Aaron Schimmel

I learned about the importance of community, and having friends who have common values and interests.

Aaron Schimmel BA '18

Degree and Class Year

BA ’18

Current City

Palo Alto, California






Greater Portland Hillel

Overseas study

St. Petersburg, Russia, Fall semester 2016

Continuing Studies

PhD Candidate in History at Stanford University

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Community, Curiosity, Exploration

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

I was initially attracted to Lewis & Clark because of the small class sizes and the sense that students and professors actually know each other, something I observed when I came to visit during the application process. I liked the idea of the liberal arts college that encourages students to take classes in a variety of fields (a feature which allowed me to switch my major from international affairs to history). Of course, Lewis & Clark’s location in Portland, and the opportunity to spend 4 years living and learning on such a beautiful campus, were factors in my decision to come to Lewis & Clark.

What have you been doing since graduation?

I spent the year after graduation as an English teach in a Jerusalem elementary school. After that I began a PhD in history at Stanford University, where I am currently working on a dissertation that focuses on Jews in the Russian Empire.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for post-college life?

My decision to do a PhD in history was a direct result of my experience writing a honors thesis for the LC History major. At the end of my junior year I was informed that I qualified for writing an honors thesis. All history majors spend one semester writing a lengthy research paper, but a number of students are invited spend two semesters writing an honors thesis. I jumped at the opportunity and spent my senior year working on this project, reading, exploring, and honing my writing through the process. As graduation approached I realized that I wasn’t done with researching and writing history, so I decided that a PhD was the right thing for me.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

The most important thing I learned at LC was outside the classroom. I learned about the importance of community, and having friends who have common values and interests.

Why did you major in History?

I had always been interested in history, but coming into college I felt that I should pick a major with an emphasis on the practicality. I chose international affairs with a number of potential career options in mind. During my Intro to international affairs course my first semester I realized that I’m actually far more interested in history, but struggled with the fact that I could not see the practicality of a history major. But, in an environment of the liberal arts which values learning for learning’s sake, I came to see that, for a college undergrad, it was more important to undertake a course of study that was in line with my interests, and that the practical side of things would materialize from there. I’ve found this to be the case.

Why did you minor in Russian?

I believe that learning foreign languages is incredibly important for creating well-rounded and worldly individuals. One of the things I appreciated about Lewis & Clark is the requirement to take foreign language courses. I came into LC knowing that I wanted to learn Russian, having been fascinated by the history of the country and enthralled by the literature. I was enchanted by the idea that I could one day read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in the original. I enjoyed my Russian classes in my first year, and decided that I wanted to continue studying, to take advantage of this opportunity to learn as much Russian as possible. The Russian minor was a natural choice.

How do you stay connected to Lewis & Clark as an alum?

I stay connected to Lewis & Clark through my friends. The friends I made at Lewis & Clark are some of my closest friends to this day. They are the people I am in touch with on a regular basis, and the people that I travel to spend time with. Though we live in different places, the friendships we made at LC are still with us.