2020, BA History
“To the younger students in the Honors College, I’d say to take every opportunity that is presented to you even if you don’t think that you can...You never know what other doors will open for you, so just go after it.”
— Donnelle Bodnarchuk, Honors College senior and History major/Art History minor
Finding confidence in herself, both inside and outside of the classroom, has defined Donnelle Bodnarchuk’s college experience.
Originally a Government and International Politics major, Bodnarchuk came to Mason knowing exactly what she wanted to do professionally. That was, until she took an Honors 230 class on the Crusades with Dr. Samuel Collins, where she was drawn to Mason’s History and Art History program.
“After that class, I knew I had to change my major,” she explains. It was in this moment she recalls finding a home where she felt “challenged but comfortable.”
Now a History major with a minor in Art History, Bodnarchuk continues to seek new and exciting academic opportunities. She credits the Honors College with opening the door to undergraduate research.
“The Honors College gave me the confidence to pursue research,” she says. “If I was not in the Honors College and introduced to the research process the first semester, I would not have felt like I could participate in OSCAR and do research beyond Mason as well.”
She recently participated in OSCAR’s Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP), which gave her funding for an authentic research experience under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Over the course of the semester, her research navigated how Pope John Paul II helped undermine the Polish communist state by questioning its moral authority.
Her research concluded that “His [John Paul II] 1979 visit to Poland gave Poles more confidence to speak out against the regime because of the increases morality of the Church compared to the regime."
Conducting this research was yet another example of Bodnarchuk finding confidence here at Mason. “I’ve learned to always strive to be a better writer and historian,” she says, “[…] to be more confident in not knowing what to do but knowing I have the ability to figure it out.”
Today, she works as a Research Assistant under Dr. Mills Kelly in the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. In this role, she gathers and organizes materials for Dr. Kelly’s website, Appalachian Trail Histories.
Although not in her usual realm of medieval history, the opportunity has given her room to explore new topics through her research.
Back on campus, Bodnarchuk serves as Secretary for the Honors College Recruitment Team. Her position builds upon previous experience as a Mason Ambassador and Telecounselor through the Office Admissions, which focused on outreach. A joint-venture between the Honors College and the Office of Admissions, the team gives Bodnarchuk an outlet to discuss the Honors College with prospective students and their families.
With a little less than two semesters left until graduation, she looks back on the things that have impacted her the most.
“I don’t think I have a specific moment that has been a defining aspect of my college career,” says Bodnarchuk, “I’d say it is a string of moments. I have had a lot of great conversations and interactions with my history professors that challenged me in my classes and to be a better historian. I have felt encouraged by all of them and I have learned a lot.”
Bodnarchuk is encouraged so much that she is looking to complete her Ph.D. in History after graduating from Mason.
“To the younger students in the Honors College, I’d say to take every opportunity that is presented to you even if you don’t think that you can…just go for it. You never know what other doors will open for you, so just go after it.”
In the end, Bodnarchuk will take the memories she has made at Mason with her into future endeavors. “I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to have confidence in myself and what I’m capable of.”
By Nathan Crawford