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gina balestri
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Gina Balestri

Graduation year: 2013

Major: History

Activities: Alpha Psi Omega (national theatre honor society), Phi Alpha Theta (international honor society–history), History Club

Post-grad plans: Take off a year and then attend law school

Why did you choose to attend Augustana?

My late aunt attended Augustana in the 1970s, and talked highly about the college. I went to the essay contest held in January where I listened to a presentation about the history department by Dr. Molly Todd, and I was immediately impressed. I also liked the school’s size. I knew after my first visit that I wanted to go to Augie.

Are you where you thought you’d be four years ago? 

No, I originally majored in history secondary education, but I realized early on teaching was not right for me.

Who helped you get to where you are now? 

The history faculty at Augustana is outstanding. Each and every one of the professors has shaped me in some way or another. Whether it was a reality check or supporting me in what I wanted to research, their guidance helped me become the student and person I am today. I also had a great support system from my friends here, which helped during difficult times, and offered motivation.

A peak experience?

I really cannot pick one experience. My sophomore year I had a play chosen for the Quad Cities Playwrights Festival. My junior year I was lucky enough to attend the 2012 Phi Alpha Theta Conference to present a paper. Finally, I am currently a research intern for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.

How did you use your Augie Choice?

I used it to fund my internship with the Girl Scouts.

What did you learn about yourself in these past four years that surprised you? 

I am capable of more than I originally thought. I am a shy person, but I am able to come out of my shell.

What will you miss the most?

Honestly, I am going to miss seeing the service dogs. The Viking Pups program has been a great addition to the campus, and really shows the capabilities of Augustana students. I am also going to miss the Augustana history department, my friends and the welcoming community.

Advice for the Class of 2017?

I hope that those entering Augustana next year really take advantage of all it has to offer. If they have even an inkling that they want to try something, then they should. Make the most of your time here.

"At first, all she had was a soldier’s letters. Twenty-two weeks later, before a standing room-only crowd in Olin, Gina held us spellbound as she recounted the untold story of Augustana students in WWI, from their enlistment to the battlefields of France and home again. The men of Company F marched into history and were forgotten. But thanks to Gina’s meticulous research and empathetic storytelling, they will be remembered now. Along with them, she made history."

- Dr. Lendol Calder Professor, History