The Una Fellowship is given each year to an outstanding woman graduate student in the field of history at UC Berkeley to “foster the spirit of inquiry and individuality” so characteristic of the woman for whom the fellowship is named, Una Smith Ross. The 2013-14 Una Fellow certainly embodies such qualities.
Agnieszka Smelkowska, a Ph.D. candidate in History, is described by one of her professors as “a particularly gifted young historian, strong in intellectual ambition with an ability to work hard and to learn fast.…This is a student who distinguishes herself in everything she does.”
Agnieszka came to the United States in 1999 after graduating from high school in Poland. She began attending college in her mid-20s and transferred to UC Berkeley in fall 2010. In 2012, she earned the B.A. with High Honors in History as well as Highest Distinction in General Scholarship.
Her undergraduate senior thesis investigated fascism in interwar Poland. Committed to an Eastern European focus in her studies, she chose to pursue graduate school at Berkeley in light of the outstanding faculty and resources here.
Smelkowska describes her dissertation topic this way: “I plan to examine the Polish justice system in the period immediately after the war. Between 1944 and 1947-8, the courts established by a decree of the Lublin Government helped to settle the most pressing grievances of the war-time period and contributed to the legitimation of the new regime in Poland. This time period is often overlooked as a mere transitory moment from the preceding violence of WWII to the subsequent violence of Stalinism. By investigating this moment of transition with the lens of justice, I hope to nuance the historical narrative of post-war Poland.”
The 2013-14 Una Fellowship was awarded at a small ceremony that included representatives of the Graduate Division and mentors and close associates from Smelkowska’s academic department. Before dinner, a striking vintage necklace that belonged to Una was placed around her neck. So bejeweled, Agnieszka sparkled throughout the entire evening.
About the Una Fellowship
The Una Fellowship is given each year to an outstanding woman graduate student in the field of history at Berkeley to “foster the spirit of inquiry and individuality” so characteristic of the alumna for whom the fellowship is named. Una Smith Ross studied history at Berkeley in the early 1900s, when women were still a small minority among both undergraduate and graduate students. Una earned her B.A. in 1911 and her M.A. in 1913. Her husband, Edward Hunter Ross, donated funds in 1971 to establish this fellowship in her memory. To highlight its importance, he attended the award’s dinner-ceremony numerous times during his lifetime.