Staffer Michael Gawlik recently caught up with Morgan Meyer (BA 2017), who spent eight months teaching first graders at an orphanage in Honduras before heading off to law school this fall.
What have you been up to since graduating?
I’ve been in Honduras for the past eight months teaching English, math, and science to first graders at an orphanage. When I wasn’t teaching or lesson planning, I was working on my Spanish and adjusting to life in a different part of the world. I learned how to hand-wash my own clothes, take cold bucket showers, and work and live in a tropical environment that had only thirty minutes of running water a day, power outages, and spotty internet.
What led you to Honduras? While there, did any skills you learned in History come into play?
I chose Honduras because of both the specific teaching program I found there and the country’s recent history with immigration to the United States. I was drawn to teaching because education has proven to be one of the most successful ways to improve living conditions, and the Bilingual Education for Central America program offered local communities ownership and input into the nonprofit’s schools, curriculum, and mission. I’ve also been seriously considering studying immigration law for a while, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to help in what little ways I could with a matter I wanted to learn more about.
My History degree was extremely helpful in designing classroom curriculum and understanding the context in which I was teaching. While I never took a history class focusing specifically on Honduras, my Latin American history courses taught me about the powerful pattern of US involvement in the region, which was typically insidious and deleterious. This allowed me to understand the importance of respecting Honduran culture, especially as an American teaching English there.
Why did you decide to major in History?
I majored in History because I have always loved reading and stories, and history, for me, is the most genuine way of studying stories from distinct people, places, and cultures. In high school, I was exposed to a touch of world history, along with American and European history, but in college I was drawn to specific areas I had never been exposed to: Russian, Latin American, American Indian, and African histories, specifically. For me, history was a way to travel to times and places that could teach me so much, plus it allowed me to spend a lot of my time reading. Additionally, I had the chance to hear lectures from world-renowned professors and feel the passion they have for their work. I don’t think I could have picked a better major.
Tell us about your favorite History class at U-M.
My favorite class was History 367, American Indian History, specifically because of Professor Gregory Dowd. Professor Dowd told us at the beginning of the term that, though our American history classes might lead us to believe that American Indians had disappeared after the Trail of Tears in 1830, American Indian history continues to the present day. We learned about American Indian participation in the Civil War and World Wars, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and American Indian activism in modern times. The class stuck with me not only because of the depth of Professor Dowd’s knowledge, but also because of how surprised I was to learn this hugely important chunk of American history left out of every textbook I had read. I had thought I learned American history in high school, but History 367 showed me I was clearly wrong about that.
You’re off to law school at New York University in the fall—do you think your time in History helped prepare you? How so?
I believe that a History degree is enormously helpful to anyone thinking about law school, because it is a discipline that requires considerable reading, critical thinking, and analysis across vast amounts of time and vastly different contexts. Moreover, during my time in History, I learned about so many of the injustices that society continues to perpetuate, which gave me the motivation to pursue a career in public interest law. I strongly believe that to make a difference, you first must understand a problem from the perspective of those experiencing it, and history provides an essential avenue to do so.