Every year the College of Arts and Sciences recognizes one graduating senior from each department who has demonstrated exceptional diligence and promise. This spring, CAS choose History major Mariah Agbonkpolo as a 2021 Outstanding Senior.
Mariah has been recognized by her professors as an exceptional student, and she has won several History scholarships. Outside of her History classes, Mariah was very involved in campus life participating in Amnesty International, Advocates for Girls’ Education and interning in the Sexual Violence Prevention Unit and Student Engagement.
Why did you choose to be a History major?
I wanted to become a History major because we need to understand the past if we want to create lasting social change. Since I wanted to pursue a degree in law, I felt it was necessary to understand how historical processes create institutional barriers that perpetuate social inequalities. Being a History major provided me with the space to study the impact of social identities such as race and gender on the past and present.
Do you have a favorite History class that you took at UB?
My favorite History classes were Health and Illness in America with David Herzberg as well as Introduction to Health, Medicine and Society with Sarah Handley-Cousins. These were my favorite classes because many times people overlook the intersection of different social identities with why certain historical events happened the way they did. In particular, it was interesting and compelling to learn about how gender, sexuality, race and disability were active roles in shaping theories about the human body and origins of illnesses.
In your opinion what is the most valuable aspect of a History education?
Being aware that history is not just a part of the past. It actively shapes the present and the future. Personally, I wanted to study in the Department of History to better understand how to initiate social change. I believe that we cannot truly progress if we dismiss how historical inequities have left a legacy in the present. Historical systems that promote inequality do not vanish simply because they were in the past. These systems continue to inflict and perpetuate these inequalities. If we do not understand or know about the past, how can we ever expect to not repeat the same mistakes?
What are your plans for after graduation:
This fall, I am going to law school. Currently, I am deciding between Wake Forest and Howard School of law. I plan to do a joint-degree in law and public policy.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. If you’re afraid of failing, you’ll never grow from your experiences!