Hurst group makes history



Several Mercyhurst students, along with Benjamin Scharff, Ph.D., had the opportunity to explore New Orleans while at a national history conference.

Elizabeth Shewan, Staff writer

In January, a group from Mercyhurst University attended a conference held by Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honors society. The biennial conference was held Jan. 3-7 in New Orleans.

Students Rose Pregler, senior History and Archaeology double major; Andrew Gebauer, senior Education major; Adam Craddock, senior Intelligence Studies major; and Kathryn Schmitt, senior Archaeology major, attended the conference, along with alumnus Alexander Feasly, ’17, and Benjamin Scharff, Ph.D., assistant professor of History and Phi Alpha Theta adviser. Gebauer, Craddock and Schmitt each presented a paper.

Phi Alpha Theta inducts students every year and hosts annual regional conferences as well as the biennial national conference. This was the first year that Mercyhurst attended the national conference.

“I saw (the conference) was in New Orleans, and I thought it would be an interesting place,” Scharff said.

Planning for the conference began the previous spring.

The experience was extremely valuable for students planning to pursue history at the graduate level.

According to Scharff, it is “an opportunity to take a paper you might have spent a lot of time on and then to go in and share it with everybody and get some public speaking experience.”

Schmitt presented her paper, “Hidden in Plain Sight: The Lives of LGBT Individuals in the America West,” after working on it for a year.

“Since I do want to go into academia, I will have to be good at talking about history to a large group of people, so this was a nice practice for me,” Schmitt said.

Pregler appreciated the opportunity to practice presenting.

“It eased my fears of the possibility of ever having to present at a conference,” said Pregler. “It’s your peers, and everyone’s there to learn more about history.”

As well as participating in the conference, the students had a chance to explore the city of New Orleans, taking in local food, culture and history.

“New Orleans is great city and I haven’t been there before, so it was nice to go there for the first time, and it was just really nice to feel I was at a national conference for history,” said Schmitt.

The students also enjoyed being with others who enjoy learning about history.

“It’s exciting to be in a place with so much history with people who appreciate history,” said Pregler.

Phi Alpha Theta inducts new students every year, and students do not have to be a History major or minor to become a member.