A proud Banana Slug, Lia Winfield earned a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in History from UC Santa Cruz in 2008. As an undergraduate she won the Chancellor’s Award, Dean’s Award, Hitchcock Award and Humanities Undergraduate Research Award for her research on the North and South Carolina Regulators. In 2008 she entered the UC Davis History doctoral program and the following year received the Emile Scholz Prize for her second-year research paper on the integration of women into the U.S. Army. She was one of ten recipients of the Bilinski Educational Foundation Fellowship for her dissertation, entitled "Claiming Their Place: Women’s Integration into the U.S. Army, 1973-1989." She graduated with her PhD in History from UC Davis in June 2013 and currently works at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed, California.
Winfield first realized she was passionate about history during her first semester at UC Santa Cruz when she was fortunate to take a course with Professor Bruce Levine, whom she found to be exciting, smart, and funny. This course began to cement her interest in history. She became acquainted with the History department faculty and found them to be energetic, dedicated, and student oriented. After deciding to add an Education minor, Winfield’s career goals shifted from professional cyclist to high school social studies teach and eventually to college professor.
“Professor Marilyn Westerkamp completely changed the study of history for me,” Winfield says. After taking two of her upper division courses, Westerkamp agreed to guide Winfield through her two-quarter senior thesis. Her senior thesis focused on the North and South Carolina Regulators, two intriguing groups of people organizing just before the American Revolution, between 1763 and 1771.
Winfield began to think seriously about pursuing her PhD when Professor Brian Catlos, who had agreed to write her a letter of recommendation for History MA programs, encouraged her to apply for PhD programs. She decided to apply to UC Davis because one of the faculty members had endorsed a book that she had used as a source for her senior thesis. She was stunned when she received an acceptance letter to UC Davis from Professor Alan Taylor, whom she only knew from the quote of the back of the book.
Winfield’s interests morphed in graduate school. She took a graduate seminar on post 1945 US history with Professor Kathy Olmsted that shifted her interests. The topic of her dissertation eventually became the integration of women into the U.S. Army from 1973-1989. This topic was chosen without astute foresight of political changes but became quiet relevant to current politics when in January 2013 the law changed allowing women in the combat arms. This political change compelled Winfield to rewrite the epilogue of her dissertation to account for the changes.
Winfield says that she is “grateful for the motivation she gained from each award she has received.” In her senior year of high school she received her school’s social studies student of the year award. Her government teacher, Mrs. Mills, nominated her not only for her work in the classroom but also for her volunteer work in a polling place. Mrs. Mills encouraged her to continue to keep studying the social sciences. In graduate school, Winfield was honored to receive a dissertation fellowship from the Bilinski Education Foundation, which gave her a generous two-year grant to research and write her dissertation, making it possible to dedicate all of her time to her dissertation and to graduate in five years.
Winfield is currently working at the College of Siskiyous as a coordinator and advisor for a student support program for financially and educationally disadvantaged students. She says, “While a detour—either temporary or permanent—from history, I love working one-on-one with community college students. Moreover, the skills I gained from graduate school—everything from perseverance to critical thinking to research and teaching—help me in my current position. As someone who is self reflective to a fault, I am constantly analyzing (and judging) my goals and ultimately I strive for a career where I am helping students learn, whether it be a lesson on Malcolm X in a U.S. history survey course, how to set and achieve goals in a student success workshop, or even just how to navigate college for the first time and enroll in classes to launch a successful academic career.”