Konstantin Wertelecki '13: Cambridge-Bound Badger
Brand-new alumnus Konstantin Wertelecki is taking his Spring Hill education global. Instead of basking at the beach this summer or catching up on the latest movies, Wertelecki is packing a few suitcases for his next big adventure—a year in England.
The 2013 summa cum laude graduate was born in San Diego, Calif., spent vacations with his family in France, and heads off this September to begin graduate work at the University of Cambridge, just an hour north of London.
Wertelecki, a history major, says his admission to Cambridge—an exhaustive three-step process—was a nerve-wracking experience. “I did research on the acceptance rates. One of the statistics I found stated that only 2 percent of applicants are allowed into the program,” he said.
Dr. Patricia G. Harrison, Wertelecki’s advisor at Spring Hill, is quite proud of his accomplishments. “It was a pleasure to have Konstantin in my classes. He always asked interesting questions and contributed much to our discussions,” Harrison said. “Konstantin is an excellent, enthusiastic, well-rounded history student who will make the most of his opportunity to study at Cambridge.”
Wertelecki’s graduate work will involve an intensive 12-month program in modern European history. “The first two semesters are class-based,” he explains. “The last is pure research. Students who complete the program are awarded a master’s degree in philosophy.”
Post-Cambridge, Wertelecki’s plans include pursuing a Ph.D. His passion lies specifically in examining the lives of British citizens in Italy from 1939 to 1943. “I want to look at the impact of the war’s outbreak and the consequences of living under a Fascist regime,” he explains. “Why were the British in Italy? Why did they stay? I’d like to know how the British felt about their homeland while living in another country.”
While completing his academic programs, Wertelecki will continue to weigh many long-term career options, most of them involving TV, radio, or film. “Media makes history accessible to everyone. It enlivens everything,” he says. “I’d love to become a historian for a television network or an advisor for historical movies.” Wertelecki cites The King’s Speech as one of his recent favorites on the big screen.
“The accuracy of a time period, the depiction of society is so important. I’d love to help actors understand the dynamics, emotions, and idiosyncrasies of certain cultures versus today,” Wertelecki adds. “What would a house look like? What would you be wearing? What would be going through your mind?”
Wertelecki says he knew Spring Hill was the perfect place to begin his college studies. “Spring Hill was my first choice. I loved the small class sizes, the beautiful campus. I really liked the college’s commitment to service.”
He says there was never any doubt he wanted to major in history, but added a minor in theater, and later added another minor in French because he loves languages.
“Spring Hill has such a strong, talented faculty. My professors were always encouraging, very helpful—the type of faculty that doesn’t say no. They’ll support you all the way,” Wertelecki says. “Also, the liberal arts curriculum here teaches you how to think differently. It was so helpful to me in narrowing and focusing in on a career choice.”
Before his graduation in 2013, Wertelecki participated in the Spring Hill Student Government Association, Student Alumni Ambassadors, French club, as well as many campus music and theater productions. Alabama Legal Services, Wilmer Hall Children’s Home, and an ESL (English as a Second Language) program were among Wertelecki’s service projects.
His accolades at Spring Hill include the Distinguished History Scholar Award, presented to senior who is most likely to make important future contributions in the field of history. Wertelecki also received the Howard Smith Award, given to the outstanding history major in the junior class. He was a member of Phi Sigma Iota Language Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta, the international history honorary society, and Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit honorary society.
Cambridge is one of the world’s leading universities. Founded in 1209, it has 12,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students. It is located in the city of Cambridge, which is 51 miles north of London, 45 minutes’ journey time by train.