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The History Herd

Why History is Better Than Physics

by Dani Gaisior, '12


Everyone has a one or more professors that they can think back to and go, "They really, really made a difference in my life." I know I am no exception, especially when it comes to the history department. There are two amazing women in this wonderful department who have had such a wonderful impact on my four years at Juniata that I honestly do not know where I would be without them.

The first history class I ever took at Juniata was in the spring of my freshman year when I wasn't sure what I was going to do for a POE other than not physics. I had signed up on a whim for Rome: Republic to Empire and I came face to face with Belle Tuten. Little did I know, but this first history class with her  would spark me to move from the idea of "Oh maybe I'll do a secondary in history, maybe" to "Oh God there are too many history courses I want to take, I have to write my own POE to make it all work." Thankfully after that first class, I somehow managed to get Belle as my secondary advisor and she helped me with the creation and naming of my individualized POE that includes history, writing, and literature. Since that spring semester, Belle has been with me every step of the way with whatever I may need help or advice with. Having Belle as both a professor and an advisor  who cares ever so much as been monumental in my success at JC.

Alison Fletcher has had to put up with me for the last three years, in which I have taken a total of six of her classes and she was my secondary advisor for one semester while Belle was on sabbatical. We've seen a lot of each other and frankly some days I am surprised she doesn't run screaming when I come to her office, though I do suppose she's done that before too. It's certainly saying something that she is the professor that I have taken the most classes from, not just within the department, but within the entire campus. She didn't believe me when I told her this, but it's true and I checked... twice. In three years with Alison, I went from a semi-shy sophomore who wasn't doing the absolute best to a more confident senior who attempts to do the utter best that she can no matter what. I am less afraid to question things and think of them from a different angle in attempts to understand things such as gender theory, which is bloody hard to wrap your head around. So with Alison poking and prodding and asking me to choose paper topics in stuff that "buzzes" me, I have started to reach that high standard that the whole department seems to instill us with. 

I honestly feel that with these two professors, who had to deal with me more often than they probably would have liked, I have grown more than I ever thought possible. While I do worry about the future that is about to come crashing down on me, I do know I am better because of them and that will help me face whatever may come after I get that diploma. Between these two professors and the amazing group that I will be graduating with from the history department, I feel as though I belong in a department rather than oddly straddling history and english. 

That's something special about Juniata in general and especially when you start looking into the specific departments. There are amazing peers and professors who are going to help you become so amazing and you're never going to forget them. I bet every last alumni can name at least one professor who has influenced them like I am able to name Belle and Alison. I'm also thankful the history department has been so welcoming to someone who isn't a straight history student. This is certainly something I shall miss when I walk across the stage in May and enter into that world of being an alum.