Photo of Jessica Tieman


Jessica Tieman doesn’t remember the exact moment she fell in love with English literature and history. She is certain she was young–junior high age, if she had to guess. Still when it came time to declare a college major, she couldn’t bring herself to follow her heart.

“Literature and history were so special to me,” recalled Jessica, 22, of Lincoln, Illinois. “They were my passions. I was hesitant to study them because I was afraid I’d burn out.”

So instead the honor student declared a political science major, thinking she might one day work as a political aide. “I thought it would be interesting,” she admitted. “But after a while, I realized I wasn’t cut out for politics.”

What she was cut out for became clear when she returned to her first loves. Now a double major in English literature and history, Jessica spent last summer enjoying a life-changing internship at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in St. Louis.

“I worked with the B-files. They’re the records that were salvaged after a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973,” she explained. Jessica’s main task at NARA involved helping preserve decades-old military records damaged by fire, mold and water. She soon found herself drawn to other aspects of archiving.

“I really enjoyed working with the military records,” she said. “But where I could see myself (blossoming) would be more in special collection management. Procuring. Sorting. Creating. And finding aids and guides for researchers.

“Many special collections archives are found at universities,” she added. “My dream job would be at the Folger Shakespeare Library and Institute in Washington, D.C. They keep Renaissance-era documents – Shakespeare and Chaucer.”

The perfect blend of history and literature?

“It would be,” she said, proudly.

On campus, the history buff also found time to create a website dedicated to McKendree’s link to the Civil War and the 117th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers.

Jessica is the recipient of a 2013 Newman Civic Fellow award and the University’s presidential and community service scholarships. She coordinates a weekly volunteer program, helping care for children at a transitional housing center in East St. Louis and serves as a McKendree student government senator, a peer mentor and a member of the Young Feminists organization on campus.

“I truly love this school,” she said. “For me, above and beyond everything else, it’s the faculty here that makes the difference. Every teacher is so willing to go above and beyond what is required of them. So willing to give up their spare time to make a difference.

“I’ve personally gone to all my instructors for advice,” she continued. “I’m close to teachers that are psychology professors, sociology professors. Some of them have never even had me for a class. They just see me because I’m in and out of their building.”

It may have been hard deciding on a major, Jessica said, but it was easy to choose a college.

“I loved that this was the oldest school in the state,” she said, and smiled. “Because of my love of history, I was sold on McKendree from the beginning.”