History alumna creates fund to support undergraduate research in the humanities

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — With a $25,000 personal commitment, Penn State history alumna Liz Covart and her husband, Tim Wilde, have created the Liz Covart and Tim Wilde Humanities Institute Undergraduate Research Fund in the College of the Liberal Arts. The gift has secured matching support from Wilde’s employer, Google.

Formed in 2017, the Humanities Institute at Penn State is dedicated to promoting the social value of the humanities through scholarship, research, lectures, conferences and public events. Covart and Wilde were particularly interested in the institute’s newest student research initiative, Re-envisioning Undergraduate Research in the Humanities, which focuses on increasing humanities research engagement among undergraduate students. The Covart/Wilde research fund will make it easier for students to participate in humanities-based research projects by supplying research materials and supplies, underwriting travel expenses, and providing other forms of support.

“It is inspiring to know that Liz and Tim understand the innumerable ways that humanities education and research contributes to the personal and professional development of our students,” said John Christman, director of the Penn State Humanities Institute. “By supporting students’ research projects in the humanities, their gift will substantially contribute to our efforts to bring work in humanities disciplines out into the world, so to speak. We know that students’ engagement with their own research projects multiplies their interest and enthusiasm in these disciplines, which are so important to confronting the challenging issues of our time.”

Covart was born in Boston, Massachusetts, but spent most of her childhood in New Hampshire. Her parents instilled in her a love of history early on by taking her and her brother on weekend trips to historic sites and national parks. When it came to choosing a college, however, Covart said her parents wanted her to get a degree in something other than history — “something that would immediately lead to a job.” Though Covart believed, and still believes, that a degree in history can lead to any number of professions, she honored her parents’ wishes by selecting labor and industrial relations as her college major. Penn State was one of only three schools in the country to offer the degree at the time.

Preferring to focus on her passion for history rather than labor and industrial relations, however, Covart did some research at Penn State’s career services office. “I found out that I could get an internship with the National Park Service, which I knew my parents would love.”

She landed a history department-sponsored summer internship with Boston National Historical Park, which led to a change in major — with her parents’ blessing — and five summers as an interpreter for the National Park Service.

In addition to enjoying her internships, Covart made the most of her Penn State experience. She played the trumpet for four years in the Penn State Blue Band and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society as well as Phi Alpha Theta, the honors society for history majors. She also led the “history roundtable,” a group of students who would invite visiting professors to speak with student groups.

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