From horses to history: How one alumna found her passion at AUR
…and made an easy jump to graduate school
Hannah Hirschhorn, a 2018 graduate in Archaeology & Classics, is attending the Master’s in Museum Education at George Washington University in Washington, DC., and has internships at two Smithsonian institutions as part of her studies. Her transition to graduate school was made easy by her rigorous undergraduate studies at AUR where she developed her passion for history, even though it wasn’t her first choice.
“The first career I chose for my life was based on my interest in horses. I wanted to be a trainer and a jockey,” said Hirschhorn, who won top prizes in horse show competitions as a teenager. She tried two colleges in the U.S. for equestrian studies and had some success. However, after facing the high costs of the sport and the physical strains of being a jockey, she realized it wasn’t for her. “That’s when I decided to follow my second passion: history,” said Hirschhorn.
She thanks her younger sister, Haley, an AUR senior and soon-to-be graduate in Film and Digital Media, for encouraging her to study at AUR.
“If you have a passion for history and ancient things then Rome is definitely the ideal place,” said Hirschhorn. “You can learn about it in a book, but then you have an on-site class with the professors taking you to the Colosseum or some other ancient place and you get a totally different view.”
Her former advisor, Professor Pier Matteo Barone, recalled how Hirschhorn was particularly interested in studying ancient skeletal remains. Her capstone thesis, in fact, was on the spread of leprosy and tuberculosis in Europe from an archaeological and osteological point of view. “I was constantly impressed by her academic and personal achievements,” said Professor Barone. “Even during harder academic moments, Hannah never gave up and she found a way to solve problems asking questions and explanations to both professors and relatives. Her acceptance into graduate school means that both her academic achievements and her personal growth during these years at AUR were fundamental for her success.”
Her pro-active approach to learning and problem solving is serving her well in graduate school. “I came to realize that here at GW, the teaching style is to give students the required material and very little instruction,” said Hirschhorn. “Many of the grad students were unsure what to do with this freedom. The professors said it’s our job to do the research and find all the answers we need through our homework, readings, and projects. The professors are there to answer questions, but we need to do the project in the way we feel best suits the audience and their needs.”
Teaching to different audiences and working inside museum education administrations are the focus of her two internships, first at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center and then at the National History Museum, both in Washington, D.C. The one-year master's program is designed to prepare graduates for work as educators in museums, zoos, nature centers, and historical societies or sites, as liaisons between schools and museums, or as professionals in museum-related private and public agencies.
Hirschhorn is on track to graduate in summer, 2019. And then, who knows? Maybe horses could cross her career path in the future. Recently, a 16,000-year-old horse skeleton was dug up in Utah and a baby horse was found in Siberia, frozen 30,000 years ago. Museum findings like these will need explaining and who better for the job than a person with dual passions for horses and history.