My time as an undergrad student at UW-Oshkosh is coming to a close. It is hard to believe that in two weeks I will have completed four years of college and be walking across the stage to receive my hard-earned degree in history. This is the brief history of my four-year experience as a history undergraduate student.
My first year was the big transition period of experiencing new things, learning who I am, and what I want to do. I started off freshman year wanting to be a high school history teacher in my hometown. I quickly changed my mind and the direction I wanted my education to take me. I have always been passionate about history, but I realized that being a secondary educator was not enough for me. I wanted to be the Indiana Jones type, minus the encounters with Nazis or Communists, saving history to share with the world.
Sophomore year will go down as the most memorable year in my college experience. I met the love of my life, whom I will marry in less than two months. Molly has been my rock and inspiration theses past three years. We have been there for each other through the good, the bad, and the emotionally devastating events that crossed our paths. She has been so supportive of all the “big projects”, as we call them, that I have started.
It was sophomore year that I took on the daunting task of penning a local pictorial history of my hometown. I contacted Arcadia Publishing, publishers of such titles as Images of America, Then and Now, and Post History, and began writing Images of America: Markesan. Winter break and my summer between sophomore and junior year were consumed by research and writing. I spent many hours at the Markesan Historical Society and finished the book about 2-3 weeks before the fall semester 2011.
Junior year is when I finally decided to get involved with our campus’ History Club. It was a great learning experience, and it was a way for me to gain some experience in planning history related events. We planned a field trip to Madison to the Wisconsin Historical Museum, Wisconsin Veterans Museum, and the Wisconsin State Capitol. We hosted guest speakers from other colleges, and we had UW-Oshkosh professors host movie nights.
On February 20, 2012, my book was finally published. I gave my first presentation and book signing at the Markesan Historical Society meeting in April 2012. It was milestone accomplishment that every young historian would be excited about. It is exciting to walk into the university’s book store and see a book that you wrote sitting on the book shelf.
Senior year was the year I had to take my history seminar class and write the biggest paper in college. The topic of the seminar was the period of the 1950s and 1960s. Each student, about fifteen in all, were required to pick a topic to research and write a 20-25 page paper on. We were encouraged to pick topics that would be supported by primary resources that could be researched in the Polk Library Archives. I chose civil defense in the state of Wisconsin as my topic. I had somewhere around 30 boxes of historical documents that I had to sift through to piece together this Cold War story. This is what being a historian is all about.
It happened to work out that my professor for the history seminar class was collaborating on a project directly related to my topic. He expressed interest in my topic and asked if I would be interested contributing what I was researching to an exhibit that was in the works. After 8 months of research, writing, and collaboration with other exhibition members, “Take Cover Neenah! Back Fallout Shelters in Cold War America” will open on May 5 at the Neenah Historical Society. This was a spectacular opportunity for me to get hands on experience with building an exhibit. This is the type of work I want to do, and I hope to do in the future again.
This past semester I was also an intern at the Oshkosh Public Museum researching and cataloging information on the museum’s duck decoy collection. The museum has given me an amazing opportunity to work behind the scenes and get hands on experience with historical artifacts. I never could have imagined working with antique duck decoys, but I have really enjoyed it and am learning a lot of local history.
The last two weeks have also been a time where I have been recognized for my work in school. The UW-Oshkosh History Department awarded me the Braatz/Starr Award. It is truly an honor to be recognized for my hard work and dedication studying history at Oshkosh. Words cannot express how thankful I am that the faculty in the department recognize my hard work.
Attending school at UW-Oshkosh has been an amazing experience. I look forward to using what I have learned, and moving forward with my dream of working in a museum. UW-Milwaukee has a public history program that I would like to enroll in for my masters degree. I have a positive outlook on my future education and career endeavors. I look forward to lifelong learning in the history discipline.