English and history double major explores the past to build her future

June 24, 2021

When she first arrived at SFU in 2016, graduand Emma Henderson wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. But her love of historical literature and her choice in elective courses led her to the degree she will be granted this Spring—a BA with a double major in English and history with a Certificate in Hellenic Studies.

In particular, courses in Scottish Studies and English (where she wrote an award-winning paper) as well as courses from the Hellenic Studies and History Departments allowed for Henderson to explore both history and literature in an array of different departments in FASS.

“I made the decision to become a history major in 2019 while attending the HS Greece Field School,” says Henderson. “It was there that I was able to experience and learn history beyond the classroom for the first time while also travelling around Greece. After the field school, taking regular history courses and courses in Hellenic Studies further allowed me to explore my love of history and literature and started my interest in wanting to do something combining both my majors.”

In Fall 2020, Henderson completed a directed studies course with Professor Leith Davis, Director of the Centre for Scottish Studies.

“While my directed studies project was on eighteenth-century literature about Mary, Queen of Scots through the English department, I considered the project to be an incredible mix of both history and literature,” she says. “I got to examine and write about how literature affects our perception of historical figures like Mary Stuart, and how it shapes the historical recounting over the centuries. The eighteenth-century literary works on Mary Stuart were comprised of varying opinions and biases that convolute how she is remembered both in history and in the media today.”

As she gets ready to graduate, Henderson has mixed feelings due to the pandemic.

Henderson examines a first edition copy of Eliza Haywood’s 1725 novel "Mary Stuart. Queen of Scots", housed in the SFU Library's Special Collections. Henderson used the text in her directed studies project.

“I was honestly quite surprised when I got the email saying I was an SFU graduate, as I felt like remote learning had fast-tracked the last year of my undergrad,” she says, “I didn’t realize it was already time for convocation! I am sad that I won’t be going back to SFU as a student and physical learning, but I am excited to discover what my future holds for me after this whole unique experience that I am happy to call my undergrad.”

Henderson sustained some serious injuries earlier this year in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver and was unsure whether she would indeed graduate. She thanks everyone at SFU, especially her professors and classmates who supported her during this time.

“I was unable to complete the final weeks of my undergraduate studies, due to my injuries,” she says. “So many people at SFU came to assist me during this time, taking the weight off my shoulders and allowing me time to heal both physically and mentally in the early weeks afterwards. When I was able and ready to, I was eventually able to discuss my academics and the different solutions that were created based on my situation. I cannot thank SFU enough for allowing me to recover and not worry about my current and future academics during this time after putting so much effort into my studies these past few years.”

When asked about advice for incoming students, Henderson had the following to say: “Some words of wisdom? Explore the different areas of study offered at SFU as much as you can. Explore and take courses that sound interesting and that you may know nothing about. Do not be afraid for your plan to change and develop as you go; it is your degree, so shape it how you want it to be. It’s ok to change your mind as many times as you need to in the next few years. I explored various courses and found more about my interests and disinterests then I ever thought I would, and so I hope that incoming undergrads do the same and take chances like I did as well,”

What does the future hold for Henderson? She plans on taking a break and taking care of herself before beginning graduate studies in Fall 2022. The program that has caught her eye is the University of Kent’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies MA program in Canterbury, England.

“The program is interdisciplinary and includes an array of fields like history and literature, as well as others, such as architecture, languages and art, she says. “When I decided I wanted to do graduate studies, I had a hard time choosing whether to go into history or literature. Getting accepted into the MEMS program at Kent meant I didn’t have to choose between either and could become further immersed in two fields of study I love alongside other areas of learning focused on the subject as well.”

Henderson recently published this piece on the International response to the Paris Commune, as part of La Commune 2021, a free public history school commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the 1871 Paris Commune.


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