Telling the Whole Story

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Sydnie Sousa is a Senior undergraduate student in the Department of History at Georgetown. In addition to working as a Resident Advisor, Campus Tour Guide, and for the Office of Admissions, she also is a member of the Georgetown Community Scholars Program, which serves and supports first-generation students at Georgetown. On top of all that, she is also in the process of writing her Senior Honors Thesis on the topic of Migrant Education in the 1930s in Rural California.

The topic is a close one to her; Sydnie grew up on a dairy farm in Tipton, California, and father’s family were immigrants from Portugal. Her family continues to work within the agricultural industry and growing up in a predominantly migrant farmworker community cultivated her interest in “education, social history, and rural America… particularly farm laborers.” Her research focuses on neighboring Kern County, where many migrants fleeing Dust Bowl conditions in Oklahoma settled in the 1930s. Sydnie’s research explores how this area adapted (or didn’t adapt) to the population boom, the treatment of student-age migrants in classrooms, and how segregation and separation impacted the migrants as compared to how contemporaneous race-based segregation functioned.

In pursuit of the answers to these questions, Sydnie – with support from an Honors thesis grant – spent time in the Kern County Archives in Bakersfield, networking and uncovering shelves and shelves of sources. The experience was somehow both familiar and eye-opening. The stories she found there seemed familiar – they involved similar to her own family members – but the idea that there was a dedicated repository for this sort of information was astonishing; Sydnie recounts: “Growing up where I did, I didn’t even know people were interested in this… To know that there are institutions that promote telling those stories and sharing them… has been so meaningful.”

Before coming to Georgetown, Sydnie attended the College of the Sequoias in Tulare County, where she declared as a History Major. She explains that her time at community college and at Georgetown were equally valuable, but that that value has manifested in different ways: the environment and the depth. She says that her time at Georgetown has expanded her worldview; she has experienced an environment in which her peers have numerous “interests, goals, and opportunities,” and that at Georgetown there is a multitude of resources and opportunities to explore: “The answer is never ‘no’; with interest comes possibility.”

Sydnie is a dedicated student of history; asking her what she would be studying if history was not an option elicited a few minutes of contemplation as she pondered the alternatives. “I would go to the archives and ensure that history exists,” she joked. She says “I have always had the desire to learn, but Georgetown refined my skillset,” explaining that her time here at Georgetown has taught her the importance of analyzing events from “both a macro and micro sense,” the knack of drawing connections between disciplines and to current events, and perhaps the most significant of all: “The importance of telling the whole story.

To Sydnie, history is about connecting people and telling their stories in an equitable way; it is “providing context for content.” Next year, Sydnie hopes to be doing just that. She is a finalist for both a Fulbright and a Stanford fellowship, which would enable her to conduct ethnographic research in impoverished rural communities. Her alternate plan is to work for a non-profit at close to the US-Mexican border. She also hopes to be an attorney one day, representing an organization like the United Farm Workers. No matter which paths she follows, it can be safely assumed that Sydnie will bring the same level of dedication as she has to her study of History.