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Graduates in the Spotlight : 2019 Graduates in the Spotlight

Nathanial Walker

image of Nathanial WalkerHOMETOWN: Bethel, Connecticut

MAJOR: History and Political Science

WCSU DEGREE: Bachelor of Arts in History and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

ACTIVITIES: Roger Sherman Debate Society team member, 2015–16; WCSU Education Club member,  2015-17, vice president, fall 2016; WCSU Honors Students Organization member since fall 2015, secretary,  2017-18, vice president since fall 2018; Clio: WCSU History Journal editor and contributor since fall 2015, vice president, 2016-17, president and editor-in-chief since fall 2017; WCSU Zine – student run arts and advocacy magazine, contributor, 2017-18; University Committee on General Education student representative since fall 2017; University Honors Council student representative since spring 2018;  Honors Course Committee (student-run committee) founding member since 2017 (much credit to primary founder and current chair Rachel Rossier). Worked as an office assistant in the WCSU offices of the departments of Social Sciences and History and Non-Western Cultures since spring 2017; hired by the Honors Program in winter 2017 as an honors assistant, and has held those two jobs concurrently. Off-campus: 7th Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps (New London, Competitive Drum Corps) member (trumpet), 2015-18; The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps (Allentown, Pennsylvania, Competitive Drum Corps) accepted member for 2019 competitive season

INTERNSHIPS: Presented a paper at the 2018 CSU History Conference, and will present at the 2019 CSU History Conference in 2019

HONORS AND AWARDS: Dean’s List all semesters since fall 2015, 3.99 GPA, graduating Summa Cum Laude,  Merit Scholar,  WCSU Kathwari Honors Program Outstanding Scholar, John Leopold Award for Service to the (History) Department recipient, Phi Alpha Theta – History Honors Society member, Pi Lambda Theta – Education Honors Society member, teaching assistant: PS 104 with Dr. Christopher Kukk (fall 2018)



Graduating from high school, Nathanial Walker was convinced that he would get a career as a high school history teacher. “As a high schooler, I took a cadet teaching course, and I had full support from my faculty and mentors. Because of Connecticut’s stellar reputation for teachers’ certification, I only applied for college within the state of Connecticut, and due to cost (knowing teachers need to get a master’s degree), I focused my applications to Connecticut state schools. I received good offers from all the schools, and actually leaned toward other schools, until I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Chris Kukk, director of the WCSU Honors Program. I had a really long conversation with him about international politics, and eventually about the Honors Program. Simply due to the ‘intangibles’ that our Honors Program has, going to WCSU over other schools was a clear decision. Simply put, the climate, the student-centered atmosphere, the focus on learning-for-learning’s-sake, and the history of good graduation results, the Honors Program put WCSU head and feet above its competitors.”

Walker says he started at WCSU as a Secondary Education major with a concentration in History. “Coming in, I had a lot of AP credits from high school, and with some math, I figured I could just barely graduate in four years with an additional minor in Political Science. In taking my first Education class, I became a bit estranged from my original passion for it. In my observations, and in my work in the Education Club, I realized that I did not want to be a K-12 educator as I originally intended. Meanwhile, I was given increased leadership in Clio, WCSU’s History Journal, the Honors Program, and I was asked to do a 15-minute presentation on Egyptian Hydrology in the 19th and 20th centuries at Dr. Mitch Wagener’s spring climate change presentations. So, while I was becoming less and less enthusiastic about teacher’s certification, I was being given more and more opportunities to get a taste of academia. I was even given a pair of committee assignments (which academics may find to be the least appealing part of the job), and still enjoyed academic work. This is when I cemented my choice as a double major, and from then on, I fully intended on getting into graduate school, and aiming for an academic career. I still love teaching and I love learning, so this is a great career for me.”

Walker says two faculty members had a profound impact on his experience at WCSU: Dr. Christopher Kukk (Political Science, Honors Program) and Dr. Martha May (History). “I cannot count the times I’ve burst into their offices with some type of crisis that they helped me figure out! I met Dr. Kukk before even attending WCSU, and talking to him helped cement my decision to enroll. He also got me hooked on political discourse. My first semester, I was overridden into Political Science 200: International Relations, where I was really encouraged to dig deep into debates and be fearless about my opinions. From then, I’ve taken more courses in Political Science with an international focus, and Dr. Kukk has overseen a lot of my research, especially concerning environmental issues. Dr. Kukk also mentored me as an undergraduate teaching assistant for PS 104: World Governments, Economies, and Cultures, which helped me develop my confidence as a lecturer, and my understanding of collegiate pedagogy. As an Honors assistant and fellow committee member, I’ve worked with Dr. Kukk and Assistant Director Jessica Lin to help ensure a strong education for our Honors students. As I began moving toward switching my major away from education, I grew to know Dr. May more and more. She has become one of my most trusted advisers and closest confidants. Once I began doing more work on the Clio, WCSU’s History Journal, Dr. May helped me figure out exactly what I needed to do, especially helpful since I had no clue. Moving into my junior and senior years, Dr. May has become indispensable in her advising and help when it comes to graduate school, and scaling the learning curve of academia. Dr. May has always kept me sane, especially when I’ve needed it the most!”

Asked what he will remember most about his WCSU experience, Walker says, “Out of all the vivid experiences I’ve had, I think I have to choose when I took a bus to Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March in January 2017. WCSU had sponsored a bus ride, and frankly, given the climate at the time, it was a bit scary, and it felt like taking a risk buying the ticket. I stayed up almost all night with one of my closest friends, Rachel Rossier, making a poster. Rachel was actually the first friend I made at WCSU. Going down to Washington reminded me of seeing footage of the 1963 March on Washington: even at New Jersey rest stops, despite age, gender, race or religious affiliation, everyone was going to the same place for the same purpose. The solidarity was also felt between the other WCSU students: that was when I first got to know Devin Kalal, who alongside Stephen Kipp, I would later do some good scholarly work with (and some shenanigans). That day was really an adventure, and I felt like I was helping make history.”

After graduation, Walker says, “In the fall, I will be attending Brandeis University as a Ph.D. candidate with full funding in the Department of Politics.”

His advice to new students entering WCSU is: “Think to yourself, ‘what more can I do?’ It is far better to feel disappointed because you think you could have done better than it is to feel satisfied with mediocrity. You should always be thinking about how to become a better student and a better person. Perhaps more importantly: you should be acting on it. WCSU is not a school for the faint of heart, but those who show initiative, passion, morality and a strong work ethic are greatly rewarded. Do not let an opportunity pass you by.”