Sac State, and here's why: Rachel Wolff
June 15, 2023
When health challenges forced Rachel Wolff to return home to the Sacramento area after just one year of college out of state, she was certain where she would continue her studies.
"My grandpa, he was one of the first students on the permanent campus," Wolff said, referring to Sacramento State, which began operations at its then-new site in 1953. "He was in the Education department, and then my mom was in the Physical Therapy program."
Wolff became a third-generation alumna when she earned her undergraduate degree in History in 2021. Now a Master's in Public History student, she's already making her mark on the historical records.
Wolff's high school AP History class sparked her interest in the subject, and she enjoyed the challenge of tapping into her curiosity and making connections with people in the past.
She has appreciated the variety of courses in the University's History program and faculty who challenge students to think critically.
"That's one of the challenges to being a student with a disability, and I think one of the reasons that I wanted to be a historian – helping other people feel like they saw themselves and their identities reflected. -- Rachel Wolff
She is using that as part of the Capital Campus Public History Program, a partnership with the National Parks Service, in which students get hands-on experience with the National Historic Landmark (NHL) process.
Wolff is part of the team updating the NHL listing for Sutter's Fort so that it better reflects Native American experiences relative to that Sacramento landmark.
"When the nomination for it was first written, it was really focused on Sutter, and it told a really one-sided narrative," said Wolff, who also works at the California State Railroad Museum. "But now historians have a much different perspective on Sutter, and Western history in general."
Wolff also has an interest in immigrant, environmental, and disability history. The latter subject is personal: She was born with ulnar malformation – an underdeveloped arm – and said individuals with disabilities are not well-represented in the history books.
"That's one of the challenges to being a student with a disability, and I think one of the reasons that I wanted to be a historian – helping other people feel like they saw themselves and their identities reflected," she said.
At Sac State, Wolff also has worked as a peer advisor, and in addition to exploring careers in the history field is considering staying in higher education after she graduates in May, when presumably her mom and grandpa will be in the audience.
"They think it's really cool, especially my grandpa," she said. "He'll tell anyone that I went to Sac State like he did."