Knights of Distinction Student Highlight: Rachael Rothstein-Safra

The Knights of Distinction Program is designed to help students connect the dots between their experiences in the classroom and those outside the classroom. The program encourages students to set post-graduation goals and develop a plan to meet them.

Knights of Distinction emphasizes the importance of participating in integrative experiences that allow students to draw on lessons learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations in order to gain valuable skills that can be adapted to various workplace environments such as problem solving, teamwork, and communication. Students have opportunities to work with faculty mentors, participate in professional development workshops, and develop job-launching materials including a professional ePortfolio to help them tell their stories effectively to future employers or graduate/professional schools.

When students participate in integrative experiences, the connections they make along the way can have a profound impact. Read more about one Knight of Distinction student, Rachael Rothstein-Safra, a senior history major, as she reflects on her college experiences, involvement in the Orlando community, and future plans. She is currently completing her Honors in the Major thesis.

Rachael participated in an excavation in Filyos, Turkey (pictured above).

How did you determine your major? Did you change majors while at UCF?

Originally, I was interested in international relations, but at Seminole State College I took a history course with Professor Steinhaus and her enthusiasm sparked my initial interest! I greatly treasure the time I spent at Seminole State; I believe I owe a lot of my progress as a student to the efforts of the professors there. I have actually met history students here at UCF who were also inspired by her and the other professors at Seminole State.


In what ways are you involved in the UCF community outside of class?

Outside of class, I was an editorial intern with the Florida Historical Quarterly in spring 2016. I am also the event coordinator for the History Honor Society Phi Alpha Theta. Currently, I am founding an organization called “It’s History, It’s Poetry” with two fellow classmates and continuing to write my Honors in the Major thesis. My thesis is titled “The Rhetoric of Transgression: Constructing Female Authority through Wu Zetian’s Legacy.” When I get the opportunity, I also present research at local history conferences. One of my favorite experiences outside of UCF happened this past summer when I traveled to Filyos, Turkey and participated in an excavation! Next summer, following my graduation, I will be returning to Turkey to work at a new archaeological site.


What person or group had the biggest influence on you as a student? Why?

Rather than one person or group, I believe many of my professors have ultimately helped me to not only grow as a student, but also as a future historian. I owe where I am today to the culmination of their efforts as educators. I feel tremendous appreciation and gratitude to the entire UCF History Department, as well as the History Department at Seminole State.


What makes you stand out from your UCF peers?

This is one of the harder questions! Rather than focusing on standing out from my peers, I am always hoping to meet people who are like myself. When I meet another history student who is also undertaking undergraduate research or loves Chinese history, it feels like I am connecting with the UCF community. I believe I am lucky, as I am surrounded by peers who share in many of my endeavors and struggles. So, while I could list a reason as to why I might stand out, I have always found that to some degree I share these qualities with my fellow students and that I am happy to uncover this commonality with others.


What has been your most meaningful experience as a UCF student so far?

I believe working with the Florida Historical Quarterly was one of my most meaningful experience thus far! As an undergraduate student, especially as I study Chinese history, it is difficult to connect my historical research beyond paper. During my time working with Dr. Lester and Dr. Murphree at the FHQ, I was able to cultivate skills for journal editing and learn what constitutes a solid piece of research in the historical field. I will be able to apply the knowledge I gained from this internship with the skillsets I have been developing in my coursework. By cultivating the various skills required of a historian, it is my hope to contribute to a meaningful endeavor within Chinese historical studies in the future.


What are your plans when you graduate?

When I graduate in fall 2017, I will be applying to graduate programs for Chinese history to continue my education. It is my long-term goal to eventually gain acceptance to a doctoral program. However, prior to starting a graduate program I am planning to either travel to China or participate in a language program in the spring to further my reading and speaking proficiency in Mandarin. During the summer, as I mentioned earlier, I will be returning to Turkey to excavate!


What is your favorite part of being a UCF Knight?

My favorite part of being a UCF Knight is being a part of the History Department. The department is small, but intimate, and because of this I have gotten to bond closely with my peers. I have also found multiple mentors in the department, all of whom I admire greatly. I believe once I am no longer at UCF, it will be my professors and being surrounded by fellow history students on a daily basis that I will miss the most.