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Cassie Florian wins M.J.J. Smith History Scholarship

The scholarship recognizes Alma College’s most outstanding graduating history major and provides funding for post-graduate study.

ALMA — Cassie Florian discovered a passion for library science while studying at Alma College, when she took a spring term class on bestselling books during the early years of the printing press.

Florian will be able to pursue her passion a little more easily after being awarded the M.J.J. Smith Society Scholarship, which recognizes Alma College’s most outstanding graduating history major. The scholarship provides up to $20,000 for post-graduate study.

Florian, the daughter of Stacey Florian of Grand Ledge and Doug Florian of Grand Ledge, plans to pursue a doctoral degree at Pennsylvania State University, with a goal of eventually working as a rare books or special collections curator.

“It meant so much for me to receive this scholarship,” Florian said. “I didn’t find my passion for history until I was already in college, so I had to learn a lot in only four years. It feels great to have all of the work that I have put in these past four years be recognized by the department.”

For her senior thesis, Florian examined three women from early modern Germany and their relationship to the devil. In “From Witchcraft to Possession: Women’s Perception of the Devil in Early Modern Germany,” Florian calls into question some assumptions that historians have previously made about early modern peasants and their concern for the devil.

“Witchcraft scholarship has in many ways downplayed the concern that these people had toward the devil, and point to things such as crop failure and sickness as the root toward peasant’s accusations of witchcraft,” Florian said. “This paper, however, looks into three different women’s experiences with the devil, to show that perhaps common people were more concerned about the devil than initially credited.”

Florian plans to attend Penn State in the fall. After she earns a Ph.D., she hopes to enroll in a master’s degree program in library science.

She realized her passion for rare books while visiting the special collections libraries at Michigan State University and Calvin College while a student at Alma College.

“I am extremely thankful to the professors here who really pushed me to become a better historian. I definitely would not be worthy of such an amazing scholarship without their guidance,” she said.

Story published on April 20, 2020