History Major Profile: Star Irizarry '16
By Emily Hollenbach '18
Star Irizarry ’16 will graduate in May, but her research as a historian
is just beginning. With the help of a fully-funded acceptance to graduate
school, Ms. Irizarry will pursue her interest in the French Revolution and
her goal of becoming a college professor.
Q: Can you provide details about your plans for graduate school?
A: I was accepted into Johns Hopkins University's Ph.D. program for History
with full funding. Although I'm still waiting to hear back from all the schools
I applied to, Hopkins is my dream program so it will more than likely become
my home! At Hopkins, I'll analyze gendered perceptions of Robespierre over
time. I hope to hone my research, master French, and learn all I can from my
advisors, whom I respect immensely. Once I graduate, I intend to teach at the
Q: What made you want to study History? And what time period or genre do you specialize in?
A: I owe my interest in history and my academic success to my 8th grade history teacher, Mr. Jayson Pope. When I met him,
I was struggling a lot personally, gravitating towards the wrong people, and at risk of becoming a burnout kid. He believed in
me and my potential when no one else did, and sparked my interest in history by getting me into Alexander Hamilton and
colonial America. My research interests have shifted since then, but I still owe him the world! My specialization within History
is revolutionary France. My research deals with the legacy of Maximilien Robespierre and the ways in which he's represented
in both popular and academic history.
Q: Which professors have influenced you the most at Marist?
A: The entire Marist History department has taught and offered me so much. They are an incredibly passionate,
knowledgeable, and selfless group of people. I did an independent study on the French Revolution with Dr. Michael O'Sullivan
last semester in which he assisted me with the writing sample I submitted to graduate school. He also offered me advice on
my application and helped me find programs I would be interested in. Essentially, he became my grad school advisor and
without him, I would never have gotten into Hopkins.
Dr. David Woolner has been my advisor since I transferred to Marist my sophomore year. I've taken several classes with him
and his faith in my abilities has been apparent since day one. Thanks to him, I've had the opportunity to attend a Ken Burns
gala in New York City and volunteer for the Winston Churchill Archives in England. He is one of the most interesting and
intelligent people I've met and has the best stories!
Finally, a member of the English Department, Dr. Stephen Mercier, was my professor the first semester after I
transferred to Marist. His kindness and his faith in my writing ability encouraged me immensely and helped me
feel welcome at Marist. He's always helped me out and offered me everything. His beautiful letter of recommendation
was another factor that helped me get into Hopkins!
Q: Are there any other academic or personal achievements that you’d like to mention?
A: I was fortunate enough to study abroad in London, England the spring semester of my junior year. While I was
there, I interned for a member of Parliament which, while trying, was a unique experience not many people get to
have! I'm also proud of the preparation I've done for doctoral candidacy by accumulating research on my blog, reading
any and all sources I could find on Robespierre, and enrolling myself in all available coursework.
Q: What is one significant lesson you learned at Marist that changed or influenced you as a person?
A: I’ve really felt as if Marist has helped me learn to love and embrace my differences for the first time in my life.
As a bi-racial woman, I'm obviously pretty different from the vast majority of the Marist community. At first, that
difference frightened me as well as alienated me from the rest of the campus. But eventually, I learned that there
was nothing I could do to change my differences, so I may as well learn to embrace them! I'm proud to be a queer
person of color, and Marist helped me realize that pride by placing me in a situation where I was forced to either
love my differences or suppress them. Luckily, I chose the former!