Major: History; Minor: French and Francophone Studies
Hometown: Wilton, Conn.
"The Belk Scholarship invests in students in a way that allows them to give back to the community and act as ambassadors of goodwill."
As Belk Scholar Sarah Gustafson stood outside of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church on her first campus visit, her sister told her that she would end up at the college. Gustafson felt the same way, but wasn't sure that it was financially possible. When she received the Belk Scholarship, she said the decision was a no brainer.
"I gravitated towards Davidson's commitment to developing the whole person," she said. "The Belk Scholarship invests in students in a way that allows them to give back to the community and act as ambassadors of goodwill."
Gustafson considers one of her most significant contributions to be the cofounding of the Davidson Women's Action Committee. The organization collaborated with multiple offices and departments across campus to hold an event celebrating the 40-year anniversary of coeducation at Davidson.
She served on the Student Government Association's Elections Council for three years, including as chair for three semesters. A movie buff, she enjoys providing campus entertainment as the films committee chair for the Union Board.
Independent projects are on Gustafson's radar as well. She has worked with President Carol Quillen over the past two years to create venues where students can discuss social culture. "It will provide the opportunity for students to ask questions directly to President Quillen and reflect on social culture in a more academic manner," she said.
Outside of extracurricular involvement, she is keeping busy with her Kelley History Honors Thesis, which has allowed her to use her French minor. The thesis analyzes a series of Paris protests from 1904 that occurred in response to a high school debate between a teacher and student over the history of Joan of Arc.
"I am fascinated by how national history can be manipulated to create certain ideas about citizenship," she explained. "I also like studying an historical event with implications still relevant to thinking about politics today."
Gustafson combined the Kelley History Grant with one of her Belk summer stipends to spend last summer conducting research in Paris. The summer before, she used the Belk stipend to attend the Tuck Business School Summer Bridge Program, a month-long business immersion program that concludes with a competitive stock valuation project.
She said, "As I looked towards picking a career path, I felt that it was important for me to get a firm grounding in different areas of business. And what I learned in the program turned out to be integral to an internship that I took for the remainder of the summer as a tax data analyst at a think-tank."
Gustafson has since decided to pursue a career in academia and is off to a running start. The 2014 recipient of the W. Thomas Smith Scholarship, she obtained an intercollegiate master's degree in History of Political Thought and Intellectual History at University College London and Queen Mary University of London during the year after graduation. She is currently a research assistant and blogger at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.