History Department
History Department

Graduating Senior Spotlight: Dean’s Distinguished Graduates

Mon, May 14, 2018
Graduating Senior Spotlight: Dean’s Distinguished Graduates
Dean's Distinguished Graduates 2018

The History Department is pleased to announce that six majors are among a select group of students receiving this year’s Dean's Distinguished Graduates honors. Hannah Rotwein has been named Dean’s Distinguished Graduate, while G. Elliott Morris, Jessica Patrick, Evan Rathjen, Cassidy Schulze, and Emma Walker are recipients of the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Honorable Mention. This year, the College of Liberal Arts awards the distinction to only a dozen graduates and names twenty-nine honorable mentions, making this an extraordinarily high honor.

Established in 1980, the award recognizes graduating Liberal Arts students “who have distinguished themselves in the areas of scholarship, leadership, and service to the College and University community. It is the highest award the College offers and [is] truly reflective of the remarkable caliber of our graduates.”

Our Dean’s Distinguished Graduates and Honorable Mentions this year represent a diverse range of research interests from performance history and twentieth-century American art to refugees in Hong Kong and environmental history. Our honorees have taken a wide range of courses in the History Department that helped develop their work.

Studying history has also shaped their thinking of history as a discipline and the meaning of the past. Hannah Rotwein highlights “the importance of nuance” and explains that “memory is subjective, that there is no single correct version of the past, and that events can appear radically different depending on which actors are asked.” Emma Walker echoes a similar view by stating that “no story has one story, all historical studies contain some form of bias, and that we cannot achieve real truth without questioning narratives.”

For some of them, the past is closely connected to the present and the future. Both Hannah and Jessica Patrick note the link between past and present. Hannah acknowledges that “many of the systems that shape our present are rooted in the past.” Jessica points to the “complexities of contemporary problems while acknowledging the common impulses shared by humans regardless of time or place.” She has learned to “think critically about fundamental human instincts at the root of conflict and progress throughout time” and to analyze “the strategies used by politicians, world leaders, and revolutionaries to galvanize populations and motivate change.” Emma observes that “history connects every human that has ever lived to everyone that will live; therefore its study is the most essential key to a sustainable future.”

In addition to temporal association, Cassidy Schulze and Evan Rathjen emphasize the people in the study of history. Cassidy states that “history never stops. Our stories keep growing, and we have to keep a record of them.” For Cassidy, these stories are “rich with the emotions of real, actual people who wanted to leave something behind.” History is “a lens we can use to study the rest of the world because we are still talking about many of the issues humans have had throughout history……The only way to find real solutions to real issues is to share as many stories as we can.” On this note, Evan Rathjen remarks that studying history has “really opened my eyes to struggles of marginalized groups all over the world.” She emphasizes that it is important for historians “to pay attention to the stories that are not getting told.”

After graduation, they are pursuing a wide range of career paths.

rotweinHannah Rotwein | History (Special Honors) / Plan II Honors / Studio Art

A Normandy Scholar, Hannah worked closely with Drs. Tatjana Lichtenstein, Judith Coffin, Charters Wynn, David Crew, and Michael Stoff. Together with Dr. Stoff’s course The U.S. and the Second World War, the Normandy Scholar Program served as her introduction to archival research. At the Briscoe Center for American History, Hannah studied the Walter Cronkite Papers and the first five years of the University’s Black Studies program. She also worked closely with Dr. Laurie Green. Using memoirs and reactions to them, Hannah wrote her honors thesis on the art collector Peggy Guggenheim with Dr. Coffin. She recently presented her work at the History Honors Thesis Symposium.

After graduation, Hannah will enroll in the Land Arts of the American West post-baccalaureate program at Texas Tech University in the fall. She will travel to land art sites in the Southwest and combine her historical research interests and art practice.

morrisG. Elliott Morris | Government (Special Honors) / History

After graduation, Elliott will begin his career as a Data Journalist with The Economist in London. Drawing on his background in political science and his experience with the elections in the United States, he will be reporting different stories with data.  Vox ran this profile story about Elliot, who has emerged as a Twitter star for his polling around elections. The article points out that with more than 22,000 followers, Morris has become a familiar name to seasoned pollsters and national campaign reporters.

patrickJessica Patrick | History

Graduating a year early, Jessica took a variety of classes in the History Department as well as Rhetoric and Government. She researched different themes in cultural rhetoric, justice, ethics and aspects of U.S. Foreign Policy.

After graduation, Jessica will attend UT Law in the fall, specializing in International and National Security Law.

rathjenEvan Rathjen | English (Special Honors; College Honors) / History

Evan’s research focused on Chinese diasporic literature in Hong Kong and the refugees displaced during the Vietnam War. She worked with Dr. Sam Vong on refugees in Hong Kong after having taken Dr. Peter Hamilton’s course Global Hong Kong. She was grateful to Dr. Julie Hardwick as her course Thinking Like a Historian served as Evan’s introduction to approaching history as an academic discipline. Evan also did a wide range of research in the History Department. She served as a research assistant for Dr. Erika Bsumek on the oral histories of Native Americans and Mormons in the American West. In addition, she researched on the myth of the "Angel of Goliad" and Tejano history at the Briscoe Center for American History. Evan wrote her thesis on the poetry of the diaspora in the English Department.

After graduating Evan plans to continue working at local nonprofits, volunteering, and possibly working on self-publishing some poetry. She is also considering attending graduate school in the future.

schulzeCassidy Schulze | Humanities (Special Honors; College Honors) / History

Cassidy’s research on performance history explored the methods of transferring the ephemeral nature of theatre to a permanent archive, based on a case study on Victorian interpretations of Shakespeare's heroines and an original performing arts archive. Having written her humanities honors thesis on archiving and curating theatre, Cassidy credited her coursework (Stuart England and Criminal Trials in History) with Dr. Brian Levack and an internship at the Harry Ransom Center for providing a foundation for her research.

After graduation, Cassidy will be performing four plays (Love's Labour's Lost, All's Well That Ends Well, Julius Caesar, and Arden of Faversham) in repertory style with the Shakespeare at Winedale program this summer. After that, she aims to focus on work that intersects between theatre, education, and museum studies before attending graduate school. Her dream job is to run the education department of a theater to encourage a larger patron base for archives.

walkerEmma Walker | Geography (Special Honors) / History

Coursework with Drs. Erika Bsumek, Lina Del Castillo, and Matthew Butler helped shape Emma’s focus on environmental history. Focusing on the piney woods of East Texas, Emma’s research utilized remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) technology to determine the effectiveness of satellite images in measuring loblolly pine tree stand density and age.

After graduation, Emma will serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer for 27 months in Paraguay as a Community Agricultural Science Promoter, furthering her passion for land management and environmental history while helping her community live sustainably.

The students will be honored at the College of Liberal Arts Spring Commencement on Friday, May 18, 2018.

by Shery Chanis, Ph.D. Candidate, UT History Dept.

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