2016 graduate and current J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School Rebekah Reed on why she chose history and the value of a UTC history degree.
My name is Rebekah Reed, and I am a 2016 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and current student at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. During my time at UTC, I was a member of the Brock Scholars Program and earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and History, completing a thesis within the History Department under the guidance of Dr. Susan Eckelmann Berghel. My path to the History Department was not a straightforward one, as I tailored my freshman year classes to an eventual career in social work. After realizing I enjoyed the subject matter and teaching style of classes within humanities disciplines much more than those within the social sciences, I altered my path and disregarded internalized echoes of alarm that I would exit the undergraduate sphere with degrees that would not serve me outside of a career in academia. Now, I see my history degree as instrumental in building the writing capacity and critical thinking skills—the ability to discern and synthesize patterns within a vast body of information—that I relied on throughout the graduate school application process and my first semester of coursework in a rigorous academic environment.
While I pursued a history degree at UTC, the History Department provided me with ample support and opportunities for intellectual growth. In addition to unique courses taught by engaging professors such as Dr. Michelle White, Dr. William Kuby, and Dr. Susan Eckelmann Berghel (a list by no means exhaustive), the department’s internship program afforded me a rewarding position within the UTC Library’s Special Collections during my senior year. There, I put theory taught in the classroom to use and developed practicable, marketable skills in primary document handling, organization, and digitization. However, the capstone of my time within the History Department was the completion of a Departmental Honors Thesis, an experience I would recommend to any history student. Working on my thesis, which traced the decades-long battle for the desegregation of Chattanooga’s public school system, greatly strengthened my research and writing capabilities, facilitated the development of valuable relationships with professors, and fostered a sense of genuine connection to the community. For these reasons and others, I am deeply grateful to the department staff in its entirety for contributing to my undergraduate career and encourage any UTC student to take advantage of the knowledge and mentorship that exist within the History Department.