Scholars

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Hector Bahena
Major: History
Minors: International Studies and Asian Studies
Born and raised in the City of Waukegan, I’m a first-generation American, and first-generation college student. I graduated from the College of Lake County, Cum Laude, Class of  ’14 with an Associates in Arts. I’m a transfer student that began at Loyola in the spring term of 2015. Loyola’s History Department and curriculum attracted me to the university. My academic interests include furthering my level of education with a Masters degree in Higher Education with emphasis in History, learning from faculty members that are in the job field, and becoming an involved member in the Loyola community. The Ramonat Seminar was introduced to me by my first history teacher at Loyola, Prof. Gilfoyle. What attracted me to the seminar is that it’s new, competitive, and follows my academic interests. Also there are some aspects of the study from the two-semester course that relate to my background story that enthusiastically motivated me to apply. The skills and insight of the seminar will undoubtedly serve my career regardless of the direction I am heading. It should be the experience of a lifetime.

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Bianca Barcenas
Major: History
Minor: Rome Studies
I am a Sophomore from Portland, Oregon, a land of delicious coffee and green trees.  History has been my passion ever since elementary school, so it was no surprise that it became the subject to pursue in college.  I really enjoy researching information for papers and projects; I just love learning about historical moments and figures too much!  While studying History, I am also pursuing my love of technical theatre at Loyola through electives.  Not only will the Ramonat Seminar be a fantastic way to learn the process of major research, but this is a great opportunity to dabble in the area of Public History, as my goal is to find a career involved with museums.

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Claire Blankenship
Majors: Secondary Education and History

I am from Peoria, Illinois, which is neither a suburb nor a farm town in the center of the state (meaning I wasn’t totally shocked by the hustle and bustle of the big city, but I was definitely thankful for the variety offered!). My majors are History and Secondary Education, so I will be certified to teach any social studies class grades 6-12 (right now I’m leaning towards teaching in Middle School). I really enjoy American history in particular because I think as an educator it will be engaging for the students to be able to reflect on their world around them as it pertains to the content. My favorite historiographical type is cultural history because I think it adds a unique touch to the standardized lessons and is more inclusive of minority groups and people generally on the peripheries. My interests being what they are, the Ramonat Seminar jumped out to me as an opportunity to learn more about Catholic History (the faith in which I practice) and also to gain meaningful insight into a different type of research that will strengthen my effectiveness as a teacher. History is really dear to my heart because I think it is the lens through which people can best see the world and lead informed lives in a fun academic environment, which is something I really want to instill in my future students and something that the Ramonat Seminar will help me fulfill for myself.


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Brendan Courtois
Majors: History & Finance
The Ramonat Seminar appealed to me because of the great research opportunity it provided. The topic of nineteenth-century Catholic Immigrants to Chicago is interesting due to the dramatic changes that took place in Chicago during the nineteenth century – primarily being the change from a small settlement to the third largest city in America.  I am very interested in how people view their place in history, this seminar and topic allows me to attempt to look at how catholic immigrants saw themselves and their environment. This is important because it humanizes events that occur in this time period and it ties us closer to the past, permitting us to observe the full impact of events in the past. I’m grateful for this opportunity and excited to see what my research turns up.
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Andrew Kelly
Major: History
Minor: French Language and Literature
I am a native of Oak Park, Illinois.  My attraction to the Ramonat Seminar and its ever pertinent central topic of Catholic immigration to the United States emanates from a more general interest in American religious history and the formation of the republic’s Roman Catholic Church. Subjects of particular interest to me include both the history of the Society of Jesus within twentieth century Chicago and the integral role of the Catholic immigrant in the development of the city’s economy.


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Shannon Koelsch
Major: History
Minors: Latin American Studies and Spanish

I am a junior from Westfield, IN. Though I have spent the majority of my life in Indiana, my parents are originally from Chicago, and it was always my goal to attend college in the city. I have always loved reading, writing, and learning about different cultures, so my major and minors are perfectly suited to my interests, and have helped me discover specific topics that I am passionate about. Two of these subjects are religion and immigration, themes that this year’s Ramonat Seminar certainly examines in detail. In that sense, the class strongly appealed to me from both an academic standpoint as well as a more personal one, as both sides of my family are Catholic and from Chicago. I am looking forward to the experience of taking a yearlong class, and am also excited by the opportunity to do independent research and writing.

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Susie Heissner
Major: History
Minor: Art History

I’m a junior at Loyola Chicago from a small town named Hingham on the South Shore of Massachusetts. I am a history major minoring in art history, so along with various other topics I am excited to explore the artistic achievements present within the time period that our class is examining. Having grown up in a suburb of Boston in a very Irish Catholic household, I feel as though I’m a product of 19th century Catholic immigration to the United States. These people sacrificed a great deal of the lives that they knew to create better ones for themselves and their families, so when I heard about this seminar I was immediately drawn to the idea of learning more about these brave individuals. Not only was the subject matter appealing to me but I was also drawn to this new research opportunity that the class provides to students at Loyola and I’m very excited to see where it will take me.


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Olivia Raymond
Majors: History & English
Minors: Theology & Leadership Studies
I was born on the East Coast in East Baltimore, and moved to Illinois when I was nine years old. I hope to purse a Ph.D in History and English, as well as publish historical fiction once I complete my bachelor’s degrees. I have a big interest in underrepresented populations, and hope to reflect their stories in my writing as well as my research. I was drawn to this seminar along those lines, as Catholic immigrant history in that time period was made up of many marginalized groups. I’m so excited to see what this year has in store for me, and the new things I can find out through the Ramonat Seminar. Be sure to follow my blog and reach out to me in the meantime.
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Maya Sheikh
Major: Psychology
Minor: History
I am currently a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago, where I plan to graduate with a Psychology major and a history minor. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but I was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My father is from Pakistan, and was raised Muslim, while my mother is also from Minnesota and was raised Lutheran. Both of my parents raised me Muslim, but I have always attended church with my mother’s half of the family. While I am excited to have the opportunity to take a year-long course and really engage with the material, I am also excited to learn more about a side of religion I am not intimately familiar with. I am confident the Ramonat Seminar will be a transformative and mind-opening experience, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.


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Dan Snow
Major: History
Minor: Theology

I come from Chicago’s far Northwest side. I am primarily interested in studying industrial and 19th century Britain, particularly from a political and military perspective. Yet I have always maintained a casual interest in the Catholic Church, and its role amongst 19th century European immigrants is fascinating. Like many Chicagoans, I can trace my ancestry to Irish immigrants who came to Chicago in the late 1800’s. In my mind, a history of these Catholic immigrants is a history of this city. For the Poles, Germans, Irish, Italians and other nationalities that built Chicago, Catholicism was a crucial part of their community. This religious legacy is still present in the churches, neighborhoods, and traditions that these early immigrants created. Studying the practices and background of the 19th century immigrants will provide a history of how Chicago was formed, and highlight the role religion can continue to play in the city’s future.

Guy Valponi
Major: Theology
Minors: Bioethics and Catholic Studies

Originally from Indianapolis, I am in the midst of my senior year at Loyola University Chicago. I currently serve as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for The Joan & Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage and work for Campus Ministry as a Sacristan for Madonna della Strada Chapel. My academic interests include religious approaches to medical ethics, as well as Christian symbolism as expressed in liturgical art and architecture. I chose to apply for the Ramonat Seminar in American Catholic History and Culture, out of a desire to widen my breadth of knowledge related to Catholicism. I wanted to take advantage of this new opportunity in order to explore thoroughly a research topic over the course of my final semester.

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