Donnelle Bodnarchuk

Donnelle Bodnarchuk

Donnelle Bodnarchuk

2020 Dean's Challenge Award Recipient

How did you decide on the history major?

Growing up I had always been a bit of a history buff – social studies was always my favorite subject in school. Once I got to high school I took as many history classes as I could because I loved learning how and why society got to where it was. My history teachers in high school made such an impact on my love for history and the entire process of being a historian. I owe a lot of my intense love for history to those teachers, especially Mrs. Carney, Mrs. Goldstein, Mr. Cucci, Mr. Langer, and Mr. Van Hise. In their classes I was able to develop my desire to question the world around me, something that I knew I would never lose.

I came to Mason with the intention of majoring in government and international politics. While I found those classes to be interesting, I took a history class on the Crusades with Dr. Collins, and that was way more interesting than anything else I was taking. Because of that class and that professor, I changed my major to history and dove head first into all of the amazing courses that are offered. I find that my history classes are so challenging: they force me to examine the material from various perspectives, come to my own conclusions from the material, and ask the really tough questions. I feel supported by the faculty and students in the History and Art History department so making that switch to history has been the best decision of my college career. Being a history major has allowed me to explore my passion even further and deeper as I try to understand how and why the world is what it is.

Are you minoring or double majoring in anything else? If so, how do the two work together – or  separately?

I’m minoring in art history, which is really well connected to my major. My AP European history teacher focused a lot on art so I really fell in love with analyzing the iconography of an image and how it all fits into the political context of the period. Being an art history minor helps fit all of the puzzle pieces together with my history classes and vise versa. My classes in the History and Art History department are fun and fascinating. There is no better feeling than when you make the connection between one aspect of history and another and find that something makes much more sense.

What have you learned in a history class that really surprised you/changed your perspective?

I took a class with Dr. Stearns called “Organizing Culture Change” and we spent the entire semester understanding how and why cultures changed. We looked at cultures all around the world from all different time periods. We learned about the cultural views of magic and death, and about controversial issues around the world. I then wrote a research paper explaining the culture change of my choice and I chose to explore the evolution of marriage in England from the sixteenth to nineteenth century. It all can seem unconnected and unimportant to current society, but in actuality, it is so deeply connected. Part of the point of the class was to understand how connected culture is to human existence, which may seem obvious, but to break it down made it even clearer and more impactful.

Tell us about your dream occupation…

I must admit I never thought that I would say this, but I would love to be a medieval history professor. Part of me felt that I shouldn’t because it reinforces the idea that you only major in history to teach, but that is so wrong, you can do just about anything with a history degree. As one of my professors told me, studying history teaches you how to think and be a competent member of society. But I couldn’t run from my intense love of historical research and my desire to talk endlessly about medieval history. I don’t want to just teach about the actual subject matter, but teach students that historical work is about examining issues from multiple perspectives, always questioning the things you are told, being able to make connections to things where the connection isn’t clear, and just being inquisitive. Another great professor told me that some of the best historical work was done by people who were annoyed and kept poking and poking until they found something; I think that lesson can transcend to more majors than just history and I would love to convey that to a new generation of students.

Have you had any internships? Or interesting jobs or volunteer experience? Tell us about it/them.

I have not had any internships, but I am currently working on an independent research project with Dr. Kelly through the OSCAR office. I’m exploring how Pope John Paul II helped undermine communism in Poland from 1979 to 1989 through his promotion of Polish identity being tied to Catholicism. It is completely out of my normal realm of the Middle Ages, but I am fascinated by the connection between church and state, so this project fits really well into that. I have been having far too much fun pouring over documents and speeches. I may have annoyed my roommates when I burst into the common room saying “HOW was this happening?! HOW were they able to say these things!?” It has truly been a wonderful experience so far, and Dr. Kelly pushes me to be a better historian and ask the tough questions.

Any accomplishments you’re proud of? Opportunities you’ve taken advantage of? Brag a little!

I had a really amazing opportunity last semester to attend a Teaching Day at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library in Georgetown. Dr. Collins invited me and a couple other classmates to the event, so I really had a wonderful time. We had the chance to listen to historians explain their research before it was completed (getting the inside scoop on their work is awesome!), we toured the exhibits in Dumbarton, and we also got to handle REAL Byzantine coins. That was the most amazing thing I have ever done; geeky, I know. But I have a real interest and passion for Roman and Byzantine coins, so being able to handle actual coins was truly something magical. That event solidified for me that I need to go for my PhD and make a career out of being a history buff.

Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.

I’m not sure if people would be surprised to know this, but my first word was actually dog. Shortly after that, my parents got me a dog named Hailey. Because of Hailey and my love for animals, I actually wanted to become a veterinarian from the time I was three. That didn’t change until I was in middle school when I made the discovery that I liked the humanities way more than any kind of science. Even though I don’t have plans to become a veterinarian, I still love animals and currently have three sweet dogs named Louis, Frankie, and Riley.