Julia Wagner, left, with Peggy Citarella. Below left, Julia on a ship at the Charlestown Navy Yard when she presented her research there this past summer.
English major Julia Wagner ’18 of South Burlington, VT, learned this week that her research about a pioneering World-War II-era female shipyard welder with Saint Michael’s connections, Peggy Citarella, has been accepted for the prestigious and highly competitive national Posters on the Hill exhibit in Washington, D.C., April 25-26, 2017.
A Posters on the Hill representative emailed Wagner on Wednesday to notify and congratulate her on being chosen as one of just 60 posters that will be presented out of more than 300 competitive applications. Wagner’s poster submission, based on summer research funded by a grant from the Saint Michael’s Vice President for Academic Affairs office, is titled “Not Ordinary and Not Nice: The First Female Welder at the Charlestown Navy Yard during WWII,” and is about the wife of longtime Saint Michael’s humanities professor and soccer coach, the late Armand “Doc” Citarella. “Doc” was at the College 51 years and died in 2015.
Wagner presented her work both at last year’s Saint Michael’s Academic Symposium in the spring and at a special program at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston this summer when the Yard was celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service with a special series of events on the role of women workers there. The previous summer, Julia had been awarded the undergraduate research grant by the College to complete an oral history of Peggy Citarella, now age 96, who was the first woman welder at the Boston Navy Yard during WWII. A park ranger from the Yard heard about her research and invited her to present during their two-day extravaganza. Each invitation is a chance to share a great story, according to Wagner.
“I'm truly honored to present my research at a national conference in Washington, D.C.,” Wagner said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to share Peggy Citarella's story to an even wider audience. I hope that I can bring greater awareness to the hard work and dedication of thousands of women that contributed vitally to the successful end of World War II. Peggy is one of many outstanding women, but her accomplishments throughout the war certainly put her above the rest and deserves the long overdue recognition.”
Wagner explained that she met Peggy Citarella when Wagner was a junior at Burlington’s Catholic Rice High School. “She had put out an advertisement at my school to help move and organize some items around her house. I worked with her for two years, during which time she would tell me stories of her life. Her time as a welder at the Charlestown Navy yard stood out the most,” Wagner said.
“I met with Professor George Dameron, a colleague of Peggy's husband, Professor Emeritus Armand Citarella, and Professor Dameron suggested that I record Peggy's story,” Wagner continued. “I then pursued the VPAA grant to formalize and fund my research. Since then, I have presented my research for Saint Michael’s alumni and at the Academic Symposium at Saint Michael's College, as well as at the National Parks Service in Boston where my research will be archived.”
Karen Talentino, vice president for Academic Affairs, said she was “absolutely thrilled about the selection of Julia’s research poster for the prestigious 2017 Posters on the Hill. She received the VPAA summer research grant for this project when she was just a sophomore, and the resulting paper reflected insightful and comprehensive research coupled with very strong writing skills.”
“Saint Michael’s College has a very good track record with this program, which promotes and highlights the very best undergraduate research on the national level,” Talentino said, “We will be pleased to send Julia to D.C. for the poster presentation, accompanied by her faculty mentor on this research project, Professor Susan Ouellette, Department of History.”
Angela Irvine, the College’s director for foundation relations and sponsored programs, said another Saint Michael’s student selected to present for Posters on the Hill was Shelby Knudson ’15, an education and English major, who two years ago showed her project titled "Narrowing the Literacy Achievement Gap: Increasing Third and Fourth Grade Boys' Motivation to Read" to Washington. Knudson’s visit that year included visits with members the Vermont Congressional delegation.
“This is a big deal for us,” said Irvine, “because Julia’s research project involves a lot of important Saint Michael’s College history, including our military veterans, anyone who knew Doc Citarella as a professor or coach over half a century, and then also the spirit of this community's many pioneering women considering that Peggy Citaralla was the first female welder for the U.S. Navy.”
Wagner’s academic adviser for her English major is Elizabeth Inness-Brown of the English faculty. Julia Wagner’s mother is Joan Wagner, the College’s director of community-engaged learning and coordinator of experiential learning. Julia is active with Saint Michael’s College Fire and Rescue.