Double Major's "Magical" Experience Leads To Oxford

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If Adele “Addie” Partington ’24 needed any more validation that Dominican University of California was the best place for her to attend college, it came in the form of an email on her cell phone from the University of Oxford early one morning last month.

It notified Addie, a History and Political Science double major, that she had been selected as the next Dominican Scholar at Oxford.

“I think about it all the time. There is nowhere else I would rather be than at Dominican. I think this school is perfect for me,” says Addie. “I have my interests – like climate change activism – and those things that I’m passionate about have been supported here. I’m so glad that I came here – I kind of ended up here just magically.”

The “magic” occurred when Addie was attending Elk Grove High School and considering where she wanted to go to college. It just so happened that a friend of her mother, Heather, was Kathleen “Kitty” Laubacher ‘73, who graduated from Dominican with an Art degree. She was a History teacher who, based on her history at Dominican, recommended that Addie give Dominican a look.

Indeed, Addie and her mom, an English and AVID teacher, drove to San Rafael to check out Dominican. Kitty accompanied them on their own private tour of campus in March 2021, as most classes at that time were online.

She was the tour,” Addie recalls, smiling. “It was like we’d be walking, and she’d say `Oh, there’s my dorm room!’”

Kitty, in fact, created a notebook for Addie with a brief history of Dominican and photos of Kitty’s time at the college.

“When I was able to tour the campus with Addie and her mom I had way too many stories to tell about long, long ago. But I think I was able to give Addie a good idea of how amazing it was to be in small classes where you could raise your hand, work in groups, and get to know your instructors as people,” says Kitty, who minored in History at Dominican.

“I have stories of dinners at instructors’ homes, babysitting for my poly sci professor, dropping in for chats in their offices, having lunch with them at Caleruega Hall. The university she attends now is very different from the college I attended, and the changes have all been for the better.”

With Kitty’s help, Addie discovered that Dominican was a good fit. The School of Liberal Arts and Education offered majors and programs that excited Addie, the class sizes are small, and the campus is situated far enough from home for Addie to spread her wings yet close enough for her to drive home for a visit.

Plus, Addie felt comfortable with college life after she graduated from a Junior State of America program held at Stanford University when she was 16 years old. It was a three-week program designed to build leadership skills, teach civil debate, and strengthen engagement through volunteering and activism. At Stanford, Addie met with Stanford professors, lived in Stanford dorms, and ate at a Stanford cafeteria.

“You’re pretty much a college student,” Addie says. “I met a lot of people, and I had a good experience there and it helped me prepare for college.”

At Dominican, Addie declared History as her major. But after taking a class at the start of her sophomore year with professor Alison Howard, Addie decided to add Political Science as major.

“My advisors told me you can do a double major and still graduate in four years with two separate degrees,” Addie says. “I thought `Whoa, sounds like I’d love to do that.’”

That decision to double major was impactful in more ways than one. It introduced her to Maddie Larson ‘22, another History/Poly Sci double major who has become one of Addie’s closest friends. It also led Addie into a class with Christina Pathoumthong ’22 just after Christina had returned from Oxford following her Dominican Scholar at Oxford experience.

With Christina’s support and at the urging of Alison Howard and associate History professor Dr. Jordan Lieser, Addie applied for the Thomas and Joanne Peterson Endowed Scholarship for Dominican Scholar at Oxford. Dr. Lieser and Howard both wrote letters of recommendation for Addie.

“I was kind of hesitant,” she admits. “Alison has told me before, `You really need a little of a push to do things,’ which is true. They totally persuaded me to go to Oxford.”

In high school Addie was a little pushy, so to speak. She helped start an environmental club at Elk Grove High and became an advocate for climate change activism. When wildfires destroyed the town of Paradise in 2018, Addie joined a fundraising campaign to sell cups of ramen noodles to help victims. She was part of a protest march from her high school to Elk Grove City Hall and she spoke in front of the Elk Grove City Council asking for a city-wide Styrofoam ban. She also participated in an environmental protest at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Addie’s interests in the environment followed her to Dominican where they were embraced. That sense of community support in and out of the classroom contributed to a positive Dominican experience.

 “I’ve just really grown a lot here,” Addie says. “Obviously my professors and advisors are very influential to me. They have given me a push many times, but they are very supportive of me and that’s helped me and encouraged me.”

So much so that Addie, though a junior, already has started work on her senior thesis. Her research is focused on public memory sites, specifically museums and statues in or relating to Poland and how they contribute to the nation’s national identity. Addie, whose father, Eric, is of Polish descent, is now envisioning a scenario where she may have an opportunity to visit Poland thanks to the opportunity to travel to England and study at Oxford.

That became a reality with a wake-up email on her phone last month. Addie’s immediate reaction to discovering she had been selected a Dominican Scholar at Oxford?

“Oh my God. I sent the email to Jordan, Alison, and my parents, and told my mom `I don’t really know what to do with myself now.’”

At Oxford Addie does not yet know what area of studies she will have but suspects they will be related to History and Political Science. When she returns for the spring 2024 semester at Dominican, she will complete her senior thesis and have a better idea about her long-term goals and career aspirations.

“I might go to law school. I might get a master’s in History or Public Policy,” Addie says. “I know what I like and what I’m interested in and that will lead me down my path.”

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