- Fascinated by people’s stories.
- Passionate about American history.
- A flag football champion.
- From Sammamish, Wash.
Investigating the Past
Alicia Maggard searches historical archives for clues about people’s identities.
"I study history because I enjoy reading other people's mail," Alicia Maggard likes to joke. The letters she reads are hundreds of years old and are essential for understanding the past.
Alicia mainly studies American insurance underwriting societies of the late 18th and early 19th centuries by perusing letters between marine merchants.
Reading about insurance? Alicia will assure you it is more interesting than it sounds.
Insurance companies influenced people's political philosophies, business dealings and even their family relations.
These stories haven't made it into most textbooks, which is part of what intrigues Alicia about historical research.
Alicia wasn't doing her research online or from a book — she handled the actual merchant letters housed in the McNeil Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
She was there as part of the Shear-Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship, one of two national research awards she won as a junior.
This type of hands-on learning was common for Alicia at Willamette — she also worked as a summer research assistant for history Professor Seth Cotlar.
Why I Value Willamette
"I have always enjoyed learning about history, but it wasn't until I came to Willamette that I learned to think critically about how historians use archives and primary sources to craft a particular narrative.
"When I took my first history class at Willamette, I couldn't wait to go home and do the reading. I was so fascinated by the deeply personal nature of history and the way it tells the stories of people's identities."
Beyond the Classroom
Alicia's fascination extends to foreign cultures as well. She double majored in classical studies and spent a semester in Rome to learn about ancient history and culture while standing in Pompeii and the Forum.
Back on campus, she worked as a tutor for Japanese students at Tokyo International University of America.
She welcomed the challenge of crossing language and cultural barriers to help others navigate their college experience.
Alicia would like to teach English abroad for a year after graduation, but her ultimate goal is to pursue a PhD in American history.
She hopes to continue using archives — and reading letters — to bring light to historical narratives.
"Through working with Professor Cotlar and my summer fellowships, I learned that I can turn my passion into a vocation."
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