It didn’t take Tracy Rebstock long to realize that a Master of Business Administration degree was not for her.
“I decided after one accounting class that I definitely wanted to do something I truly loved,” she said. “I was taking night classes and went to a lecture. Twenty-five minutes into it, I said, ‘There’s no way.'”
Fortunately, Rebstock switched to the Master of Arts in History program at Eastern Washington University (EWU) and found her niche.
“I didn’t want to get a standard history degree — I wanted to specifically do something in public history,” she said. “The history department was about to hire a professor, Dr. Larry Cebula, who was going to start the pilot public history master’s program.”
The M.A. in History program at EWU gives students three options for concentrations: academic, general or public history.
“Public history is all of the fun things you do with history,” she said. “Usually, if you are an academic historian, you teach and write. I liked the idea of working with original records, museums and archives. It combined my passion of working with history and records.”
Based in Olympia, Rebstock is a research archivist for the Washington State Archives. She has been with the state archive since before she graduated from EWU in 2012.
“I started in the digital archives branch as a student worker,” she said. “When I graduated, they hired me as a temporary employee. I was there for almost a year before I took my current job. I have been there ever since.”
Rebstock grew up in Newark, Ohio, and wanted to pursue a career as an academic librarian. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from University of Cincinnati in 2002, and then earned a master’s degree in library information and science from Kent State University three years later.
“Usually, you have to have a second master’s degree in a specialty of some kind in order to be a librarian at a university or a college,” she said. “I had been on the fence about which master’s program I would be most interested in doing.”
In 2007, Rebstock and her husband, Timothy, moved to Spokane after he landed a job in the area. She worked as a librarian for four years before enrolling at EWU, where she was a graduate assistant.
“I looked at other programs when I considered a master’s degree and was talking to the different colleges,” she said. “I wanted to find something close by so I didn’t have to pay out-of-state tuition. I was interested in the public history aspect of it. It worked out perfectly.”
Rebstock enjoyed the coursework and especially faculty members like Dr. Cebula, Dr. Bill Youngs, Dr. Liping Zhu and the late Dr. Charlie Mutschler.
“I did a lot of internships and had several community contacts,” she said. “I could try some things out to find out what I wanted to do while getting my education. I liked having that practical application piece of it, along with the intellectual piece.”
Among that experience was working on the Spokane historical online application, which opened the door to an exciting opportunity for Rebstock.
“Arcadia Publishing saw one of my articles and approached me about doing a book,” she said. “So, I am in the process of putting together a proposal to do a book on Spokane parks. That is directly related to working at the Spokane historical app through the master’s degree program.”
Rebstock had plenty of encouragement from her family and friends in her return to higher education for a second master’s degree.
“They were excited and supportive,” she said. “I didn’t go to college until I had been out of high school for 10 years. My brother went to college right out of high school.
“When I told him that I was going to get my second master’s degree, he said, ‘You are upping the ante. I have to go get my first master’s degree.’ A little sibling competition. Everybody was really happy.”
Now, both Rebstock and her brother have master’s degrees. She looks forward to concentrating on writing and building the next phase of her career.
“I am going to work on this book and then take a gap year to explore,” she said. “Once I’m done, I’ll come back and see where it takes me. I always wanted to be a professional researcher — that’s a big one for me.
“Working in archives, I have the ability to find records through the lens of how government works. I like connecting people with the information that is available to them — it’s one of my passions.”
Hiking and yoga are Rebstock’s favorite ways to unwind. She also enjoys cooking and gardening with her husband. She believes the M.A. in History was instrumental in her career success.
“I received good value out of the master’s program,” she said. “It’s been nine years since I graduated, but I have nothing but fond memories of Eastern.”
Learn more about the EWU’s online M.A. in History program.