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Cultivating a Childhood Dream of History

April 18, 2018

Winona, Minnesota native Jane Sonneman developed a special appreciation for history from a young age. She grew up in an explorative family, which meant bustling across the country from historical site to historical site. “We used to go on family road trips to all sorts of different historical locations. I think, in a way, my exposure to these sites really influenced my love of history,” Sonneman reflects.

Pursuing Her Passion

In college, her passion grew into a solid career aspiration. Sonneman remembers her academic advisor asking whether she was sold on a degree in history. Her answer: “I have been in love with history since I was 10; I know I want to do this.”

Sonneman already has plenty of experience taking her passion for history beyond the classroom. She works in the University of Minnesota Archives at Andersen Library, where she performs everything from registering research to work on archival collections to organizing and cataloging the University archives. She has also worked at the Winona and Minnesota historical societies, digitizing and transcribing historical documents and audio recordings. “It is really important work maintaining these historical materials,” she says. “In a sense, these works are the living, breathing embodiment of our society’s collective memory.”

Sonneman even kept her archival work alive when she spent her entire junior year learning abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she joined the local university history club. The club gave her the chance to take part in historical lectures and access to  archival materials at the local historical society. Living in the city also allowed Sonneman to visit multiple historical landmarks.

A Scholarship for Success

Upon returning to Minnesota, Sonneman learned about the Chorn Family Scholarship, a new and prestigious award that “recognizes the important role that historians have as storytellers and seeks to break financial barriers that may serve as obstacles to student success.”

“I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I had won the scholarship,” Sonneman says. The funding took off some of the financial pressure she was under from student loans and studying abroad, giving Sonneman valuable flexibility in her working hours and academic studies. “It was the security blanket I needed before embarking on the journey of grad school.”

Sonneman graduates in spring 2018 and has recently accepted an offer from the University of Maryland to participle in their dual master’s degree in history and library science. She hopes to one day fulfill her dream of being an archivist for the Walt Disney Company.


This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.