Undergraduate Research Reflections

Below are excerpts from research reflection reports written by recipients of undergraduate research travel grants. These grants are made possible, in part, by gifts to the Friends of Cal History fund.


Alumna Haley Hayashi

Haley Hayashi

US Holocaust Memorial Museum | Washington, DC

"Conducting archival research has expanded my thought process in research and historical thinking in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. The process of reading so many documents relating to my topic has also helped me deepen my knowledge and understanding of the subject at a far more in depth level than would be possible through secondary literature and limited online primary sources. It has also informed and somewhat altered my post-graduation career plans. I have had an insatiable passion for history since my first history course at Berkeley, but I have never thought that seriously about pursuing a PhD in history until this trip. This grant has inspired me to further explore the option of taking my historical studies to the next level after graduation."

Joseph Gannon Castle

Joseph Gannon Castle

Yellowstone National Park | Gardiner, Montana

"It was a dream come true to travel to Yellowstone and spend time digging through physical park history and to analyze documents created by heroes of the park service. Gardiner is a beautiful town. Fall is settling in, and the surrounding mountains were already capped with snow upon my arrival. Elk and pronghorn antelope freely roam in and out of the town. Every morning on my way to the archive I had to navigate a gauntlet of elk and avoid getting too close. One morning, I was nearly charged by a mother elk protecting her calf. It was quite thrilling! Both nature and history are on constant display. The trip was definitely a highlight of my academic career—the perfect mix of scholarship and passion."

Alumna Yvette Duenas

Yvette Dueñas

Center for Studies, Documentation & Information of the National Action Party | Mexico City, Mexico

"Thanks to the generous contribution of donors to the UC Berkeley Department of History, I was able to travel and conduct archival research in Mexico City in February for my capstone senior thesis. My thesis is centered on the role of women in Mexico's right-of-center National Action Party (Partido Accion Nacional) from the early 1950s to the 1960s. Over the course of last fall semester I was working on developing my thesis prospectus and discovered the existence of the CEDISPAN (Center for Studies, Documentation, and Information of the National Action Party), a private special collections library, located at the Fundación Rafael Preciado Hernández, A.C. in Mexico City. The CEDISPAN has a vast collection of material on the party including the official periodical of the party, La Nación (in print since 1941) and internal documents of the party such as internal correspondence, photographs, official doctrine, election propaganda, ephemera and secondary sources relating to women in the PAN."

Alumnus Diego Duran

Diego Duran

Margaret Herrick Libary | Beverly Hills, CA

"After having looked through the Gilbert Roland papers, I feel a personal connection with Mr. Roland. I've read his personal thoughts in his diaries and have even read letters that he has sent to his beloved friends. In fact, he gave much of these personal items to the Margaret Herrick Library himself. It almost feels like he donated these items to the library just so that I would stumble upon them. Three times I have traveled to Los Angeles, finding co-workers to fill in for my shifts, talking to professors about my necessary absences, flying down the California coast, driving up and down the 5 freeway in a large bus, and sitting in L.A. traffic for two hours after a long day of research. Each time I traveled to Los Angeles, I had hope that I would get more specific with my topic or find something to write about that I really care about. I feel grateful that I was able to stumble upon Gilbert Roland. Although I did not start my preliminary research early, I would have never stumbled upon Mr. Roland had it not been for my visit to the Margaret Herrick Library. Simply traveling to look at my primary sources first hand is an experience I will hold dear to my heart."

Alumna Claire Olmstead

Claire Olmstead

Salamanca & Barcelona, Spain

"Before my experience in Spain, I had very little experience doing hands-on, practical research. Most undergraduate history scholarship can be done with the trusted combination of the internet and a library, and real archival experience is limited. With these limitations in mind, I used to think that I didn't like doing research, that I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible and just start writing. This was one of the reasons that I hadn't considered continuing my education in history in my post-graduate life, and instead thought about law school or some other kind of graduate school. The actual experience of conducting research in an archive completely changed my mind and reinforced to me why I originally loved studying history."