UMSL history major looks to continue research into late antiquity in grad school

Audri Adams, history major and honors student

Audri Adams’ lifelong interest in people – of all times and places – motivated her choice of major at UMSL, where she earned a BA in history this past fall along with honors college and writing certificates. She’s now applying to graduate school as she pursues a career in teaching and research. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Just days away from finishing her undergraduate degree last month, Audri Adams wasn’t yet breathing a sigh of relief or throwing a party.

“I actually still have a lot of papers that are due this weekend, and I have work the next week, so I will mostly be writing,” she admitted over coffee in Café TJ during her final finals week at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

She said it with a smile, though, because writing happens to be one of her favorite things to do. And she’s certainly done a lot of it during her time at UMSL, where she transferred in as a history major and Pierre Laclede Honors College student two years ago.

“History has combined everything that I like most,” Adams said of her chosen field. “I get to teach, I love studying people, I love writing – it combines it all into one.”

With graduation looming, she credited her professors with helping to grow her expertise in each of those areas. Associate Teaching Professor Peter Acsay, who taught her senior history seminar, was particularly instrumental as she refined a nearly 30-page examination of Anglo-Saxon England this past fall.

“It’s just really neat to see, especially at UMSL, how involved all of the faculty are with their students,” Adams said. “Professor Acsay knows so much about so many different topics, and he’s helping us all so much. I want to be able to do that with students as well.”

The way Adams’ eyes lit up as she described her most recent research into Christianity’s permeation of the British Isles in the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries suggested that a similarly engaging approach will indeed characterize her own classroom one day.

So did her obvious enthusiasm for the courses she’ll be helping UMSL’s Rob Wilson teach as a TA for the honors college this spring while she anticipates the results of her applications to graduate school.

“We’re doing a conspiracy-theories class and then also history versus Hollywood, looking at a lot of movies critically,” Adams said. “I’m getting great experience for grad school. We’ve been updating the syllabi, and I’ve been doing research to help find certain readings that we’re going to do.”

Meanwhile, she’s applying to Saint Louis University as well as UMSL’s graduate program in history. Both are intriguing possibilities, she said, for various reasons, and she’s “just kind of seeing what happens” as she explores both options.

Eventually she hopes to go overseas to be closer to the focus of her research into late antiquity – and many of the primary sources that can further enhance those explorations.

But even as an undergrad at UMSL she’s already got lots of primary and secondary research under her belt, with UMSL Libraries’ database subscriptions bringing many of those resources within digital reach.

One such resource she examined from afar for her senior seminar paper involved ancient burial sites in East Anglia. She used it to shed light on the ways both pagan and Christian influences were present in the early Anglo-Saxon period as the Romans left and Germanic tribes arrived in England.

“Under pagan practices, grave sites were usually circular, and they weren’t individualized,” Adams explained of her findings. “You see that a lot more, more of a layout, in Christian graves. You also see west-east orientation, because it has to do with the rising of the soul. And then you also have cremation in paganism, and back then of course, in the early Christian church, you could not be cremated.”

Additionally, her paper looked closely at sources from art and literature, such as Beowulf and the Venerable Bede as well as the architecture of the period.

“Together, it paints a really vibrant portrait of how society was changing then,” Adams said. “And I really like it, because you’re getting to look at more of a common person’s perspective – people in general, not always just the higher-up people. It shows everything.”

Her long passion for studying past civilizations is only rivaled by her interest in being a teacher, Adams added – and with her UMSL degree now in hand, she’s eager for her next step toward her ultimate goal.

“Ever since I was little, I would always make my younger sister play school,” she said. “And growing up I’ve always wanted to teach at different levels. Now I’m kind of finally settling on teaching at the college level so that I can still do research, too.”

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