Ahead of the curve

Bre Partida’21 was surprised to find herself more prepared than her older peers in the University of New Mexico’s tight-knit history masters program. A former soccer player, RA, and member of Theta Pi Gamma sorority, Bre reflects on how Beloit shaped the person she is today.

What classes are you taking now, and how do they compare to the classes you took at Beloit?

I’m taking a gender history class, a course called Gendering Borderlands, and Advanced Historiography, and a Spanish course. The MA here has an optional credit you can take in any discipline you want, as long as you can relate it back to your MA. I am considering taking courses in sociology, geography, and Native American studies.

At Beloit, there’s a certain level of expectation that we all have. I realized it’s as much the professors at Beloit that foster healthy and productive discussions as the students. In grad school, it’s a bit different because we all have a bachelor’s or masters, but not everyone has the same standard.

How do you like living in New Mexico?

It’s very dry. I bike to campus at least three times a week with my roommate, who is actually my best friend from high school. The bike route itself is longer than Beloit’s campus, so sometimes the fact that I’m doing this twice a day, three times a week, is insane. It’s very cool to look out my window and see mountain ranges everywhere.

Who were the Beloit professors who influenced you the most?

Partida inspects a family quilt brought during the History Harvest, spring 2019. Partida inspects a family quilt brought during the History Harvest, spring 2019.

I would say there’s a big five. While at Beloit, I would stress so much about the readings [Professor of History Emeritus] Beatrice McKenzie would assign. We’d finish an entire monograph in a week. I’ve already read at least 16 books and maybe 25 articles in four weeks. In our upper classes [at Beloit], she’d say, “This is going to be hard, but for all of you who plan to go to grad school, this is what it’s going to look like.”

Dr. Sonya Maria Johnson was my McNair mentor in my second year. She pushed me to consider theoretical frameworks. She’d say, “Okay, six sentences and that’s it. Any more and I’m not reading it.”

In terms of my ability to connect ideas, I’ll give it to Charles Westerberg. Charles was my McNair mentor in my first year, and every sociology course I’ve taken was with him. Sometimes I would just throw out the most random connections, and a lot of people didn’t really understand what I was getting at, but Charles would be like, “Maybe, but you need to explain it to me.” He really helped me gain confidence in the way that I think.

Dr. Atiera Coleman, who used to head the McNair program, would always give us advice that was so simple yet so practical. Like, “It’s okay to take time off, it’s okay to step away, it’s okay to not want to do this, it’s okay to have human feelings in this process.”

Dr. Kate Johnston helped me interrogate history as a discipline and historians as human beings capable of error. We should always continuously be interrogating sources. I think a lot of my current classmates haven’t really gotten to that point. Even in mid-level courses, she was always pushing us to do that. That’s always at the forefront of my mind.

How did the McNair program prepare you for graduate school?

I grew a lot from one summer to the next. My second summer, Dr. Johnson put a lot of trust in me. My whole project my first and second summer of McNair was to accumulate books that we read and explain why they are important to us. I have to do the same for every course that I’m taking this semester. McNair really gave me the background to be confident. Anyone who goes to Beloit and does well will do well in grad school.

Why did you choose Beloit?

I was recruited by the soccer coach. If I look at my starting place at Beloit and my ending place, they’re totally different sides of the Beloit College spectrum entirely. I came from a pretty small town in the suburbs of Houston. I remember staying with women from the soccer team. Aside from liking the team, I remember liking the atmosphere of the college in general. People just seemed so into what they were doing. I sat in on chemistry professor George Lisensky’s class. I didn’t do STEM, but his intensity — you could tell he liked teaching.

How did you end up at the University of New Mexico?

I applied to a few schools in the Midwest, Columbia, and UNM, and I was very unsure of what I wanted to do. Beloit allowed me to develop across interdisciplinary lines. I was also really interested in looking at borderlands history, which is one of the things that pulled me to UNM, which gave me the best package, the best foundation, and the most room to be the type of scholar I was at Beloit.

What advice would you give to your younger self, when you started at Beloit?

At every point along my academic life, my personal life, and my recreational and job life at Beloit, the college brought people into my life who fundamentally are core aspects of who I am today. I think life is going to keep being hard — you’re going to continue to have struggles you can’t really prepare for — but you can find homies along the way who will be there to support you through them.

February 22, 2022

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