PRAIRIE STARS ON THE MOVE: KATIE BRETHORST

Photographs courtesy of Giang Nguyen

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UIS is home to many talented and dedicated Prairie Stars with varying interests and exciting accomplishments. One student in particular who has made UIS and Springfield a part of her passion for public history is senior Katie Brethorst. Katie is originally from Carlyle, IL and decided to attend UIS for a variety of reasons. “The scholarship was a big part of my decision and the fact that it was close to home so I could come back whenever I needed to. My mom was also a legacy student, even though she didn’t tell me until after I was accepted.”

Katie came to UIS with the hope of becoming an English teacher, but she soon realized that teaching wasn’t right for her. “I wasn’t as good at grammar and realized I was more interested in the story than the language aspect of English studies. I was also working at the Dana Thomas House as a volunteer and realized telling other people’s stories was something I was very passionate about.” She then decided to change her major to history.

On top of balancing classes and working a variety of different jobs on and off campus, Katie also enjoys participating in UIS Theatre. She has performed in John Cariani’s Almost Maine, Luigi Pirandello’s Six Character in Search of an Author, and will grace the stage for a third time this semester in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Katie’s professional experience within her field has grown over the four years she has attended UIS. Her interest in history began when she took a class trip to the Dana Thomas House. She was mesmerized by the experience and quickly decided to volunteer after learning more about the house and Susan Lawrence Dana. During her time there, she volunteered a total of 200 hours and was inspired to write a play entitled Through the Eyes of the Butterfly about Susan Lawrence Dana. Katie felt deeply connected to Susan while working there and even described her as a kindred spirit. She started working at the Dana Thomas House in the summer of 2018 and performed a selection of scenes from her play in the STARS Research Symposium the same year. While she is no longer working at the house, her interest in Susan has remained constant, as she is planning to write a biography on Susan in the future.

After saying goodbye to the Dana Thomas House, Katie began working for Fever River Research as an archeology tech to uncover artifacts reported. What were thought to be brothels were instead homes of courageous families and children. The experience was a great form of hands on research for Katie and she made many exciting discoveries, her favorite being an engraved gold wedding band.

Katie’s most recent and exciting accomplishment was working on the research team for the Sangamon Experience and helping bring together an interactive, educational exhibit celebrating the history of the Sangamon area for UIS students and members of the community. Katie is currently working on finding data for the Sangamon Experience website and set to graduate with honors in May. She is also hoping to work with other local historical sites around Springfield for the summer and planning on pursuing graduate school here at UIS in the fall with a focus in public history. from a 1908 race riot Site. The site featured five different African American homes and Katie was astonished to discover that the artifacts they uncovered told a very different story about the families than the media had