History in the Making

Caitlin McGeever (’12), history major with a minor in leadership studies

Dr. Amanda Herbert, assistant professor of history

As Caitlin McGeever was researching colleges, CNU made the list only after her high school counselor told her about the Historic Triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown and the unique opportunity the University offered history majors — an opportunity not available in her home state of New York. That sentiment proved to be true. “CNU was the first school I visited, and from the moment I walked on campus I knew CNU was for me,” she says.

Caitlin’s interest in Quaker women and their spiritual lives was piqued during her first class with Dr. Amanda Herbert. She has long been interested in gender studies and religion, and in Herbert's Tudor/Stuart Britain class, she learned more about the rise of Quakerism and decided to pursue the topic for her senior seminar. While interning at Colonial Williamsburg, she came upon more sources that inspired her to continue her inquiry. “This research resonates with me professionally because I am interested in studying how religion, especially the change in religion, affects the daily lives of common women,” she says.

For the project, Caitlin examined pamphlets and letters written by Quaker women on spirituality and their right to speak and preach in public. The women risked severe punishment in 17th-century Britain for speaking out, but persisted in their beliefs and in their writings nonetheless. Dr. Herbert knew working with such old source material would be a challenge but believed Caitlin was up to it. “Caitie really immersed herself in these difficult but rewarding primary sources, deciphering, transcribing and finally analyzing them to find evidence of women who lived and wrote 400 years ago,” she says. “Her genuine enthusiasm and historical curiosity for this topic are exciting to see.”

Caitlin is active outside the classroom as a member of the President’s Leadership Program, vice president of the Feminist Alliance and vice president of CNU’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honor society. She is also managing editor of the Undergraduate Leadership Review, an online, peer-reviewed, leadership studies journal based at CNU. Its focus is to publish high-quality research articles written by students from around the country. In her leadership role at the journal, Caitlin manages the article submission and review process, which requires organizational skill and tact, as she works with writers through the revision process. “This is definitely a benefit to people who are looking to go to grad school. It’s great practice in the submission and revision process and experience in a teaching capacity,” she says.

Her research and work in the area of female empowerment and leadership have resonated for Caitlin in and out of the classroom and made for a powerful and lasting experience. Even though such extracurricular involvement requires a lot of time management and sacrifice, Caitlin knows it has been central to her success. “By either joining a group or establishing your own, being involved introduces you to so many people and friends who will enhance your college experience,” she says.

Caitlin plans to attend graduate school and ultimately teach at a university. “Dr. Herbert has been very supportive of my trying to further my education,” she says. For Herbert’s part, the task was to help Caitlin narrow a list of schools and to assist her in developing a writing sample. Herbert was also able to use her own experience to explain the application process and to describe the commitment needed to succeed in graduate school. As always, Caitlin is up to the task. “She's a capable and focused student, and her commitment to her scholarship is inspiring,” Herbert says.
--Brian McGuire  

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