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Department of HistoryGiandoni Award Winners

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Spring 2022 Award Winners


Giandoni Scholarship in History

Tijha Chapman

Tijha Chapman is a recent graduate of Old Dominion University, where she majored in history and minored in biology. She was born and raised in Virginia Beach. She is passionate about history because it offers insight into many different events, cultures, and environments. She specifically concentrated on American history because she wanted to research the different governmental bodies, ideologies, and social structures of her own nation. Tijha says:

I believe that learning about the past and other communities helps us not make the same mistakes that our predecessors have. Instead, the past is interpreted and improved to offer a more profound understanding to create a fluent and concise society. Implementing this knowledge into my everyday life helps to explain why and how our community has matured and grown in the way that it has. Ultimately, my time spent at Old Dominion University within the history department was very beneficial because it offered a great support system and class opportunities that will help me further my career in the subject.

Sebastian Fuentes

Sebastian was raised in Chesapeake, Virginia with little knowledge of the different perspectives in which history is gathered, analyzed, and interpreted. He joined the Navy after high school, and that endeavor allowed him the opportunity to visit and explore a multitude of cultures, languages, and people. Eager to learn more about the world, he pursued his history degree after being accepted to Old Dominion University. Sebastian writes:

The professors in the history department of ODU have been instrumental in my success to date. From the almost intimidating amount of knowledge that professors such as Dr. Orr poses on topics such as Civil War history, to the infectious enthusiasm of historiography that Dr. Bebber infuses into his courses, and the undeniable excitement in which Mr. Del Corso speaks with in his lectures, my time at this university has been a major influence in my desire and continued passion to earn a degree in History.

Nathan Keckley

Nathan has lived in Virginia his entire life, and finds it impossible to escape the state's rich sense of historical consciousness. He writes:

I am fascinated with the study of history because it allows us to better understand and interpret the stories of the past. I believe that the more critically we study both our past and present—for our present is rooted in history—the more keenly we can penetrate the illusions and fetishizations we often hold about our social, political, and economic circumstances. Every person has a duty to critically assess what we take for truth, and history helps us do just that.

Nathan is pursuing a double-major in History and English, and takes an interest in history as a way to contextualize the literature he also studies. He hopes to eventually enter academia and teach, but notes that, "whatever I choose to pursue, history will be a major component of my further intellectual development. In short, history has aided me in my search for truth, my personal enrichment, and my professional development."

Giandoni Scholarship in History winner not pictured:

Faith Grant



Giandoni Study Abroad Scholarship

Erin Arsenault

Erin was born and raised in Newport News, Virginia. She received her history undergraduate degree from Old Dominion in 2019 and is currently a student in the Masters program in history at ODU. Erin writes:

I have always harbored a love of history, but it wasn't until my children were well established in college that I decided I wanted to pursue a career in twentieth century history. I most enjoy exploring the 'whys' and 'hows' of the wars and politics that overtook that era.

Her current field of study involves returning the names and dignity to women who suffered and died during the Holocaust.

William Harmon

William is originally from Rochester, New York, but now lives in Virginia Beach. After high school, he attended Cornell University in New York, and after two years transferred to Old Dominion University. Currently, he works as an Executive Team Lead at Target where he blends historical analysis with analyzing business data. William notes:

History has provided me the framework to analyze sources and reach conclusions without being able to know exactly the intention, and this is so applicable to many things in business. A historical education allows one to ask and answer probing questions that get at the heart of the message. The skills I have gained from my history classes have given me an edge in the business world. The critical thinking and analysis skills gained from an education grounded in history are fruitful.

William has specialized in United States History, particularly World War II and the Holocaust.

Matthew Ward

Matthew Ward is a stay-at-home father of four living on a farm just outside the small town of Windsor, Virginia, where his family raises cattle. He's an Australian national who has lived in America for eleven years, after finishing an Australian undergraduate degree in communications. Matthew worked as a journalist for a decade, and decided to begin working part-time toward an MA in history in 2017 after taking a break from his career to care for his family. He has a wide-ranging passion for history and a need for intellectual stimulation, and hopes to soon return to writing and research. He writes:

When I commenced studies at ODU, my main interest in history lay in genealogy. I have since become more interested in historical theory, and how history is employed in the service of nationalism and public memory.

As a news "junkie," Matthew recognizes that his historical studies are changing the way I approach current events. He notes, "News stories are no longer purely contemporary events occurring in isolation, but small, interconnected components of unfolding processes. In a sense at least, the journalists' thick skin is also thinning to allow a more moral stance, and a sense of personal engagement in which I feel myself less of a bystander than I once did."

Giandoni Study Abroad Scholarship winners not pictured:

Jared Beasley

Samantha Sommerfeldt



Giandoni Graduate Research Award

Gillian Hardy

Gillian received her undergraduate degree from Christopher Newport University and is now a first year student in ODU's History Master's program. She intended to spend her first year just getting acquainted with the new program, but the Giandoni Award allowed her the opportunity to work with Dr. Ingo Heidbrink to create an individualized research project about Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. National parks and historic sites have always been a sentimental topic for Gillian, as she grew up with her mom, who would always take her to parks and tell her about the plants, animals, trees, and histories of the areas they lived. Her mom's love for nature sparked an interest in the complicated motivations for the Park Service. She's so grateful to have been able to use the award to go to the Library of Virginia, access online databases, fund research materials and printing, and purchase books for the project to learn the histories of places already so important to her.

John Wiley

John Wiley is a native Virginian. He was born and raised in Chesapeake and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Virginia State University. John is currently a third-year graduate student within ODU's history department where he is currently in the process of writing his thesis on the 1978 attempted merger of Norfolk State College (now Norfolk State University) and Old Dominion University. He also serves as the Assistant for Diversity Initiatives in the Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity. John's interests in the social and student movements of the late twentieth century have influenced his work on campus as he facilitates various diversity trainings and programs, examines policy, and helps move ODU toward an intentionally equitable space. As the realms of social history and DE&I work collide, John credits the history department for challenging and transforming his worldview. He hopes to further his studies and pursue a career in higher education.