Out of the Archives: History alumna’s journey into an unexpected career

For Alta Compton, a history alumna from Colorado State University, identifying her personal interest in helping others and her ability to actively listen and understand context has guided her to find a meaningful and unexpected career.

Alta and Peter Compton posing with Cam the Ram
Alta and Peter Compton posing with Cam the Ram.

When Compton (’07) took a public history class at CSU, she became vividly aware of how much she wanted to explore the history of “old things.” Knowing that she was not interested in a career in teaching, she began searching for different career options in the field of public history. So, with the hopes of staying in academia, Compton decided to become an archivist. After graduating from CSU, she moved to Texas and began a graduate program, quickly realizing how unsuited she seemed to be for this kind of work.

“I started to realize I’m a little bit more extroverted than typical archivists,” said Compton. “It just never felt right for me.”

In her second year of graduate school, Compton accepted a position as a graduate researcher for a development unit at the university to research their alumni. “I realized that I really liked development and I seemed to be suited for it,” said Compton.

She became responsible for reaching out to alumni and connecting people back to the school. “I love showing people their own hidden passion to help others and showing exactly how their monetary gifts really can change lives.”

Compton ultimately received her master’s degree in library and information science from UT Austin, and rather than becoming an archivist, she pursued a career in donor relations. For more than two years, she has been working at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and has proven to be well prepared for the work she does on a daily basis.

“History gives you context, and my time at CSU taught me to look for context,” said Compton. “I also learned to listen. In my work with donors, knowing the context of their higher education experiences and how that has influenced their giving choices, and actively listening to what they are passionate about, are both hugely helpful.”

Because of her versatile skill set, along with her extroverted personality, Compton has demonstrated that this unexpected career path is one that completely suits her.

“The College of Liberal Arts really educates the whole person. I am grateful every day that I have a degree where people ask, ‘What are you going to do with that – teach?’ and I can say that I am able to do what I want, thanks to a program that gave me the foundation to believe that I could,” she said.

The Department of History is in the College of Liberal Arts.