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Future Civil War historian studies at Gettysburg

02/15/15

History major Hannah McClearnan ’15 of Albany, N.Y., aspires to become an American Civil War historian. So, when the opportunity to study for a semester at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania arose, she did not hesitate to take advantage of it.

Located on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, Gettysburg College is the only college with a Civil War Era Studies minor.

“My experience was fantastic. I was living in a community also dedicated to history and the Civil War,” she said. “I met countless Civil War historians and was able to see sites and handle artifacts the public is not allowed to view.”

Although McClearnan did not leave the United States for her study away experience, she traveled “constantly.”

“Every weekend I traveled to a different Civil War battlefield and got a tour from the experts that wrote the premier book on the subject,” she explained. “I met countless historians whose books I had been reading for years. I also was constantly in Washington D.C. for my research at the National Archives, so I had plenty of time to explore the Capitol.”

In addition to taking three classes, McClearnan served an internship – all in Gettysburg College’s Civil War Era Studies Department. “I was enrolled in a “Field Experience” course, a seminar that focused on the Civil War, and “Aftermath,” a course focusing on war memory.”

Her experiences confirmed McClearnan’s dedication to become a historian.

“I know it is difficult to be successful in the field of history, but this experience showed me I wanted to make the effort. It also showed me how much I enjoy traveling across the United States. That is one of the best parts of studying history, traveling across the country to find an obscure letter in an archive.”

After she graduates from this May, she plans to head straight to graduate school.

“MCLA has a very strong history department and I have enjoyed all of the history classes I have taken,” McClearnan said. “From a travel course to Ireland to my senior seminar studying New England, I have had a fantastic experience.”

Why MCLA?

“Although private colleges gave me scholarships, MCLA was the most affordable. MCLA was close to my home and it offered an education that I could tailor to my goals,” McClearnan said.

“MCLA gives everyone an opportunity to create their own experience,” she continued. “Even though I have only enrolled in two classes specifically in my subject interest, I was able to make many of my other classes relate. I am graduating a year early with almost 20 credits to spare, something I would not have been able to do at other colleges.”

An involved student during her two and a half years on campus, McClearnan lists serving as a senator with MCLA’s Student Government Association and her participation on the eBoard for the History Society as her most memorable activities.

Attending college in the Berkshires also enriched her experience, McClearnan said.

“Few colleges can boast such an interesting location. I have spent my time at MCLA hiking through the Savoy State Forest and fishing at the many lakes and rivers in the area. MCLA is surrounded by countless museums and state parks. It is important to experience that!"