ALMA — Aubrey North, Regina Galeeva and Maxwell VanZant are the 2023 winners of the M.J.J. Smith Society Scholarship, which recognizes Alma College’s most outstanding graduating history major. The scholarships, which were awarded at a gathering of faculty and students in the Alma College history program on Tuesday, April 18, provide up to $25,000 for post-graduate study.

North, a history and anthropology double-major from St. Johns, plans to attend the University of Michigan-Flint upon her graduation to pursue a graduate degree in arts administration, with a focus on museum studies. Her ultimate goal, she said, is to work to preserve the history of Indigenous and marginalized communities in the United States.

At Alma College’s Honors Day event earlier this month, North presented her senior thesis, “Putting History into the Ether: Reflections on Two Years of the Histories and Mysteries Podcast” and “Case Studies of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).” Her project explored “the historical battle leading up to (NAGPRA) and the inevitable impact that the legislation would have and continues to have on Native communities and federal agencies.”

VanZant, a history major from Lincoln Park, plans to attend Western Michigan University upon his graduation in order to study medieval Chinese history, with a goal of further expanding his understanding of Chinese language and research. He hopes to eventually work for a think tank or research firm, having been inspired by scholars in the field of Chinese history.

At Honors Day, VanZant presented his senior thesis, “Female Representation in the Works of Marco Polo,” which “provides a new understanding of Polo’s views on women, and on the medieval European male gaze of Asian women.”

Galeeva, a history major from Ulyanovsk, Russia, plans to attend Syracuse University upon her graduation to study public administration, with an emphasis on international development and nonprofit management. Her goal, she said, is to help children in developing countries gain access to education that they would not have otherwise — a goal that was fostered through her work with Alma College’s Posey Global Leadership Fellows program.

At Honors Day, Galeeva presented her senior thesis, “Rethinking Women’s Role After World War II.” Her project examined “the impact of (women’s) labor on civic participation using a historiographical approach … through a comprehensive review of existing literature.”

The Smith scholarship is normally awarded to one student annually, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding post-graduate scholarship, it had not been awarded since April 2020. In order to make up for the lapse, the committee that decides winners elected to give the award to three students this year.

“I am very appreciative of the committee’s decision. I personally felt we were all very deserving candidates and it feels great to be chosen, and see my classmates succeed at the same time,” VanZant said. “We have very different plans for after graduation and I’m looking forward to seeing what we all do with our time, which will be a little easier thanks to this generous scholarship.”

A member of the Alma College history and pre-law faculty for 32 years, M.J.J. Smith retired in 1997. He had an influential impact on many Alma College alumni who have gone on to careers in law and business.

Maria Vostrizansky, a junior from DeWitt, was also honored by the history department on Tuesday by winning the Jean Fox Abruzzino Scholarship.