Student Profile - Christine Zabala

English, history major finds the story behind the story

Christine Zabala, senior English and history major, likes to get the whole story. While some are serial status updaters on their favorite social media site, Zabala’sChristine Zabala with book in library interests lie with the thoughts and happenings of the past.

The Austin native moved at age 12 to Beaumont, where she was homeschooled. As an incoming freshman at Lamar University, Zabala had plans to study biology. After a semester’s worth of courses, Zabala decided to shift her focus back to her first love – hearing other people’s stories. Whether history or literature, Zabala enjoys learning about the circumstances of stories and how they unfold.

“English is something that I really enjoyed in high school,” she said. “So when I switched from biology to history, I added English as a major because they complement each other so well.”

Many connoisseurs of composition celebrate the works of Jane Austen or Emily Dickinson, but Zabala has developed a taste for more macabre authors.

“I like gothic fiction,” she said. “I am a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe. I like the overlap of horror and comedy. I did a research paper one time comparing Virginia Woolf to George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead.’ It was about ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ and the zombies of the Victorian Era who were more into living in society than actual living – the emphasis they placed on parties and things like that. They didn’t really think. I am kind of a big zombie fan. They speak to me for some reason.”

Zabala came to Lamar on a Mirabeau Scholarship, which provides financial support for her undergraduate career at the university. She has since become a member of the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, a Lamar Ambassador, and served as chairman of the community service committee and president of the Honors Student Association.

As a Lamar Ambassador, Zabala acts as the face of Lamar’s student body. Ambassadors come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and attend community and university events as representatives of the Lamar student body. Zabala said the Lamar Ambassadors program is a great opportunity for students to network among important people in the academic and local community.

“The Ambassadors had dinner at Ellen Rienstra’s house,” Zabala said. “She is a prominent historian from this area, and a very good connection for me as a history major. It was right up my alley.”

She said much of her academic success is due to the supportive faculty at Lamar and the opportunity to build relationships with academic professionals.

“The classes are small enough that you can have personal relationships with your professors,” she said. “Getting to know the professors personally helped me to figure out who I am as a person and what I want to do with my life. It’s good because I feel comfortable enough that if I have questions I can just go to their office and ask what they think.”

The faculty at Lamar create an environment where students can make important connections between their courses. Zabala said she found to truly understand what people were writing about in her literature courses, it helped to have a good grasp on what she learned about the particular era in her history courses.

“Especially in literature, you have to know the background story,” Zabala said. “ I have written several papers about how different circumstances shape the way books are written. There is no way to keep books separate from the period they were written in.”

Between the Sheila Umphrey Recreational Sports Center, the Mary and John Gray Library and the new Dining Hall, Lamar offers a balance of opportunities beyond the classroom where students can maintain their body and mind, Zabala said. “Education is obviously very important, but they aren’t focused on academics at the exclusion of everything else,” she said.

 “I go to the rec center a lot because of the rockwall. There is some strength required, but it is a lot like a puzzle because you have to figure out the best moves to get up the wall. You have to stop to think about where to put your hands and feet to help you move higher.”

As a double major with a heavy courseload, Zabala decided to use some of her elective courses as an opportunity to get involved in something she had never experienced.

“I took a ballroom dance class,” she said. “I didn’t have any experience, but I saw it in the catalog and thought, ‘You know, I’d like to learn to waltz.’ So I signed up for it. Now when they have something like salsa night downtown on Crockett Street, I can go and know what I’m doing.”

After graduation, Zabala plans to attend graduate school to pursue a doctorate degree in literature and hopes to teach at the university level.