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QUICK FACTS

Major: History

Graduation year: Spring 2021

Hometown: Santa Clara, California

Activities: Powell Scholar

Sarah Hess

Sarah Hess is a Powell Scholar majoring in history. In spring 2019, she won an award for best undergraduate research at the Phi Alpha Theta regional history conference at Sacramento State University for a paper she wrote about naturalist John Muir's pioneering study of glaciers.

Hess plans to go on to law school with the goal of becoming a corporate attorney in Silicon Valley.  

Q: Why did you choose University of the Pacific?
A: My dad had come here, actually. He was in the class of 1984, so he was able to acclimate me to the campus. But the Powell scholarship was what stood out to me in choosing Pacific. I was considering some UCs, but ultimately I would have felt like a small fish in a big pond, whereas here I get individualized professor attention. I really feel like the professors care about each student here, which I really like.

Q: Why did you major in history?
A: I really love history because, to me, it tells the story of civilization. I think by studying it we can learn about different cultures and time periods and it really helps me become more empathetic.  

Q: Why were you interested in studying John Muir?
A: I took a class called John Muir's World in spring semester of my freshman year. Dr. Swagerty, who taught it, runs the Muir Center as well, so he was very invested and inspired us to learn more about the naturalist. We got to take trips to Yosemite, visit Muir's house and his gravesite, which drew us into his legacy. I was fortunate enough to be able to present my John Muir paper at the Phi Alpha Theta regional history conference at Sacramento State University. I was able to present my research to a group of people who are interested in history, and my paper won an award for best undergraduate research.

Q: How helpful were the University Library's John Muir Collections in your research?
A: My paper would not have been as detailed as it was if I hadn't had access to the extensive Muir Collections that we have at the university. I was able to look at actual letters that he had written to his wife. I was able to see his sketches that he drew in the wilderness and see the smudge marks on the paper and just know that he was writing this on a rock or with a pine cone. It was such an immersive experience that I wouldn't have gotten at another university.

Q: What advice would you give students who are thinking about majoring history?
A: I would say really establish close relationships with your professors early on. They're only here to help, and they have access to so much research and knowledge that you need to tap into. I would also say definitely have a career plan post-graduation so that you're able to use your degree to the best of your ability.  

Q: How will history help you in a law career?
A: History lays the foundation and gives you critical reading skills that I can definitely take into law school. And I also think that looking at all of these primary sources and being able to interpret them will really serve me well in law school.