Senior Spotlight: Kaelin Hughes

by Kelly Clisham
Photo of kaelin hughes - young woman with long wavy brown hair in front of breiseth hall

Historian or Data Analyst? Why Not Both?

Hughes found a love for writing, history and data analysis that prepared her perfectly for a master’s degree in history at Duquesne University.

At her high school in Great Bend, Pennsylvania, Kaelin Hughes ’24 discovered a love for writing and journalism as her school’s newspaper content editor and contributor. That was how she found out about the Tom Bigler Journalism Conference at Wilkes University. “I didn’t know Wilkes existed before then,” she says. Soon after, she attended the conference, committed to Wilkes and was offered an Honors Program scholarship.

While writing was what introduced her to Wilkes, she wasn’t sure which path to take. “I took an Advanced Placement government class in high school, and I really enjoyed it,” Hughes says, “but I knew I didn’t want to go to law school.” She then took an introductory history class, and it all came together for her. “I didn’t realize how much I actually loved history until I took a college-level course,” she says.

Hughes ultimately chose a double-major in history and political science, with a minor in policy studies. “I took so many classes, including intro to government, comparative politics and public administration, and learned about how government works,” she says. “I learned about policy, and how to address complex problems in society, and how policy can implement change to make government better.”

Hughes also discovered a love for teaching. She served as supplemental instructor (SI) for PS 265 Quantitative Reasoning for the Social Sciences, taught by Associate Professor Ben Toll. “I was the SI for three semesters,” says Hughes. “I found it interesting how numbers could explain human behavior by using statistics to interpret data. The class was so much fun,” she adds. The course utilized IBM’s Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), an analysis, modeling and research software used widely for market and survey research.

While Hughes’ schedule was full, she still had time for other leadership opportunities and interests. She served as a resident assistant (RA), president of the Programming Board, and peer mentor and small group coordinator for the Honors Program. Hughes also traveled abroad to Scotland and Ireland on a trip organized by the Honors Program in 2023.

The Wilkes grad looks forward to her next step, a master’s degree in history at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which she hopes the will lead to teaching at the university level. “I want to be Dr. Kuiken when I grow up,” she laughs. Hughes credited Associate Professor Jonathan Kuiken and the entire history, political science and honors faculty as strong influences. “They had my back. They supported me, and they believed in me which is literally amazing,” Hughes says. What advice does Hughes have for students considering majoring in history at Wilkes? “The history program gives you a lot of versatile, transferable skills Including writing, public speaking, research and critical thinking,” she says. “You can go on to a career in law, teaching or politics. You can find a place anywhere and be able to adapt with those skills.”

Hughes’ Top Five Wilkes Faves

  • Favorite study spot: Third floor of the Farley Library, at one of those cubicle desks where you can’t see anything else, so it really puts me in the zone.
  • Favorite place to meet friends: Starbucks
  • Favorite food on or off campus: Asian Kitchen
  • Favorite classes: Democracy and Polarization with Dr. Ben Toll, and Food History with Dr. Akira Shimizu. Oh, God, I loved that class. We made pizza last semester!
  • Favorite memory: Any time I would go and talk to Dr. Kuiken

You may also like