History Department
History Department

History Undergraduates earn Multiple Awards, Accolades in 2013-2014

Fri, May 16, 2014
History Majors Lidia Plaza (Class of '13) and Victoria Schwartz (Class of '14)
History Majors Lidia Plaza (Class of '13) and Victoria Schwartz (Class of '14)

The History Department has much to be proud of this year, with History undergraduate students earning numerous prizes, awards, and accolades. There is no better illustration of this than the seven History students named Dean's Distinguished Graduates in 2014, Rapoport King Thesis Scholarship recipient Victoria Schwartz, and Lidia Plaza, winner of The Undergraduate Award.

The 2014 Dean's Distinguished Graduates include:

  • Sarah Lusher, English (Special Honors; College Honors)/History
  • Patrick Naeve, English (Special Honors; College Honors)/Plan II Honors Program (Special Honors)/History
  • Rebekah Rodriguez, History (College Honors)/Sociology
  • Aurora Mayte Salazar-Ordonez, Latin American Studies/History/Anthropology
  • Andrew Wilson, Plan II Honors Program/History
  • Andrew Clark, International Relations and Global Studies/History
  • Philip Wiseman, Government (Special Honors; College Honors)/History

Mr. Naeve, Ms. Rodriguez, and Mr. Wilson participated in the Frank Denius Normandy Scholar Program on World War II (NSP). Another NSP alumn, Alex Arambula, was one of two UT students to receive the 2013 Texas Parents Outstanding Student Award.

History Honors student and winner of a 2013-14 Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarship, Victoria Schwartz, graduates ready to use her skills to start her career in corporate consulting. In Decemeber, Victoria travelled to England to conduct research on her thesis “’Working’ in Verbs: Gender and Labor in Pre-Industrial England.” Her project explores the gendered division of labor and proto-industrialization in late 17th-century Bedfordshire. “I became interested in the economic history of early modern Europe when I took Dr. Julie Hardwick’s class, ‘Witches, Workers, and Wives’, my freshman year,” says Schwartz. “Early modern Europe saw profound economic change that witnessed the rise of capitalism and consumerism. Studying how these changes might have affected the genders differently is really a critical point of inquiry for anyone interested in the subject.” Schwartz was drawn to Bedfordshire in particular because it was primarily rural and agricultural at that time, and yet saw a rapid expansion of production of consumer goods.  she says. This was typical of the changing manufacturing landscape of early modern Europe although we often assume such developments were centered in urban areas. While compiling data for her thesis, Schwartz experimented with a ‘verb-oriented’ methodology pioneered by European early modernists to try new approaches to getting at the problem of women's work. Developed by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden, this method requires the historian to systematically gather verb phrases from historical texts, mainly depositions, into a database.  “It was quite a laborious process!” she said, noting that she read about 300 depositions from the Bedfordshire Criminal Assizes Courts. She used this data to understand what work (both paid and unpaid) men and women were doing during this period, how much bargaining power women had in the early modern household, and how much agency women had in gendered occupations.

With graduation quickly approaching, Victoria has already secured a highly-desirable Research Associate position with the Austin-based Gerson Lehrman Group, a multinational primary research firm that serves quite a few types of clients, such as hedge funds, private equity firms, and management consulting firms. “My degree definitely helped me get this job,” Schwartz explains. “It has helped me to develop quite a few valuable skills, such as project management, data analysis, research, and writing. All of these are critical skills desired by companies in our information-saturated age. Our economy is evolving at breakneck speed and there will likely be jobs in ten years that we could have never imagined, but the skills that you learn as a history major will always be relevant!”

Last November, Lidia Plaza, a History Honors student who graduated in December 2012, won The Undergraduate Award in the Historical Studies category for her paper "The First Crime of Fashion: Cloth and Clothing Theft in Eighteenth-Century London.” The prize included an all expenses-paid trip to Dublin, Ireland, to attend The UA’s Global Summit, as well as a gold medal presented by Dr. Mae Jemison (the first African American woman to travel to space), and publication in The UA’s annual journal.  “The selection was intensely competitive and followed a rigorous judging process,” said Plaza. In 2013, over 3,770 undergraduate students from 182 institutions across 25 countries submitted papers. “Each of our winners has been awarded for their academic excellence, independent thinking and innovative approach to coursework embodied by the paper they submitted,” The UA web site states.  Only 42 papers were selected including Lidia’s essay, which explores the illicit traffic in cloth and clothing in the eighteenth-century London and how the industry of clothing became the industry of fashion. The UA hosted Lidia and her peers to a three day city-wide summit that allowed her to visit the Royal Society of Antiquarians of Ireland (a depository and archive of Irish culture), the Farmleigh House (the official Irish State guest house,formerly one of the Dublin residences of the Guinness family), and Dublin’s City Hall. She also met the Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny. “It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the city’s history, and to interact with other honorees from around the world,” said Ms. Plaza. Established in 2009, The Undergraduate Awards is a non-profit organization run by an executive team, which is overseen by a Board of Directors, and is also advised by a Partner Forum and Academic Advisory Board. Learn more.

Lidia’s faculty advisor, Professor Neil Kamil, said “Lidia's honor stands out because she is not only a wonderful young historian but also an accomplished craftsperson. She has great “hands-on” understanding of British textile history through her personal and professional work with historical costume.  Not only is Lidia actively engaged in applying her expertise in this aspect of material culture to cataloguing UT’s historical textile collection, she also makes period costumes for historical re-creations.  When taken together with her scholarly skills one stands in awe of this young woman’s talent.  Lidia’s craft knowledge has informed and deepened the impact of her written work." Ms. Plaza is currently working at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and volunteering at the University of Texas Historic Textile Collection.

The History department congratulates Victoria and Lidia on their impressive achievements, as well as the graduating class of 2014, as a whole!

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