For classics and history major Kaitlyn Coons, graduation isn’t the end of the UCLA journey

Published: May 24, 2024

After four busy and productive years, Kaitlyn Coons is about to wrap up her undergraduate experience having completed two majors and two minors. But her time at UCLA isn’t finished just yet.

In the fall, Kaitlyn will begin a postbaccalaureate in the Department of Classics, where she aims to polish her research and language skills, and continue her work in the digital humanities before applying to graduate school in history.

“I’m so excited to continue soaking up everything that UCLA has to offer,” Kaitlyn said.

Kaitlyn had always had a curious mind and multidisciplinary academic passions, so it’s no wonder that she had dual majors (classics and history) and minors (digital humanities and Latin).

She has won several awards and fellowships for her work including, most recently, the Dean’s Prize for Excellence in Research and Creativity, and the UCLA Library Prize for Undergraduate Research in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Both are for her thesis project, “William Leybourn, the Broker of Knowledge: Reconstructing an Early Modern Intellectual Network.”

Leybourn, the publisher who first printed Galileo’s work in English, has generally been consigned to history’s periphery. Kaitlyn’s paper repositions him as a central component of his era’s intellectual life, and her project used cutting-edge digital humanities software to visualize and analyze a trove of more than 120 books that Leybourn either wrote or published.

“Kaitlyn’s project is extraordinary for many reasons,” said history professor Stefania Tutino, Kaitlyn’s thesis advisor. “It is an acute and penetrating reconstruction of an early modern intellectual network, and in this respect, it provides a novel approach to studying the history of knowledge. Kaitlyn’s project also provides a brilliant example of the synergy between digital and traditional tools when approaching complex questions in humanities and social sciences.”

When she arrived at UCLA from San Diego, Kaitlyn knew there was a wealth of opportunity waiting for her. But she saw herself as an introvert and wasn’t sure if she would find chances to take on leadership roles or form lasting relationships with faculty. In the past four years, she has done both.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have been able to learn from such esteemed faculty and build such great relationships with my professors,” Kaitlyn said. “I think it’s a testament to UCLA and the faculty’s commitment to their students.”

That support helped Kaitlyn feel prepared to take risks, even when there was a potential to fail — something she had never been comfortable doing. And as she became more at ease in her home departments, she wanted to share the sense of community she found with other students.

Kaitlyn serves as co-president of the Classical Society at UCLA and Eta Sigma Phi, the national classics honor society. She also is the president of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, and serves on the History Department’s Undergraduate Advisory Board.

“Not only did I want to be a part of the community, I wanted to start building inclusive, accessible communities myself,” Kaitlyn said. “Coming in as such an introverted student, I think I’m most proud of seeing my progression from being just a participant to being a leader in my communities.”