Alumni Spotlight: Shoshana Jones, '13

TOPICS: Alumni

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Shoshana Jones

Q&A Shoshana Jones, MA History, 2013
After graduating from the Department of History’s MA Program in Spring 2013, Shoshana Jones began a career in historic preservation and went on to work at AECOM Technology Corp., a Fortune 500 engineering firm that provides design, consulting, construction, and management services. We asked her to tell us about her experiences, in particular, how her history degree prepared her for work in AECOM’s environmental unit.

Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: As an architectural historian for AECOM’s Pacific environmental unit, my practice involves cultural and historic preservation for the private and public sectors, including reconnaissance and intensive level historic survey and research, technical report writing, Section 106 compliance, Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) documentation, and historic register nominations. My team works with and for private companies, as well as local, state and federal agencies. Projects have taken me to Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming where I’ve surveyed not only buildings, but dams, bridges, docks, power substations and transmission lines, and nationally-designated historic trails.

During a recent project in Hawaii, I identified and inventoried historic properties that are located in coastal flooding zones and at risk from rising sea levels. The survey and documentation of these properties was designed to help the State of Hawaii develop a historic property preservation plan. A current project involves recording historic dams, powerhouses, and other hydroelectric resources along the Klamath River in Oregon and California that are designated for decommissioning. A smaller, but very rewarding project, has been preparing the nomination form to list a 1937 art deco-style movie theater on the National Register of Historic Places. This job certainly satisfies my desire for intellectual stimulation and adventure! In addition to working for AECOM, I am also an adjunct faculty member in the University of Oregon’s Historic Preservation graduate program. I co-teach two classes with my AECOM supervisor related to preservation and cultural resource management.  

Q: What drew you to history as a subject for graduate study?
A: I started on the path to my current position after a rewarding career as a deputy city attorney for the City of San Diego. My love of travel and interest in art inspired me to take an art history course at Mesa College. When the course ended, I decided to look into graduate art history programs. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do career-wise with an MA in art history, but I took the leap and followed my interests. Upon speaking with Professor Michael Gonzalez, I realized that USD was the right place for me to pursue my studies and that the MA history program would provide more career options than a degree focused solely on art history.

Q: What did you study at USD? What was the subject of your MA thesis?
A: During my time at USD, certain classes and instructors sparked my interest in the built environment. As an elective, I took a contemporary architecture course taught by Professor Julianna Maxim. This really helped open my eyes to the (built) world around me. Professor Colin Fisher’s seminar about memory, identity, and politics in American history was also very influential. In that class, I wrote about how prompt demolition of internment camps after World War II impacted the Japanese and Japanese Americans that had been incarcerated there, as well as the historical memory of the internment. I further explored the internment in my master’s thesis, discovering that a number of Japanese Americans resisted or protested the internment in a variety of ways. I recall typing away at my thesis, wishing for a job where I’d get paid to continue this type of intensive research and writing.

Q: You are now an architectural historian for AECOM Technology Corp. How did that come about?
A: A few months after my spring 2013 graduation, Professor Molly McClain introduced me to an architectural historian who had retired from Caltrans. Through her, I met Jeremy Hollins, a fellow USD alumnus who had graduated from the MA history program years earlier. At that time, Jeremy was the lead architectural historian at what later became AECOM, a multinational infrastructure firm headquartered in Los Angeles. When my husband accepted a job in Portland, Oregon, Jeremy put me in touch with the lead architectural historian at the AECOM office there. Because I had an MA in history, my education and expertise met the Secretary of the Interior’s Professional Qualifications Standards for History. This qualified me for a position as an architectural historian. (An undergraduate degree in history plus additional specified experience will also satisfy the Secretary’s standards.)

Q: How do you use your historical skills in your current work?
A: As an architectural historian, I routinely use the skills I acquired during my time at USD: evaluating historical sources, both primary and secondary; identifying historic themes; developing comprehensive historical contexts; assessing the significance of historic places and properties; reassessing written history in light of newly discovered information. While these skills helped qualify me for my current position, the faculty and alumni at USD are what made it all possible.

Q: Do you have any advice for graduating seniors majoring in history?
A: In pursuing careers in history, I recommend to students and upcoming graduates:

  1. Keep following your interests – there is a job out there that will match them.
  2. Acquire the qualifications and skills that will make you competitive for the positions you want.
  3. Share your goals with USD faculty and fellow alumni -- they will help you make it happen.

Best of luck in all your pursuits!

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