History and Political Science Grads Reflect on Their Liberal Arts Experiences

Samantha Mazzola and Gigi Manukyan
Samantha Mazzola (left) and Gigi Manukyan

When looking back on their Woodbury careers, Gigi Manukyan and Samantha Mazzola cite the small program size and the opportunities it afforded as an essential component of their college experience at Woodbury. Gigi, a Political Science major, has focused her research on genocide, mass atrocity, and conflict resolution. This led her to work with the Center for Leadership and the Student UN, helping to bring two speakers to campus: Joseph Alexander, a holocaust survivor who told of his experience in twelve concentration camps, and historian Daniel Ohanian, who discussed the impact of genocide on Ottoman Armenians and how it shapes the Armenian experience today.

“There is nothing more powerful than hearing those stories, they will haunt me for the rest of my life. They made me realize the human, personal story behind genocide. You hear their emotion, and see the pain in their eyes.” She cites the Political Science program’s small size as well as the close connection with professors as motivators for taking her education into her own hands and mining opportunities. For these two events, she gained skills in organizing a political event. She conducted background research, made connections with speakers, coordinated efforts between clubs, and facilitated outside news media to attend and report on the event (the Los Angeles Times reported on the Joseph Alexander event). After graduation, Gigi begins an internship with the NGO Post Conflict Research Center in Sarajevo. The organization focuses on Bosnia’s nation-building and efforts to stem a resurgence of violence in the country.

Samantha cites the History program’s small size and the personalized attention she received in directed study classes as experiences she’ll always remember. “Being in such an intimate environment with classmates from very different backgrounds and perspectives really hones your diplomacy skills,” Samantha states, recalling that Woodbury’s close, interactive environment helped her forge respect for everyone in her program. She also cited an experience working in a directed study with Professor Douglas Cremer that made her college experience unique from most others.

Dr. Cremer and Samantha hold similar interests in Early Medieval Europe and Catholicism, so he crafted a class around that topic, even running the readings past Samantha for her approval. This cooperative effort enabled Samantha to direct her learning, while also benefitting from Dr. Cremer’s mentorship. After leaving Woodbury, Samantha plans to pursue a master’s degree in history and has been accepted to San Francisco State University. Her long-term goal is to help other budding historians as a community college professor.

Both Samantha and Gigi emphasize the importance of the Political Science and History majors in today’s world. For Gigi, political science encourages critical, balanced thinkers who look beyond polarizing politics and click-bait journalism. Samantha emphasizes history’s cyclical nature, and how we can’t progress as a society if we don’t understand the full, long history behind pressing issues.

Learn more about the History and Political Science programs

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