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Stand Out Student: Julia Prager-Hessel

Publication date

October 08, 2018 8:30 PM


Tess Martin

Julia Prager-Hessel is a sophomore Honors student who has declared a major in history and plans to add another major in either philosophy or English. While she is not exactly certain of what her major is yet, she is certain that she wants “to study a lot of things,” which has enabled her to thrive in the Honors Program where she can explore her varied interests with the guidance of her Colloquium professors, the Wall Society Fellows, and her Honors peers.

Last year, Julia was able to extend her  Honors experience outside the classroom by living in Wall Residential College.  She enjoyed living there because of the layout, which she found to be conducive to collaboration and meeting other Honors students. She also participated  in the Food and Film Society, led by Karissa Haugeberg, Assistant Professor, History Department and Wall Fellow. Her favorite food and film pairing involved watching the Iranian film, Persepolis, and eating Middle Eastern food. In addition to her coursework, this residential Honors experience provided a supportive backdrop for her academic life throughout the year.

Julia credits her first-year Honors courses with helping lay the foundation for her entire college experience. She took the Honors Great Books Colloquium: “How Should One Live?” and absolutely loved it, stating that it “made [her] college career so far.” The course helped her become aware of who she is, what her background was, and how she could effectively contribute to the seminar-style course as well as the broader intellectual community. Through that class, Julia also developed a close relationship with Professor Elizabeth Gross, Honors Lecturer. By regularly speaking with her during office hours and given Professor Gross's connections in the city, Julia was able to not only dive deeper into the course material but has also learned about an opportunity to work with Lusher students in their poetry workshop, which she hopes to begin this year. In the spring semester, Julia enrolled in Professor Gross’s section of the Honors seminar “The Quest for Answers: Introduction to Research Methods,” a seminar that offers students an understanding of the research process across disciplines as well as the intellectual landscape of the university.

In last year’s courses and through her residential experience, Julia expanded her learning and considered what academic and career paths she might want to pursue. She realized that she is interested in political journalism and religious history, and those interests will begin to shape how she spends her time during the rest of her college career. Now, in Walter Isaacson’s history course, she is using her skills from first-year Honors courses to craft a narrative on an individual from the past. She finds this in-depth biographical research, which includes cold calls to family members as well as archival research, much more manageable after honing her writing and research skills in her first year.

Looking ahead, Julia plans to utilize experiential learning opportunities abroad and in Washington D.C. She hopes that spending a semester in D.C. will help her learn more about political journalism and that spending the other semester in a religious studies program in Europe will foster her intellectual growth in religious history. While she is still unsure of exactly what her major combination will be, she recognizes that “what your degree says isn’t necessarily all that you get out of school.” She is hoping that her research path moving forward will help her figure out what she wants to do after college, which will probably involve getting another degree. 

Julia wants first-year Honors students to know that her Honors classes last year prompted  a chain reaction that propelled her to pursue additional opportunities at Tulane, such as studying abroad and applying for a Fulbright award. Her classes in Honors taught her to think about and explore ideas she had never considered, and she recognizes that this ability to think creatively is what makes her academic life more stimulating and fulfilling. She encourages first-year students to “write what you want, not write to the rubric,” and to take a step back to evaluate how you might get the most out of a given academic endeavor. Julia also says that she has gotten much more out of Honors because she expressed interest to her professors and went out of the way to learn more about opportunities available to her. With her initiative and the courage to think creatively, she is sure to have an exciting and fulfilling experience ahead of her at Tulane.