Before she decided to pursue a graduate degree in history, Samantha Edgerton worked in the disability and insurance industry for 18 years.
“I was hesitant to start a master’s program because of my age,” Edgerton said, “but my adviser encouraged me to not let that prevent me. It has been a dream of mine to finish my degree and to actually be able to call myself a historian,” Edgerton said. “While it has been incredibly difficult, so many people encouraged me not to quit.”
Her educational journey began after the birth of her youngest child: she decided to go back to school and enrolled at WSU Vancouver, where she first met the history professor who is now her graduate adviser, Laurie Mercier.
“This entire process has been very rewarding, exceedingly difficult, and the intellectual community has helped me grow as a scholar and person,” Edgerton said. “History is so important because it can be connected to contemporary issues and lives in the ongoing events of today.”
Now a second-year doctoral student at WSU Pullman, she is also serving as vice president for the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA). When the opportunity presented itself to run for GPSA with Jenn Johnson, a doctoral candidate in WSU’s School of the Environment, Edgerton thought it would be a good time to pursue the position.
The first year of graduate school was the most difficult. Edgerton said financially there were times where she thought she would have to quit and psychologically where she felt incredibly selfish. “There were no daycare spots available anywhere and the Pullman Montessori was very expensive,” she said.
After the first year, the situation began to improve for Edgerton and her family. Her husband began a job at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and has been involved in the Pullman community, and their son has also found a great community at the elementary school.
Her dream goal is to be a professor at a community college because that is where her journey started with a women’s studies professor, she said. Her family members are also avid students of history.
“Everyone has their specialty,” she said. “My brother loves the Civil War era, and I love early modern England, specifically the Tudor era.”
Her academic focus is on violence against women and gender, race, ethnicity, social movements and popular culture. In summer 2019, she began working on the WSU Fallen Cougars project with Ray Sun, associate professor of history.
“The purpose of the project is to create biographies of all former WSU Cougars who died in World War II,” Edgerton said. She created 17 biographies and gave a public presentation last Veteran’s Day at the Pullman Depot Heritage Center.
“This was such an amazing experience and there were times where I’d be sitting there reading a letter from a mother and was so overcome with emotion. These young men had their entire lives ahead of them,” she said.
During Edgerton’s free time, she loves spending time in the outdoors and traveling and she has made a few lifelong friendships that keep her going in academics.
Ryan Booth, a fellow history graduate student, said Edgerton “is one of the hidden gems of the graduate student programs. I keep secretly hoping that Samantha will come to our side and join military history. She really brings a different perspective to it.”
Sam Fleischer, another of Edgerton’s classmates believes “Samantha is much more talented and insightful than she will ever admit to herself, and she is going to be a great historian.”
Top photo: Samantha Edgerton helped create 17 biographies for the WSU Fallen Cougars project.
By Jenae Laxson, Daily Evergreen