With a history teacher for a father, Maren Orchard was raised with an acute awareness of the past. But it wasn’t until she had her father as her high school history teacher that she began to be influenced by his passionate interest in the long struggle for gender equality.

Maren has explored both interests as a double major in public history and women’s and gender studies during her time at Ball State. While her double major has kept her busy in the College of Sciences and Humanities, she’s also been an advocate for the Honors College, through which she received funding for an internship at International Women’s Air & Space Museum in Cleveland. That internship proved pivotal in establishing her education and career goals, she said.

“The Honors College is what made me choose Ball State. It’s been the thing that has defined my college experience, and I can’t imagine having not had the Honors College,” the Muncie native said.

Maren, who receives her bachelor’s degree in May, will pursue a master’s degree in public history next fall at American University in Washington, D.C., while also continuing studies in women, gender, and sexuality. “I’m so excited to be pursuing my passion for women’s history, museums, and community engagement through public history in the nation’s capital with access to some of the best museums in the country,” she wrote on Facebook.

At Ball State, Maren served as the president of Student Honors Council, where she fostered the Honors College community to ensure students are taking advantage of benefits within the college. She received guidance from many of her professors and administrators in the college — including Barbara Stedman, director of national and international scholarships and honors fellow.

Goals and passions

“With Barb, you go over your goals and your passions, and she helps direct you toward scholarships. She’s just someone who I’ve always been able to talk to. She encourages me to follow my dreams and to not forget what’s really guiding me. She provides clarity.”

Maren with Bessie Coleman exhibit

During an internship at International Women’s Air & Space Museum, Maren created traveling museum exhibits, including one focused on famed stunt pilot Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to hold a pilot’s license.

With Stedman’s guidance, Maren received financial assistance from the Honors College to spend last summer interning at International Women’s Air & Space Museum.

She incorporated both of her majors to create two traveling museum exhibits. One focused on famed stunt pilot Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to hold a pilot’s license. The other told the story of the Mercury 13, a group of women who underwent secret testing in hopes of becoming America’s first female astronauts. Both exhibits remain in circulation at events, schools and libraries.

“I’m not sure I’ve taken that big of leap of faith before as I did for this internship. I needed to go to a city,” Maren said. “I needed to go do this internship somewhere else just to prove to myself that I could go outside my comfort zone.”

Keeping out of her comfort zone has been a trend as she spent two of her summers studying abroad. Her experiences in Italy and Greece were both made possible with encouragement and financial guidance from the Honors College. Also, in November 2017, she and the co-author of her senior Honors College thesis attended the National Collegiate Honors Council Annual Conference in Atlanta, where they led a roundtable discussion on how to create sustainable community involvement in organizations such as the Honors College.

In looking past her upcoming graduate school studies, Maren said she hopes to work at a large museum and continue to introduce people to the oft-untold history of women in America. She recalled the joy of a little girl approaching her during her internship to ask whether she, too, could be an astronaut.

Maren’s answer: “Of course you can!”