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Transfer Students Find Home in Department of History

Submitted by Eleanor Mahoney on June 7, 2017 - 10:45am
Undergraduate student Kathe Tallmadge presents her research on Ancient Rome

The University of Washington can be an intimidating place. With more than 30,000 enrolled undergraduates, along with another 14,600 graduate and professional students, the UW is a city unto itself. For transfer students, who often arrive from smaller colleges, it can be a challenge to figure out all the ins and outs of campus life. One way to smooth the transition is by finding a home in a particular program or department. For two recent transfer students about to complete their studies at the UW, the Department of History provided that welcoming space, offering small classes, hands-on support and the chance to conduct original research with guidance from faculty.

A Focus on Writing and Research

Brian Tillinger transferred to the UW in the fall of 2015, after several semesters and quarters at Belmont University in Nashville and Bellevue College in Washington State.  According to Brian, “I immediately jumped into the history major, trying to take as many interesting courses as possible.” With an interest in ancient and medieval history,  he “gravitated towards classes with Professors Charity Urbanski, Robin Stacey, and Mira Green, all of which are wonderful. I'd especially recommend Professor Stacey's Reacting to the Past: Religion and Politics in the Middle Ages.”

Brian eventually worked with Professor Charity Urbanski on his honors thesis, a process he describes as follows: “In the Departmental Honors sequence, I researched political assemblies and the shifting power relationships between kings and aristocrats in the Merovingian kingdoms of early medieval France. Professor Urbanski and Professor Moon-Ho Jung, who teaches the last two classes in the honors sequence, were incredibly helpful in writing by far the best work I've ever done.”

Brian will be graduating at the end of spring quarter 2017 and moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma to work for Teach for America as a grade school teacher.

Small Classes and Helpful Advisors

Kathe Tallmadge transferred to the UW after a year at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. “After spending a year at a small liberal arts college with about 1,000 students total, I was very nervous to enter a large university,” Kathe explained. “These apprehensions were totally dismissed after only one quarter in the history department. I found small, personal classes, helpful advisors, and endless opportunities to pursue research. Each faculty member has provided a space where I have been able to grow both inside and outside of the classroom.”

During her time at the UW, Kathe has worked extensively with Professor Mira Green on an independent research project.  “The idea came from  my junior research seminar and, over the past six months, I have been working on developing a refined paper about the reign and dining practices of Emperor Nero. The research process led me to present my work at the Northwest Undergraduate Research Conference on the Ancient World, where I was able to meet with other historians interested in similar fields of research. Without the support and resources provided by the History Department I would not have been able to pursue any of these incredible opportunities. They provided support, advice, and funding for the conference and I feel now, more than ever, prepared to take the next step in my academic career.”  

About a quarter of all history majors are transfer students and the department supports them in a variety of ways. For example, according to the Department of History’s Undergraduate Adviser Nell Gross, “Every summer we team up with a few other social science departments to offer a special orientation program specifically for transfer students to help them understand the programs and resources available to them. I’ve enjoyed seeing these students go above and beyond to take advantage of research opportunities in history! Seeking out faculty mentors, finding venues for sharing their work, and following through on a project from inception to completion are all incredibly important tasks that allow students to develop skills that they can use for further academic study or apply to careers in a wide variety of fields. And it has been such a treat to talk about these awesome projects with Brian and Kathe.”

Learn more about being a transfer student in the Department of History online at