A&S Class of '24: Civil War History, Women's Studies and Residence Life Enrich Morgan Hughes' Path to Law School

Morgan Hughes

Morgan Hughes couldn’t imagine a better place than the University of Virginia to study 19th century U.S. history and the Civil War. The Shreveport, Louisiana native believes she found the ideal complement to that course of study with a second major from the College’s Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality.

“I tell everyone it’s the best combination of majors. I think I always knew I wanted to be a history major. The University of Virginia in of itself is history, so to study that period of American history here is amazing,” she said. “I kind of stumbled into women’s studies along the way.

“As someone who grew up as a woman in the Deep South, being able to really think critically about gender and the ways that gender shaped my conception of self, the way it shapes the way other people view me, has been transformative. And I think it has gone hand in hand with my history degree, because I think with so much of history, we don't think about gender. We don't think about sexuality, and I think those two things, you can't separate them.”

As part of the Department of History’s Distinguished Majors Program, Hughes wrote a thesis on the U.S. public’s reaction to an 1886 cyclorama — a massive painting stretching across the interior walls of a large circular building — depicting the Civil War’s 1862 Battle of Second Manassas. Created by Frenchman Theophile Poilpot and a team of other artists, the cyclorama depicting a Confederate battle victory generated significant outcry when it was unveiled in Washington, D.C.

“I think it complicates the way we think about entertainment and Civil War memory, because it carried a lot of ideological significance.”

A successful competitor in regional and national moot court competitions, Hughes has accepted a spot in this fall’s incoming class at the UVA School of Law.

“When I started college, I don't think I could have told you that I was going to go to law school straight after graduating,” said Hughes, who attended UVA as a Jefferson Scholar, a four-year merit scholarship program funded by the Jefferson Foundation for undergraduate students who’ve demonstrated excellence and exceptional potential in the areas of leadership, scholarship and engaged citizenship.

“My liberal arts education has been more about the journey than the specific degree I’m getting next month. … I think majoring in history and women’s studies gave me the space to explore my interests, learn about myself, and then build those really important personal relationships with professors who then became the people who wrote my letters of recommendation for law school, read my personal statement, and gave me the support I needed when I decided to do that.”

Her most significant, non-academic contributions on Grounds stemmed from her work with UVA Housing & Residence Life. The last three years, she has served as a resident advisor, a senior resident and — for this final undergraduate year — student chair of Housing & Residence Life. The last role is usually split between two co-chairs to share the leadership load, but Hughes managed the role alone, working closely with the University’s Housing & Residence Life professional leadership while supervising 27 undergraduate senior residents and four undergraduate vice-chairs.

“It has been a challenge, but a challenge I’m glad I had,” Hughes said. “I really fell in love with working in Residence Life, more than I thought I would. I loved my residents. I loved how much I learned from them, watching them go through the University and figure out what they wanted to study and who they wanted to be. And it made me realize what I've always loved about housing at UVA is that it’s the one place where everyone is in it together. You can get really siloed into your clubs, your major and everything you're doing. But in a residence hall, there are 300 people who have to live together, and it can be purely random.

“And I've loved that. I've met the most interesting people whom I've worked with, or who have been my residents.”


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