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The Lincoln Hall Project « College of Liberal Arts & Sciences « University of Illinois

Lincoln Hall Project


Alanda Wraye (BA candidate in creative writing) recounts why she left the University in the 1970s and returned today, and how history classes have changed in the meantime.

I fell in love with history junior year at Highland Park High School, north of Chicago, and so that was my major. I graduated high school in 1970 and came directly here. I don’t know if it was the dean or the head of the department my first semester freshman year, he called me in and suggested that I would be happier in social work.

At that time, given my background, I couldn’t stand up to that. I took that as a vote of no confidence, and it was very damaging in that history was my reason for being. It really was.

So I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know what to say, but the only social work class I took was the history of social work, which was very interesting, and I wouldn’t go near social work. The irony is that I ended up doing a lot of social work in my life, so he wasn’t so far wrong. But it wasn’t easy for women in academia, for women professors or for female students. They weren’t really used to taking us seriously yet. This was still the time of the women’s movement; it was very strong in the ’70s, you know.

I knocked around all the social sciences, anthropology, psychology, sociology, Asian studies, and then I decided to apply to the Peace Corps. I left school and went to the Peace Corps.

And now I am here again because not having a degree never got in my way until now. I wanted to become a Buddhist chaplain. You have to be ordained, and the training, I was accepted for a fellowship at MD Anderson, premier cancer research hospital in Houston, and then when they have to check off all their little boxes, when I did not have the BA, they had to rescind the fellowship. So I said all right, I will go back and get it. And that’s why I’m here.

I have great relationships with my professors. Now we have easy access to so many sources and information and it’s led to, instead of that model of the professor lecturing, and in this superior position that he knows something that we don’t, now it is so much more collaborative, let’s look at this information together. And the attitude throughout is that looking to the students’ future engagement professionally, and they are saying, ‘Explore this. Maybe this will be something you will want to pursue.’ That makes it much more engaging for discussion, much more discussion-oriented.

Alanda Wraye

(Length: 2:45)