Fellows on the Path: Page 5 of 6
Fellows on the Path
For her honors thesis in history, Lauren Percy perused the logs of sailing ships in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. She was in search of sailors missing at sea during the Age of Sail, mainly 1745–1815. Her quest was to understand the emotional impact such a strenuous career had on sailors and their families.
"I found a real spark of literary culture aboard sailing ships that I did not expect," says Percy. "Often sailors would scrawl their stories on the margins of a ship’s log."
One afternoon, Percy found what seemed to be a poem about patriotism, labeled War of 1812. She took a quick photo of it and later pulled it up on her computer. It was not a poem, but the words of a dying sailor.
"He addressed the note to his 'darling son' and wrote that he was dying from a gunshot wound, covered in blood and unrecognizable. Since his wife had died, he knew his son would now be an orphan," says Percy. "I felt deeply moved by this extremely personal letter, buried away in a ship log stored in a box at the Phillips Library."
Professor Jeffrey Bolster worked with Percy on her paper. Bolster's recent book, "The Mortal Sea: Fishing the North Atlantic in the Age of Sail," won the prestigious Bancroft history prize.
"I'd get these emails from him with edits and comments on my paper," says Percy. "To have such an expert in the field work with me was an honor. And I loved his earlier book, too, "Black Jacks." Did you know that 60,000 African Americans earned their freedom by working on sailing ships?"
Her main advisor, Associate Professor Cynthia Van Zandt, has worked with Percy since her first year at UNH, when, to resolve a scheduling conflict, Percy talked her way into Van Zandt's upper-level course on Tudor-Stuart England. Since then, Van Zandt has been her "rock."
This spring at the Undergraduate Research Conference, Percy presented her research paper, "The Lost of the Atlantic."
Scheduling conflicts are the norm for Percy and she juggles them with remarkable poise. In addition to being the assistant hall director for Christiansen Hall and a ballet teacher, this year, Percy has been an active volunteer with the Miss America organization as the current Miss Portsmouth Area. Though she's from Bow, N.H., her research at the Portsmouth Athenaeum qualified her for the Portsmouth title.
In this role, Percy has volunteered at countless events from the Salvation Army Toy Store to singing the national anthem at a UNH men's basketball game. But what is most important to Percy is her platform, "Reach Higher: Making Higher Education Possible."
To promote her platform, Percy conducted numerous workshops through Residential Life at UNH. Her workshops focused on making the most out of the college experience academically and socially, how to pay for college, and career planning. As the volunteer coordinator for the 2016 UNH Career Fair, Percy helped students prepare to interact with potential employees.
During the presidential primary, Percy met with presidential candidates Carson, Clinton, Fiorina, Kasich, and Sanders. "I asked them about expanding Pell Grants and encouraging states to fund their public universities."
This spring at the Miss New Hampshire competition, Percy's "Onstage Question" was about the "brain drain" in New Hampshire. Her response: "If the legislature increases funding for USNH, then more students will go to school here and stay in the state."
In the competition, Percy was "First-Runner-Up" and "Over All Interview Winner." From her participation in the Miss America's Outstanding Teen program and the Miss America Program, Percy made $17,775. "Because of this scholarship money, I'll be graduating debt free from Columbia University's M.A. program in higher and postsecondary education at Teachers College," says Percy, who plans to pursue a career in student affairs.
Photo by Perry Smith Photography