BA Alumni Voices

Kaitlyn Iwashita

Iwashita_Kaitlyn“Aloha! My name is Kaitlyn Iwashita and I completed dual majors in History and English, and a certificate in Women’s Studies from UH Mānoa. I am now pursuing a degree in law. As an undergraduate, I was an active member of Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honor Society. My academic interests include: 20th century American history, American literary history, women’s history, the history of comedy, queer and feminist theory, and disability studies.

“I was originally an Economics major, but after taking History 152, I was completely entranced by the prospect of being a History major. As a History major, I was able to develop my reading and writing skills, as well as my persuasive skills, which are essential to have as a lawyer.

“Becoming a History major was one of the best decisions that I made in my academic career, and, at the very least, I would recommend that non-majors/minors take a few history classes. History is so deeply ingrained in everything—literally everything—that it is an essential component to anyone’s education.”

Spencer Oshita

“I decided very early in high school that I was going to study history in college. I had some extraordinary teachers who made learning history more than just a chore. Originally, I had been interested in American history, but after taking Euro in my senior year, I decided to concentrate my studies on European history. My areas of interest include the Renaissance, the French Revolution, German Unification and the interwar and Cold War periods.

“I was also an English major, an American Studies minor, and pursued a certificate with the Political Science department. I worked at what felt like a full-time job as Editor-in-Chief at Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi, our campus newspaper. I think pursuing my passion for history was one of the best decisions I made. People spend too much time worrying about majors and future careers that they don’t necessarily want or like, but I think college is a space for exploration and an opportunity to do all the things you’ve wanted to do before it’s too late.

“There are so many different periods of history to study, and history takes place all around us. UH offers a fantastic opportunity for us to explore the past with some of the best and most intelligent professors who can equip students with the tools to learn and succeed. I’m proud to have been part of the department.”

Von Dickens Ulsa


“Initially, I declared History as one of my majors simply because I was interested about the past. This curiosity transformed into a passion for research when I realized that a quick Google search could not simply give me the answers to my inquiries anymore. The courses I have taken sharpened my skills in rediscovering stories and searching for answers in multiple resources—from a book in Hamilton Library that was last checked out three decades ago, from stories passed on to three generations of families, or from an archive five thousand miles away. Without the instructors’ guidance and the intellectual challenges of their courses, I would not have attained the skills to obtain competitive internships in New York City and Capitol Hill, and to travel for research in Washington and Spain.”

Max Velasquez

“I decided to major in History after transferring to UHM from Maui College, after realizing that I was curious about Asian history and that I knew next to nothing about it; my world history courses tended to focus on the West. My Asian coursework was mostly Chinese history, and my courses were with Dr. Brown. She is an excellent professor and I found her classes on 20th century China informative and enjoyable. I also had great classes with Dr. Kraft, Dr. Hoffenberg, Dr. Matteson, and Dr. Totani, to name a few.

“I used the degree I earned as a stepping stone into the Library and Information Sciences Program at UH. I enjoyed doing research for my capstone paper, and would like to help other researchers in finding primary sources, especially archival materials; the artifacts you find in an archive always have a story behind them, which is why I continue to be interested in history.”

Kelly Zakimi


“My name is Kelly Zakimi and I majored in history with a concentration in European history. As a student in elementary and middle school, I poured over historical fiction books, growing increasingly fascinated with the intricacies of the past. These historical fiction books are what first drew me to history. History is so colorful and the events of the past are more dramatic and intriguing than anything one could possibly make up. The option of turning my passion of history into my future major first occurred to me in high school, where I participated in the History Day competition on the East Coast. Witnessing so many students excited about history and who actively ascertained how we could learn from history’s lessons only made me more interested in delving into the past. Just summarizing events was frowned upon. Rather, we were encouraged to dig deep, to evaluate and come to our conclusions. I was drawn to the way history has no “right” answers. People had—and continue to have—the freedom to analyze and interpret.

I thoroughly enjoyed my history classes at UH Mānoa because this was exactly what we as students were taught to do. Rather than simply memorizing dates or taking things at face value, we must scrutinize the multiple perspectives and the possible biases hidden in the evidence. My professors were engaging, some even a tad eccentric (in the most endearing way). I feel like in history, each professor has the freedom to teach with their own style: some are master storytellers, others use visuals like movies and television shows to highlight themes, and others greatly utilize discussion groups. All, however, are sincerely passionate and well learned in their specific historical focuses.”