When she was in Grade 10, Claire Vanderwood and her Grade 11 American History class headed to Washington, D.C. for a field trip -- and Claire fell in love. “It was such an inspiring city full of history,” she says. In 2017, she returned to D.C., this time as a student at George Washington University. “I wanted to study American History, and D.C. is the best place in the world to do that,” she says. “I also wanted a program with independent research opportunities and flexibility to study other areas, both of which GW offers.”
Claire initially worried about being a small fish in a big pond, but that wasn’t the case. “I had so much passion and motivation for studying history, and my professors saw that,” she says. Claire was the student worker for the History department for her junior and senior years, learning about how postsecondary history departments function. GW also offered a myriad of opportunities she wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else: she took a class about George Washington taught at his Virginia estate, interned at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and went on an after-hours tour of the Library of Congress.
Claire also felt very prepared for her studies from her time at Greenwood. “The History and Canadian and World Studies programs really fostered my history skill set, from analyzing primary sources, to reading secondary sources, to writing,” she says. “I was very prepared for university, and I felt like my experiences were advanced compared to a lot of my fellow students.” Claire also credits her English classes with helping her to hone her writing skills. “I felt really challenged in those classes,” Claire says. “There was a place for trial and error, which is where I learned the most.”Claire celebrates her graduation in 2021.
Claire knew she was eligible to work in the US for one year following her graduation, and the perfect opportunity came up as she was graduating: a position with the American Historical Association (AHA). “I thought to myself, ‘I’m in the United States, I’m studying history: where’s the best place I can work?’,” Claire says. “Working at the AHA was my dream.” As a program assistant in the Academic and Professional Affairs department, Claire assisted with initiatives to make undergraduate history education more equitable and accessible and to train graduate students for a wider variety of careers. Now back in Canada, she is consulting for the AHA on a data analysis project; she thinks research or data analysis in the academic space is where her future might lie.
While Claire’s passion has long been history, she is grateful to Greenwood for allowing her to investigate a broad range of subjects. “I loved my Grade 9 geography class - the teachers made it so fun and engaging. And I loved all of my science classes,” she says. “Greenwood allowed me to foster all of my different interests. There was no shortage of opportunities.”