Honors Student Receives Prestigious Fellowship for NYC Assignment
There is nothing small about New York City—and that doesn’t sit well with Honors College student Ryan Scott, a senior from Auburn.
The history and political science major in the Honors College received an award to spend five weeks in the Big Apple in summer to participate in the prestigious Gilder Lehrman History Scholars program.
“I’m more of a small-town person than a big-city dweller,” says Scott. “But the opportunity to explore some of the nation’s most important records of history and meet with top researchers and historians far outweighs this.”
The program is hosted by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a nonprofit organization supporting the study and love of American history through a wide range of programs and resources for students, teachers, scholars, and history enthusiasts throughout the nation.
Highlights of the history scholars program include exclusive seminars with eminent historians and behind-the-scenes visits to archives of rare historical documents, books, and material culture in the collections of the New York Public Library, the New York Historical Society, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Only 10 of more than 250 applicants were accepted to the program. Scott and his fellow researchers are asked to conduct primary-source research to prepare historical materials for publication and create brief historical documentaries. The topic is the Civil War.
“The Civil War does not directly tie into my current research interests, which are centered on regional planning and the American West,” he admits. “However, some of the underlying driving forces of the conflict were related to the country’s expansion, and parts of the war took place in the West.”
Research at WSU
Scott recently explored his research interest in a project that he presented at WSU’s Academic Showcase event in March 2011. The project, “Webs of Regional Power: The Connections of the BPA and its Northwest Power Grid,” explores the role that the Bonneville Power Administration and electricity has played in shaping the identity of the Northwest. He used information from the “BPA Papers” collection in the national archives in Seattle, collections at WSU, historic newspaper articles, and regional literature to conduct his research.
Scott (front center) at a conference in Helena, Mont., with WSU Libraries administrator Trevor Bond (back). He made a presentation on the Omeka program and its use for undergraduate education in university archives as part of his work for the Greater Columbia Plateau Initiative.
This research is part of a larger program, the Greater Columbia Plateau Initiative that he has been involved in under the guidance of WSU professor of history Jeff Sanders. The initiative’s goal is to create an enduring, multidisciplinary, and collaborative learning community within and beyond the university that is dedicated to the study and interpretation of the Greater Columbia Plateau region.
“Ryan is by far one of the most focused, mature, and capable undergraduate students that I have encountered at WSU,” says Sanders. “He clearly has the research bug and that can't really be taught. Many times when I stop by the Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections at the Terrell Library, I'll see him through the window of the reading room leafing through a box of folders at one of the tables.”
Scott believes that it is because of his hands-on undergraduate research experience that his application to the Gilder Lehrman program stood out to the selection committee—and it is this skill set that he thinks will benefit the most from the summer program. He hopes that the experience in the archives will better prepare him, and his résumé, for graduate school.
According to Sanders, however, Scott's more ready for the next step in his education than he may think.
“He has that rare combination of humor, zeal, and curiosity that will serve him well in graduate school. He's been a pleasure to have in classes, and he contributed greatly to the success of the Greater Columbia Plateau Seminar series this year.”
After graduation in May 2012, Scott plans to continue his studies and earn a Ph.D. Although he is torn by interests in history, political science, and geography, he does know that he wants to work in academics.
He might find that the time he spends on the East Coast is a valuable experience for another reason as well—all four of his top choices for graduate school are in cities much larger than Pullman: the University of Washington, Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of British Colombia.
According to Scott, his Honors classes have played a significant role in shaping his research interests. In fact, they inspired his second major in political science.
This combined with Honors’ close-knit academic community of scholars has enhanced his undergraduate experience at WSU.
In fall 2010 he received Honors’ Don and Mary Ann Parachini scholarship for his academic achievements and contributions to the scholarly community.