Ashley Cundiff ′08
I still remember sitting in Mr. Cook’s history class back in the 8th grade, fidgeting behind two desks pushed together to create a make-shift stand. We were re-enacting the Boston Massacre trial and I was the Prosecutor, building a case against the British soldiers.
The trial lasted three days, and it was one of the most challenging, invigorating experiences I’ve ever had. We were forced to question accepted notions about history and draw conclusions for ourselves from the primary sources. During those three days, something happened. History was no longer confined to my torn-up textbook; it suddenly became real and palpable and alive.
When I began looking for the right college, finding a school with a strong history department was a must. Because of its faculty and their litany of scholarly achievements, Rhodes was my top choice.
During my freshman year, I enrolled in the American Studies Focus program, where I took a class taught by Professor Timothy Huebner. Dr. Huebner has become my new Mr. Cook. His performance in the classroom and willingness to mentor each student individually demonstrates his unending passion and dedication. I have always known history was the right major for me, and Dr. Huebner kept me motivated and on track.
When it comes to my honors thesis, Professor Dee Garceau-Hagen has played an integral part. I’m researching the reform of prostitution in Memphis during the Progressive era, working to reclaim women′s history for those left out of the traditional historical narrative. Every time I see Dr. Garceau-Hagen, she’s so excited to read new information I’ve found or listen to any new ideas I’ve formulated. Her support really reaffirms that I’m doing something worthwhile.
This past summer, all my studies and preparation culminated in a one-week program that represented utopia for a history enthusiast. I was a finalist for the Gilder Lehrman History Scholars program, which is held in New York City by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. More than 300 students apply each year, but only 45 are accepted—so you can imagine how honored I was when I found out I got in.
During the program, we attended lectures by prominent scholars and historians, visited museums in the New York area and viewed the extensive archive of primary sources maintained by the Institute. I felt like a kid in a candy store. As I stood there, reading letters hand-written by Thomas Jefferson and the first draft of the Constitution, I reveled in the feeling that this was history undiluted, unaltered, undone.
There are many reasons why I chose to attend Rhodes, but the History department has most certainly made it all worthwhile.