Sarah Alyse Conlin, ‘14
Hometown: Cutchogue, New York
Degree: BA, Humanities & Arts with a concentration in American Studies
Why did you choose to attend WPI?
I first visited WPI when I was a freshman in high school, and my brother was a junior. I knew right away that I loved the campus and people, and that this was where I wanted to be. I spent more time at WPI when my brother chose to attend and confirmed it was the school for me. I was looking for a school where I could pursue my education and Naval ROTC, which I found here at WPI. I travel across town to the College of the Holy Cross for Naval Science classes and am also a full time WPI student. Overall, the seven week terms, project-based curriculum, and the ability to mix the arts and the sciences in a Humanities degree helped me to make my final decision.
How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, been beneficial to you during your time at WPI?
Projects at WPI that have required me to work as a member of a team have taught me how to work with other students not only in an academic setting, but in other settings as well. As a Midshipman in Naval ROTC, and a future Naval Officer, WPI’s project-based curriculum has taught me people skills that have already proven themselves useful in the professional atmosphere. WPI’s tradition of Theory and Practice has become not only a philosophy, but a way of life.
What do you think are WPI’s greatest strengths?
WPI’s greatest strengths lie in professors that are willing to work with and understand their students, along with the collective motivation of the students to make the campus a better place. There are so many student-run and professor-supported groups on campus, working to make it a better place for tomorrow and for ten years down the road. Both groups make WPI what it is.
How have the professors in your department impacted your studies and your life?
As one of a small percentage of Humanities & Arts majors on WPI’s campus, I’ve found that the professors in this department want nothing more than to see me succeed and be happy in my studies. I’ve taken multiple classes with most of my professors, and I cannot wait to take more. They truly have a personal interest in where my academic career is taking me.
Professors have even offered extra help working out four-year course schedules, have reached out to old friends as contacts and resources for research papers, and have always paused to ask how things are going when we bump into each other in the Campus Center. They have taught me that you cannot underestimate the change that can occur from one person reaching out to another. And of course, they’ve taught me English and history, calculus and physics, law and research, and sparked my interests so that I come back every term hungry for more.
My academic advisor, Kristin Boudreau, serves as the Head of the Humanities & Arts Department. She has been an amazing person to work with and an asset in helping me to figure out where my academic path should lead. In juggling NROTC classes, which are required semester-long classes taught at the College of the Holy Cross and are taken as overload classes on top of a full three course load, Kristin has helped me to manage my time and determine what classes would be most appropriate in order to keep my sanity. She is always willing to coordinate time to meet with me and has provided me with contacts that will serve me extremely well in the coming years.
What are your research projects?
My first major research project came in the form of my Inquiry Seminar “Textual Engineering.” Professor Jim Cocola taught the seminar, asking me and other students to interact with primary resources and documents and to create a project from something that spoke to us. I focused on World War II, specifically the attack on Pearl Harbor. From investigation into the time period, I became fascinated by the stories of the people who were directly affected by the attack. Thus “Infamy: The Before and After” was born. I created a historical fiction piece that told the story of three Americans, a sailor, a woman, and World War I widow. This required me to delve into narratives, interviews, documents and even advertisements from the era in order to maintain historical accuracy. Professor Cocola guided me through archives both digital and physical across the country in order to accomplish this task. This has been one of my most rewarding experiences at WPI. I was honored and humbled to be chosen as a recipient of the WPI Class of 1879 Prize for this project.
Additionally, in Professor Deborah Gray’s seminar “Topics in American Social History,” I spent more time researching World War II, this time following the plight of Japanese-Americans interned in camps in Hawaii and across the west coast during America’s activity in World War II. Investigating this injustice brought to light how the racism that the United States was supposedly battling in Europe was occurring within our own borders. Again, using digital and physical archives, as well as sources and people that Professor Gray personally put me in touch with, I was able to do much more than just investigate the internment.
What do you hope to do when you graduate? What would be your ideal job?
Upon graduation, I will commission into the United States Navy as an Ensign. I will serve a minimum of five years active duty, either on a ship or a submarine. I am currently hoping to see more of the submarine service, but only time will tell. What will I do after the Navy? Maybe teach, maybe work in a museum. As of right now, only the Navy is a certainty. Hopefully, I will be able to share some of what I’ve learned here at WPI with other students.
Groups or extracurricular activities you participate in at WPI:
- Phi Sigma Sigma National Women’s Fraternity
- Naval ROTC
Academic or professional awards you have received:
- Dean’s List 2010-2011, 2011-2012
- WPI Class of 1879 Prize, received April 2012
- Association of Old Crows: Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Naval ROTC Sophomore Class
- The Military Order of the World Wars ROTC Award of Merit: In recognition of individual excellence in the ROTC Program
- Selection to attend the Washington D.C. Project Center for IQP
- NROTC Academic Achievement Award 20110-2011, 2011-2012
Additional comments about WPI and/or your general experience here:
The rigorous schedule and endless opportunities at WPI still continue to amaze me. I am so proud to be a student here, even if I am a little different than the engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that normally graduate from here. With a degree that combines the humanities and arts with math and sciences, who knows what the future will hold. All I can say is that it sure looks bright!