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Mary Sorrick

Alumni Spotlight | September 2019

KU major: History & Journalism, Class of 2009

Current occupation: Web Consultant

Research mentors while at KU: Jennifer Weber and Jeffrey Moran

 


Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU:

A: I completed a thesis about a little-known civil rights attorney from the early-mid 20th century named Leo Gallagher (not the guy who smashes the watermelons) as part of the honors program for my history major. I stumbled upon Gallagher's papers at Spencer, and became fascinated by his story. He advocated for the rights of socialists in Nazi Germany and Hispanic farm workers in the American west. He had this very clear point of view and set of convictions about what was right and what was wrong, and writing about him brought me into contact with events from his era that I hadn't been exposed to before. I also got to travel to a research library in Los Angeles that held more of Gallagher's papers. In a way, it was my first ever business trip. The experience was definitely among the most enriching of my time at KU.

 

Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research? 

A: At the time, I would have said the most important lesson was that procrastination is your enemy when trying to write your longest-ever research paper. Now, I think my biggest takeaway is that history is filled with unheralded people who did interesting and noteworthy things, and that historians and writers who dedicate their careers to bringing interesting stories to our attention provide a great public service.

 

Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?

A: You'll surprise yourself with what you can accomplish if you put in the effort. Even if you don't have an idea of what to pursue yet, just the act of challenging yourself on a large scale research project will be extremely rewarding and will give you confidence as you prepare to go out into the world after graduation.

 

Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation?  How so?

A: My job requires me to synthesize and communicate complex information on a daily basis. Research projects in college helped sharpen that skillset.

 

Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?

A: If you're nervous about life after college, you're in good company. I certainly didn't know what I wanted to do after graduation. But I've learned that as long as you keep pursuing what you think will make you happy, you're likely to find it eventually.


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