Emily Fekete is a 2008 graduate of the UNH Honors Program with a degree in History and Geography and a minor in Deaf Studies. Emily’s broad scope of interests made UNH a great choice, allowing her to combine her varied fields of scholarship in a dual major, while also enjoying the campus community and recreational pursuits of New Hampshire. Below, Emily discusses her experiences in the Honors Program and the course of her career, noting the importance of following your passions instead of picking a major based solely on projected salaries.
Please tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in Rochester, NY. My family had a love of camping and travelling so we used to drive all over the US for vacations. As a kid, I also had a love of reading and writing, and social studies was by far my favorite subject in school. When I graduated high school, I was not sure what I wanted my major to be, but I knew I wanted to keep going to school, keep learning. I had heard it was better to pick a major when starting college instead of coming in undeclared, so I picked history as my major, fully intending on changing it at least once. I was almost done with the requirements for the history major when I found geography, so instead of dropping it, I kept both, a decision I do not regret at all. While I no longer study history, the degree taught me how to analyze and question a text and formulate a cohesive argument, two incredibly valuable skills to have.
Why did you decide to attend UNH?
I was an avid skier my whole life and my family frequently took skiing trips to New England. I knew I wanted to go to school somewhere in the area. I was also looking for a larger school that had many options for majors because I was unsure of what I wanted to pursue. After visiting the UNH campus for a tour I knew it was the right place for me and where I belonged. I double majored in History and Geography and I received a minor in Deaf Studies.
Were you involved with any sports, organizations, or extracurricular activities while at UNH?
I was an officer in the American Sign Language club for several years and helped out in American Sign Language classes.
How did the Honors Program contribute to your experience at UNH?
The Honors Program offered me the opportunity to live in Hubbard Hall and on the Honors floor. It was there that I met some of my best friends. Even though we are now far apart from each other, we visit and remain close. My experience at UNH would certainly never have been the same without them.
What is your most significant memory as an Honors student?
I can’t think of one specific memory that would be most significant. I think being a college student allowed me to explore my varied interests in many ways. It also allowed me to explore things on my own and really figure out what I could do outside of my hometown and high school, bolstering my confidence in myself.
The most notable professor that stands out to me is definitely Alasdair Drysdale from the geography department. His courses, both the content as well as his teaching methods, all still stick with me today. Also, David Brown, who was in the geography department before moving to Louisiana, because he encouraged me to apply for a prestigious internship at National Geographic Magazine, which I got with his help during the summer between my junior and senior year. In history, my thesis advisor Greg McMahon provided invaluable support to me my senior year, and Pam Broido brought me on as a teaching assistant in her American Sign Language classes.
Did you write a thesis while at the Honors Program?
Yes. I wrote a combined history and geography thesis on a set of ancient texts known as the Periploi, which are records of seafaring explorations that took place between the 6th century BCE and 2nd century CE. It was not that great of a paper looking back on it, but it certainly helped me prepare myself for writing a Master’s thesis two years later and my doctoral dissertation today!
What did you do after graduation?
After I graduated from UNH, I went on to get my Master’s degree in Geography from Kent State University, which I completed in 2010. I am now a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Kansas.
Please share with us any interesting things you have been doing in recent years.
I moved to Ohio, and now Kansas, to go to school and start my academic career. I have been able to do research on a variety of topics, one of the reasons I fell in love with geography in the first place. Some of these include research on American Sign Language and the Deaf community in the US, social media and the Arab Spring, cyberterrorism, and my dissertation research on social media (specifically Foursquare) and consumption patterns.
Is there any advice you would like to share with incoming, current, or graduating students?
There are many articles on the internet these days that advise students as to what majors they should or should not pick in order to get a decent paying job. If I listened to people who told me that I would not be able to get a job with a history or geography degree, I would not be where I am today and would not have found something that I am incredibly passionate about. Going to college is about figuring out what it is you want to be doing for the rest of your life. Listen to yourself and if you find something you genuinely love doing, you will be able to find a way to make that be a part of your life.