2018 graduate Hannah Stubblefield on why she chose history, the value of a UTC history degree, and the importance of thinking historically.
Just three weeks ago, I found myself roaming the grounds of the infamous Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland. A place I had only been accustomed to seeing in documentaries, articles, and primary resources during my undergraduate studies. We have all heard its name, almost unspeakable due to the atrocities committed there by Hitler’s Nazi Regime and yet its memory remains. As I stepped along the dirt paths that so many have walked before me, I found the atmosphere change. As difficult as it is to see, I am thankful for the preservation of the history … the stories that came out of such unfathomable events as World War II and so many others.
To some students, history is not a favorite subject to study, though I never quite understood why. Then again, I am sure some of my peers didn’t understand my affinity for it. I was exposed to some of the oldest and greatest places (in my opinion) of history at a very young age: By the age of 6, I had spent a whole summer with my family serving in Greece and I would complain about having to go visit the Acropolis again or Corinth, where some of the greatest Biblical scholars and prophets walked. By the age of 13, I had walked amongst temples of ancient empires in Asia and seen palaces of past monarchs. History, you could say, has always had a prevalent presence in my life.
I don’t recall a time when I did not enjoy history and I knew I wanted it to be a part of my life. It was during my high school years, when we are all deciding what path to take with our lives, that I had the fortunate gift of my history teacher enlightening me on all the career paths studying history opens. I have heard on numerous occasions people expressing a desire to study history but deciding not to because they never knew what they could do with a history degree and therefore chose not to pursue it—this always bothered me. It’s almost an injustice really that someone could be kept from studying something they loved simply because they are uneducated on its possibilities. Again, I was fortunate.
I entered college with a declared major in history and it never changed during those four years. I chose history for several reasons, but a few are consistent for me, even today. It was not the possibilities that attracted me to the subject, but the endless knowledge to be gained from the continual uncovering of stories and events. There is something called the “5 C’s of History”, and if you are a student of history, you know what I am referring to. Of these 5 C’s, there is one that has always been my favorite – history is contingent. This is perhaps the most complex of the 5 C’s because contingency in history means that all historical outcomes depend on a number of prior events or conditions. This “C” requires us to think deeply about the past, present, and future. I chose history because for all questions, there is an answer, but it is most often not easily found and requires more questions, more research—it requires a struggle with others’ opinions, resources, and your own view point—but somewhere in this complex challenge, what you were looking for may not be what you find, but what you find is even more enlightening and surprising.
History is living. History is important. History is challenging. I chose history because I found that it is about asking important questions, thinking long and hard about them, and approaching them head on. What I found along the way was something priceless—I gained critical thinking skills, problem solving, writing and research skills, and perhaps most importantly, I was driven to challenge myself and achieve my best. These are skills and values that will carry through any path I choose in life and that is why I chose history.