Student Snapshot: Zoë Jacks ’23

Zoe Jacks '23 in the Renaissance costume she researched and created.

Zoe Jacks '23 in the Renaissance costume she researched and created.

During her senior year in high school, Zoë Jacks ’23 researched and created a historically accurate Renaissance dress—a challenging and labor-intensive project that she now considers a highlight of her high-school years. At Dickinson, she learned about a major that allows her to dive deep into that era in history. Below, she discusses why she believes the medieval & early modern studies major is a perfect fit for her, why communication skills are so important and more.


Birmingham, Alabama.


Medieval & Early Modern Studies (MEMS).

Clubs and organizations:  

Archaeology Club and Mermaid Players.


Alpha Lambda Delta.

Favorite book:

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Favorite movie:

How to Train Your Dragon.

On choosing Dickinson:

I toured Dickinson twice before applying, and both visits earned the school a place at the top of my list of possible colleges. Dickinson and one other school were tied for the top, but I ended up applying early for Dickinson because I could so visibly see myself living in Carlisle and around campus very peacefully. I also decided to attend Dickinson because I got the sense that the school’s atmosphere and environment were open and inquisitive.

Favorite place on campus:

Denny Hall.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Pinto bean sloppy joes.

On choosing a major:

Originally, I wanted to major in either archaeology or history, mainly because I didn’t know MEMS existed. Ever since I was little, I have loved history and mythology, especially those of Ancient Greece and Medieval England. More recently, I have fallen in love with fashion history, both for medieval and Renaissance dress and more modern eras.

I remember learning about MEMS on the first day of my English 101 with Assistant Professor of English Chelsea Skalak. She mentioned the major, and my curiosity was immediately piqued. After researching the major a bit more and considering it for a semester, I was sold. Having the ability to focus on an interdisciplinary range of courses focused on one period in history is a structure I really quite enjoy, and I love that I can take classes well within my comfort zones and also branch out into topics I am less learned in and have all of it count toward my degree.

Post-Dickinson plans:

After Dickinson, I hope to go to graduate school. I can see myself as possibly as a teacher or working in some capacity with historical clothing or costumery.

Proudest accomplishment so far:

In my senior year of high school, I took an independent study in historical costuming with my drama teacher. I researched and constructed an early Renaissance dress that I modeled in and exhibited in the school’s spring art show. While the dress itself is nowhere near perfect, the research process and construction of the garment were incredibly insightful and eye-opening for me as someone pursuing history and research in my degree. I see the completion of the dress as a big achievement for me and ultimately as the culmination of my entire high school experience. It has shown me what I can do when I channel my passions and interests in the right place, and has taught me not to give up or let myself lose interest when I come upon roadblocks or challenges. In fact, both the research and construction of the dress raised challenges for me that I ultimately found could be incredibly fun to think over and solve. My independent study is my proudest accomplishment because it was more than just making a dress; it was my first really big project of an objectively historical nature, and it fostered my love and knowledge of fashion history and of Renaissance history in general.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

… an archaeologist/ playwright.

The best thing about my Dickinson experience so far:

I chose to attend Dickinson because I expected to gain an excellent academic experience here. My time here has exceeded those expectations, but the very best part of my experience thus far has been how unexpectedly easily I found a close group of friends whom I feel genuinely welcomed and happy around. In fact, I originally worried that I wouldn’t find anyone I could be as close to as I had been with my friends in high school. However, from my Pre-Orientation group and onward, I met people who I consider my best friends today. In an incredibly new environment, miles from anyone I knew pre-Dickinson, my peers and I were able to foster new and unique friendships quickly and readily. Although slightly unexpected, this is definitely the best part of my Dickinson experience thus far.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:

Communication is key! Especially after the move to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my openness with my teachers and friends has helped me to navigate both my class work and my social life. I learned that, although it may give me some anxiety, going to the teacher during office hours or sending an email can never hurt. Being open to asking my friends for help too has led me to connect with them more closely than I ever had with my peers before Dickinson.

Read more Student Snapshots.


Published August 3, 2020


Published August 5, 2020