no way I could just pick one) were: Professor Van Vugt’s The Expanding Nation course, & Professor Berglund’s Modern Eastern European History course and his War & Society course

Do you have any advice for current students, or those thinking in majoring in history at Calvin?

Believe your professors when they say there are a lot of professions you can enter with the skills a history degree provides, but make sure you ask them about specific jobs and be sure to spend some time in Calvin’s career center. Your professors and career counselors are great and want to help you get some direction so you are ready for what’s next after you graduate.

What are your future career plans?

I am still somewhat new to my current role so I’ll be focusing on this job for the shorter term. In the long term, I really love Grand Rapids so the plan is to stay in the city, but considering the large amount of German companies in the area I’m intrigued to see how and if I could get the chance to add international travel to my next position.

Are you willing to talk to current students about your work? If so, how should they contact you?

Dave Riley
rileyd [at] rightplace [dot] org
or LinkedIn