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Alumni Couple Finds a Way to Fulfill Their Dreams Through History


Justin Housman credits his history major with introducing him to his wife and setting them both on fulfilling career paths.

Cal Poly’s history program put alumni Justin Housman and Margaret Donoghue on the road to finding their dream careers and life partner. Housman and Donoghue, who began dating while at Cal Poly, both graduated with degrees in history, in 2007 and 2006 respectively, but used their education to pursue very different career paths.

After graduating and spending time abroad, Housman made his lifelong passion for surfing a career by becoming a writer for Surfer Magazine, the authoritative publication on surfing. Donoghue, on the other hand, used the knowledge and skills acquired as a history major to become an investment analyst for the Australian Trade Commission, based in San Francisco.

“The cool thing about a College of Liberal Arts degree is that you’re prepared to do just about anything,” Housman said. “A liberal arts degree doesn’t hold you back but opens up the entire world for you. I know that’s cliché, but it actually is true.”

Justin Housman and Margaret Donoghue
Housman and Donoghue say that a CLA degree
prepares you for just about anything.

After graduating, the couple spent a year studying in Paris before moving to San Francisco. There, they were both accepted to San Francisco State University for graduate school and soon after earning master’s degrees, they discovered their current career paths.

Donoghue noted that she enjoys the perks of her job, which include meeting high-ranking diplomats and company leaders. She has discussed contemporary issues with the CFO of EBay, met the governor general of Australia, and dined with ambassadors.

“I enjoy being able to tap into high-level people. Every day I get to use my mind, I’m constantly planning and strategizing, thinking, reading and learning. I really value that,” Donoghue said.

Donoghue noted that the education the History Department provided her is invaluable. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that my training, the experience that I bring, comes from a humanities background, specifically history.

“History involves taking an immense amount of information, finding all the core arguments, understanding them, and distilling everything into an informative paper,” Donoghue said. “And you’re charting and explaining change — that’s what I do every day at work.”

Housman added, “Most directly, my history degree prepared me for writing, just writing constantly. Even if you don’t think about it as practice for a career in writing, in history, you’re trying to prove a point constantly, which is extremely important for any journalistic field.”

In addition to the practical benefits of their Cal Poly education, Donoghue and Housman have many happy memories of their undergraduate days, which rank among their top experiences in life.

“Everybody [at Cal Poly] seemed to be doing something really cool; everyone either had an internship planned or spent some time traveling abroad like I did. Everybody had a goal and a purpose — something definitive they really wanted to do and were really excited about. It was nice to be a part of that,” Housman said. 

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