Archivist in Training
Samantha Lechowicz ’20 couldn’t believe her eyes. The thin piece of paper she held seemed ordinary, but the neat handwritten note and signature were anything but.
Working as research interns and librarians at the Peoria Women’s Club, Lechowicz and Jasmine Guadarrama ’20 were trying to bring order to boxes of material at the venerable institution founded in 1886.
“We were going through correspondence, a bunch of minutes and attendance lists. Then I picked up a piece of paper that said, “From the desk of Lydia Moss Bradley.” It was a letter from her in 1893 confirming that she would give the club $5,000 to buy the building.
“I should’ve been wearing gloves, but we had no idea,” she said.
Lechowicz, a double major in English and psychology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, has benefited from steady faculty support and generous research and presentation opportunities since she was a freshman. She’s traveled to three professional conferences and been a guest speaker on her research on the Equal Rights Amendment for various groups and on a public television show.
For Associate Professor of English Timothy Conley’s Research in Individual Disciplines class, Lechowicz began researching the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Illinois. After consulting with Amy Scott, associate professor of history and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, Lechowicz narrowed her focus to the coverage of the amendment in the Peoria Journal Star newspaper.
“I think for any researcher, refining the topic is the hardest. Every time I talked to someone about the topic, they asked more questions and I wanted to enlarge the scope of the project, but I knew I needed to streamline it,” Lechowicz said.
She spent many hours at the Peoria Public Library, learning how to use microfilm as she did close reading analysis on more than 80 newspaper articles on the ERA’s fate in Illinois. Her first presentation was at the Scholarship Expo in April 2018.
Lechowicz, who came to Bradley on a cross country and track scholarship, grew up in Palatine, Ill., the oldest of four children in a tightknit family. She comes by her talent for multitasking and organization honestly. “My parents kept track of our schedules with a spreadsheet,” she said.
She credits her mentors — Scott, Conley and Distinguished Professor of Psychology Emerita Claire Etaugh— for her research and internship opportunities.
She will enter the master’s program in Library Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign next fall, hoping to become an archivist.
“I realized, ‘Where do you start when you have to do research? You start at a library. If you’re stuck, ask a librarian.’ Besides all my research, I’ve worked at a library and loved it. So I thought, ‘Hold on — this could be your life.’”
Scott was impressed by Lechowicz from the start. “She’s the most energetic student I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “She’s able to take on so much and still excel at everything she does. She comes from a place of generosity and support for her peers. She lifts other people up. She has a seize-the-day mentality.”
“Some students just take your class. As part of class, they do a project. Others, you can tell, have a spark for research.”
— Mary Brolley