Sarah Gustafson ‘14, a history major from Wilton, Conn., has been awarded Davidson's annual W. Thomas Smith Scholarship, which will cover her expenses for two consecutive semesters of study at a university outside the United States.
Established by Tom Smith '48, the Smith Scholarship is awarded annually to a graduating senior in recognition of his or her outstanding academic achievement, demonstration of leadership, and service to the community.
Gustafson will use the Smith Scholarship to obtain an intercollegiate master's degree in History of Political Thought and Intellectual History at University College London and Queen Mary University of London. "This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity," said Gustafson. "When I was researching possible programs, I sought one that would encourage me to mature as a thinker and a scholar, and several professors I've tapped for my thesis are on the faculty of these schools. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to work with them in person!"
Gustafson said the master's degree will help toward her objective of becoming a professor. "I have a lot of passions, and I've been lucky to work on projects in both business and think-tank/policy contexts," she said. "But as I worked on my senior thesis, I felt called to explore academia as a place for me to make a difference."
Gustafson, who also is a French minor, focused her history thesis on a Paris protest in 1904 that occurred as a response to a high school student's controversial report on Joan of Arc. "I found this incident particularly interesting because I couldn't imagine something like it happening in the United States. I don't think many would notice if a high school student presented George Washington in a negative light," she pointed out.
Gustafson received a Kelly History Grant to pursue her thesis, and performed first-hand archival research in France. "It was a wonderful chance to engage myself in the literature of culture wars and notions of national history and identity," she said.
At Davidson, Gustafson served on the Student Government Association's Elections Council for three years and was a founding member of the Women's Action Committee, helping organize the 40 year anniversary celebration of coeducation at Davidson. "That was one of my proudest achievements here," she said.
Gustafson's four years at Davidson have inspired her to lead a life of teaching and learning, the next step of which begins with the Smith Scholarship. "Davidson means a lot to me and has given a lot to me," she said. "I want to be part of that legacy of passing knowledge, curiosity, and creativity along to the next generation."