Transferring to Success in the Department of History 

Submitted by Emma R Hinchliffe on
Department of History student, Rae Utterback, on a recent trip to Poland.

Being a transfer student can be hard. Not only are you entering a new environment, with a whole new set of rules and systems, you’re also arriving after the hustle and bustle of freshman orientation where others have already established friendship groups and tackled the newness together. It can seem like everyone knows their way around and has found their little niche, except for you.

Coming to a new school.

This is a feeling Rae Utterback, who transferred to UW in 2015 after two years at WSU, knows well.

She remembers first arriving on campus, awed by the size of it all and her biggest fear being that she would become lost in it. That intimidation was only exacerbated when one of her first classes took place in a 600-person lecture hall... full to capacity! But within a few months she had found her feet and planted them firmly in the Department of History. She credits her experiences here with helping her succeed and flourish at UW.

Finding a home.

Rae came to UW knowing she would major in history, but was surprised at the vast array of courses on offer and the diversity of subjects open to her. She can vividly recall the first time that she felt like she’d found a place where she was welcomed and where she would be challenged and her natural talent for the discipline nurtured.

"It was so great to find a space where I felt encouraged to speak out."

"Shortly after arriving on campus, I headed to Professor Richard Johnson’s office hours hoping to get a sense of the department and what was on offer. I was a little nervous as I was sure that he received many of these visits a day and I didn’t want to take up too much of his time, but he was so welcoming and I immediately felt comfortable." One thing that really stood out was the fact that he asked her questions about herself and her interests. "We ended up chatting for over an hour and it was so great to find a space where I felt encouraged to speak out." Rae has since found similar experiences with other professors who have all encouraged her to forge her own path.

And forge a path she did!

This led her to specialize in European history.  Originally from Poland, Rae completed her undergraduate thesis on The Warsaw Uprising as part of the Honors in Historyprogram. This program is designed for students who want to engage in intense research as they build their thesis from the ground up over three quarters of focused study.

"The Honors program was one of the best things I’ve done at the UW. I especially appreciated the opportunity it afforded me to work closely alongside a small group of scholars. I’m not particularly extroverted so this really suited me." Rae was also excited to be able to learn more about her country’s history, and she says that the experience helped her feel more connected to that past. "Even growing up in Poland we never spent much time looking at our own history, and never in such detail. So this was wonderful!"

Shining bright.

"When people ask me what are you going to do with a major in History... I say, I don't know yet, but that doesn't mean I can't do anything with it, quite the opposite!"

Rae will graduate at the end of fall 2017.  She is a little nervous about leaving but positive and excited about where the skills she has learned here will lead. She is currently exploring careers in nursing, film production and law. "I’m currently leaning towards law but I feel like there are so many exciting routes I could go down. I’ve developed such good skills that I feel prepared for many different careers." One thing she can’t stand is when people try and tell her otherwise. "When people ask me what are you going to do with a major in History, I say... I don’t know yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything with it, quite the opposite!"

We wish her great success for the future!

Transferring to success.

Rae is a great example of the contributions transfer students make to the vibrant UW community and to the Department of History. When asked what advice she’d have for anyone thinking of transferring she recognizes the anxieties they’ll likely have. “Transfer students definitely face unique challenges, especially, if like me, you aren’t coming to live on campus, you can’t easily join groups and clubs that can make things feel less big and overwhelming. My main advice would be to find a department you can make a home on campus... and take advantage of academic advisors, they know so much and can point you in a great direction. The advisors in the Department of History got to know me, listened to my concerns, and introduced me to the Honors Program which has made my experience here what it is!”

The Department of History prides itself on being a welcoming and dynamic place were students like Rae can find a home. Take advantage of all it has to offer and you’ll soon find that you’re not alone... and the size of things here may just come to be one the best things about it!

More information for transfer students in the Department of History can be found here.