Brigham Young University has become one of the most prestigious and competitive universities in America and I was fortunate to attend it as an undergrad. While I experienced a rigorous, challenging, and rewarding academic experience — ultimately earning a BA in History and a Minor in English — the most valuable part of my education was my campus employment, which gave me hands-on experiences in real-life situations.

My first two years, I worked at KBYU Television, where I wrote and produced 50 television spots, assisted with pledge drives, and made the first Membership spots for BYU Television, which aired internationally. My last two years, I worked as a research assistant for a Church History professor, helping with two books and six articles on topics related to the American West. I am indebted to these employers who trusted me to make major contributions to their work, thereby helping me learn new skills and develop my talents.

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For my Senior Paper, I demonstrated the value of two Mormon immigrant databases by using them to write about the immigration experience of my great-grandfather, William Blake.

  1. Mormon Immigration Index — a database containing journals and ship logs of 93,000 immigrants who traveled to the United States between 1840-1890.
  2. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel — a database containing historical records of the overland journeys of Mormon immigrants between 1847-1868.

William Blake came to America as a teenager during the Civil War and experienced the dangers of traveling through a war zone — both on land and on sea. In later years, he wrote a brief account of his immigration experience, detailing the route his family took and highlighting a few noteworthy experiences along the way. By interviewing two of my great-uncles, who knew him as children and were familiar with family oral tradition, I was able to expand upon the story.

Next, the Mormon Immigration Index and the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel databases provided invaluable contextual information that helped me gain a more complete understanding of his harrowing experience. In the end, his story contains all the drama, action, and suspense of a Hollywood film.

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