Maya Lavinier is a sophomore Honors student studying history and is also a Newcomb Scholar. In the following article, she reflects on the Honors Residential Learning Community (RLC) event that changed the course of her academic path and led her to a rewarding internship experience this past summer. This particular event was a “History in the News” program co-hosted by the History Department and the Honors Program. These presentations are informal events over dinner where professors present their research, ideas, or areas of interest and facilitate discussion about the role of history with contemporary questions. These programs are an integral part of building an intellectual community within Weatherhead and across campus and provide an opportunity for Honors students to explore their ideas and interests and connect them with professors and a scholarly community of their peers. All members of the campus community are welcome to attend.
At the urging of my professor and the promise of extra credit, I attended a Weatherhead Roundtable Event during my first year titled “My Fascism is Better than Your Fascism” led by Professors Felipe Cruz, Subah Dayal, and Andy Horowitz of the History Department. Today’s discussions of fascism are informed by history, the very term evoking images of Brownshirts in Italy or Gestapo in Nazi Germany. I was fascinated by this! The discussion was exciting and interesting and at times, pretty somber, but while I was there, I realized what I was meant to do here.
I’ve always had a longstanding love for history, and while it wasn’t my major going in, my love for the subject was responsible for bringing me to Tulane and New Orleans. These three faculty members ended up being my professors. Throughout that event, I understood that this was what I was meant to be studying, and just as importantly, that there were faculty committed to facilitating this learning. As it was early November, I was considering my class schedule for the spring. Part of this process was reaching out to my Newcomb-Tulane College academic advisor and major advisors to figure out my next steps. Looking back on it, this took a lot of confidence.
The passion I felt for my studies strengthened my grades. It gave me the confidence to go to office hours and talk to my professors about my research interests. It gave me the support I needed to work an amazing internship at a historic preservation nonprofit this summer, an experience that has already enriched my studies here.
Like many first-year students, I began my time at Tulane knowing exactly what I wanted to study. Also, like many Tulane students, I ended up changing my major. I spent most of my first semester trying to drum up the courage to make the switch and most of the second semester trying to justify why I made that decision. A year later, I am so glad I changed my major and found a course of study that I love and an academic department that I can call home. The decision to change my major and seek what was best for me made me into a stronger student and one committed to the academic culture here at Tulane.