Kathryn Mayberry

 

’19 English and History

To graduate with honors from Schreyer is not simply a testament to quantifiable academic achievement. It is a statement of character and of resolve. The rigor of an honors education instilled in me the skills and values that have become the framework for my life goals and beliefs.

Having studied history as an honors student, I know the significance and impact recorded history can have on an individual or a society. The way in which we preserve and present our past impacts how we look towards our future. Historians are trusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the integrity of “facts” and the presenting history in its entirety—unbiased and diverse in its authorship and perspective. I am reminded of the Phi Alpha Theta induction ceremony, during which the historical “ages” are read as a reminder of where we have been and where we will yet go. The contemporary age ends with this humbling reminder: “The historian believes that individuals and nations may approach nearer to the ideal of harmonizing responsibility with freedom through the study of the human experience of the past… It is towards this great goal that historians should strive… this challenge is offered so that, in part through your own efforts, the future may be the world’s greatest age.” Students of history are adept in analyzing primary sources and picking from those sources the small pieces of information that give life to the people and the places that have come before us. It is the historian’s responsibility to use those details to depict the past with as much clarity as we can and help forge a future that is the best it can possibly be. To live with “honors” means to live with the true weight of that responsibility and to rise to it. In an age as tumultuous as the one we live in, this is no small request. But as a Schreyer Scholar, I am conditioned to seek out challenges and tackle them head on.

My honors thesis in English addressed the importance of reclaiming disabled voices in literature. It was as much a nuanced reading of a complex poem as it was an urgent call to my peers to reexamine inherent bias in critical discussions. As with history, the study of English on an honors level implies a higher achievement beyond touting an impressive Goodreads “Read” list. It implies that I have tested the measure of the written word under the pressure and scrutiny of a critical lens. I have seen where words break and authors break further and I have seen where words have withstood the test of time and the gaze of the critic and authors have soldiered on despite adversity. Most importantly, though, my study of English has reminded me of the voice that is silenced where another voice is lifted up. Beneath each great work of fiction, is the equally great work of one who was not privileged enough to be recognized. Literature reminds us how to be human. It reminds us why we are human. It shows us the best and the worst of our kind and allows us the space to interact with those realities. We call it fiction, but more and more I have come to see the threads of reality that run through every novel I’ve encountered. As an English honors student, I am trained to question how words and stories function and to analyze the intricacies of those words in order to understand the importance it has to our world in the past, present, and future.

Written into the Library Bill of Rights is the promise that libraries will protect the free and uninhibited access to all information. My training in History and English remind me that this is not an easy calling. In fact, this is one of the most difficult rights to protect as a librarian. I have built an atmosphere within my library that portends respect, safety, and dignity to each and every person who enters. Each homeless person is worth as much of my time and respect as each upper-middle class family. The collection I curate for my patrons and my library is one that statistically represents the diversity of my community, one that promotes Own Voices authors and diverse narratives, and one that allows space for every perspective equally. The future I am striving for is one that recognizes diverse voices, respects differences, and nurtures that diversity in order to create a stronger future. 

There is an old Star Trek saying that comes to mind: “infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” In essence, the key to a strong and prosperous society is to embrace differences, those differences make us resilient and unified. To live a life with honors means that I exemplify the values of my honors education and seek to build a better future for my community according to those values.

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