RSU History Major Presents Capstone Paper at Phi Alpha Theta Conference

  • RSU senior Olivia Neeley shows her Hillcat pride by making the recognizable “fear the claw” gesture before her presentation.
    RSU senior Olivia Neeley shows her Hillcat pride by making the recognizable “fear the claw” gesture before her presentation.

When RSU senior Olivia Neeley is bestowed her diploma at this spring’s commencement ceremony, she will hold a degree in history.

But Neeley made some history of her own earlier this semester at the Phi Alpha Theta Conference when she presented her findings about public reaction to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Phi Alpha Theta is the National History Honor Society for high-achieving college and university students. This year’s regional conference was held Feb. 24 at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

“I had the opportunity to go to the Oklahoma Regional Conference for Phi Alpha Theta members and presented my capstone paper about the American public’s reaction to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from 1945 to 1947,” Neeley said. “I’ve always been curious about nuclear energy and nuclear power, so for my capstone, I decided to go back to its origins and how the public reacted to it at the time.”

Neeley said her paper, titled “Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The American Public’s Reactions to the Atomic Bombings,” drew from a variety of sources, drawing heavily from newspaper accounts and stories at the time, and how these influenced public perceptions.

“One of my major research findings was a Gallup poll from 1945 – right after the bombings, which said that around 64 percent of Americans were ‘happy’ the bombs had been built in the first place and 85 percent of those polled supported the actual bombings,” she said. “Looking back, those statistics may surprise – even shock – us today, but given the context of the times, that makes sense.”

Neeley was doubly motivated in her presentation topic as she also holds a fascination for other cultures, notably Eastern ones.

“Last fall, I applied for a scholarship program through the Department of State where they basically allow students to learn critical languages,” she said. “I was accepted and after graduation this spring, I’ll be learning Chinese virtually through a school in Singapore. It’s an intense 8-week program, but I’m really looking forward to it. I took a year of Chinese (language) in high school and fell in love with the language, so I’m really looking forward to getting back to it.”

Neeley’s other plans after graduation include pursuing a master’s degree in global studies, a program into which she’s already been accepted at another university, but one for which she feels her time at RSU has prepared her well.

“I owe so much to Rogers State’s history and political science departments, especially Dr. David Bath and the honors program. The honors program was actually the reason I came to RSU in the first place,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had. I owe so much to them and to the university.”

Neeley is a native of Moore, Oklahoma.

Rogers State University’s Department of History and Political Science offers several associate and bachelor’s degrees to traditional and nontraditional students with multiple opportunities for degree specialization.

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