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Amy Armstrong '15

Amy originally wanted to be a psychology major. But that all changed when she took a course on African American history. Taking the leap to follow her passions, Amy graduated in 2015 with a double major in History and Afro-American Studies.

Throughout her time at UMass, Amy took a creative, interdisciplinary approach to her study of history, seizing the opportunity to connect history with art, literature, social justice and more. In a course with Professor Barbara Krauthamer, for example, Amy wrote about the entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker, and used primary sources like W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Crisis”. In a course with Professor Jose Hernandez, Amy explored the historical contexts of artwork depicting the Mexican Revolution. This research enabled Amy to engage with history critically, moving beyond established interpretations. “History allows you to think freely and develop your own thoughts,” Amy explained. “You can focus on more than the assigned readings, and consider how specific facts connect to a larger context.”

For Amy, academics and community engagement go hand-in-hand. At UMass, Amy worked with the student-run collective Student Bridges, which works to increase college access and success for students of color, low income students and first generation students on the UMass campus by partnering with local schools and community groups. In a service learning course with Laura Lovett, Amy worked on an oral history project with Safe Passage, an organization that supports survivors of domestic violence in Western Massachusetts. After the course ended, she became an intern with Safe Passage, assisting with childcare and answering phone calls to the organization’s hotline. Amy was recognized for this work when she was one of four UMass students – and the first HFA student – to win the prestigious Rising Researcher award in 2014.

Thanks to her experiences at UMass, with Student Bridges and Safe Passage, Amy was able to land a job immediately after graduation with the legal firm Curran & Berger in Northampton, which specializes in immigration law. Amy works as a paralegal, assisting immigrant families with green cards and other necessary documentation. She credits the community projects she completed at UMass directly for her current job: “Service learning projects that go into the community are the best way for students to apply their knowledge. That is why I have my job now.”