Tom Van Dewark


“It’s safe to say that the consistency we’ve seen with Western graduates is very high,” said Tom Van Dewark. “You will get people that are ready to be in the job market. And their expectations are more closely aligned for the professional world than you may see from other students.”

Van Dewark is the Director of Western Operations for Know History, a historical consulting company which works with Indigenous community, corporations, museums, and governments to document, analyse and present Canada’s past. He is also an alumnus of the undergraduate program in history, and the graduate program in Public History.

Know History has close to 70 full-time staff, many of whom are graduates from Western. Western’s history programs, Van Dewark said, “have a good reputation amongst the private sector.”

The project-focused aspects of the programs prepare students to enter workforce, focus on more deliverable, instead of just concepts, and this approach requires less training of new staff when they join an organization, he said.

Van Dewark’s interest in history was fostered by his own father, who was a high school history teacher. “I thought I might teach, but I didn’t know what I would end up doing for sure,” he said.

He chose to study at Western based on the reputation of the school, and the fact his brother was already a Western student. As a student, Van Dewark benefited from the close connection with department faculty. Community-based and collaborative projects helped him develop his interpersonal skills, and relationships outside the university setting.

“When you look at the course work, it’s so broad, easy to get lost in that sometime,” he said. “Through the personal connections I developed with professors, I was able to get help with academics and the post-academic transition as well.”

Van Dewark also benefited from the support of the Robert Cochrane Lambton County Fellowship, which provided funding for an internship at The Oil Museum of Canada.

The funding, Van Dewark said, provided “a great opportunity academically and professionally, a big help for me, and a big steppingstone for my career.”

Through the history programs, and his time at Western, Van Dewark said he learned the value of personal relationships, which can help establish networks for future success, and provide greater value to any work you do.