Sophia O’Neal Roberts


Raised in Sacramento and a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School, Sophia O’Neal Roberts began her studies at Cal State East Bay in Fall 2018 as a freshman. Her inspirations to study history include her grandfather, who loved history, family conversations about African American history, and a high school teacher, Ms. Siobhan Reilley, whose enthusiasm and interactive teaching methods “opened a new view” into historical investigation, Ms. O’Neal-Roberts explains. She is fascinated by a wide range of time periods and subjects, and chose Cal State East Bay because of the global and comparative program. Yet even the study of the United States “doesn’t feel like the same US history” she has previously encountered, because of the unique curriculum and evidence examined in Cal State East Bay history courses, Ms. O’Neal-Roberts stresses.    

With a Sustainability and Modernization concentration in History, and an Anthropology minor, Ms. O’Neal-Roberts has crafted a distinctive course of study examining human history from the earliest fossil records, to the Ancient World, and into the late 20th century. Right now, she is especially interested in US history, and the histories that are less known to the general public or taught in conventional history classes. She is thinking deeply about how we narrate, frame, and examine the past. In her research, Ms. O’Neal-Roberts especially wants to investigate Black history on its own terms, and not just in relation to the general frame of US history, to ensure a more truly representative history. 

Ms. O’Neal-Roberts has thrived at Cal State East Bay, earning two major scholarships in back-to-back years: the Richard B. and Evelyn Whitman Rice Outstanding Freshman Scholarship and the Blanchette Family History Scholarship in her sophomore year. Now in her junior year, Ms. O’Neal-Roberts won a competitive internship with the Bay Area Housing Internship Program for 2020-2021, and she joins students from San Jose State, Sonoma State, and UC Davis to work in the field of affordable housing with the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California. Ms. O’Neal-Roberts is gaining critical experience in the nuts and bolts of the housing industry, while also meeting with residents and considering the larger community context of affordable housing. She also finds the internship “really fun and interesting,” and has appreciated the opportunity to dive into one of the Bay Area’s most intractable problems, bringing a historian’s sensitive eye to the complexities of change. 

After Ms. O’Neal-Roberts completes her History degree, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in history. We are so thrilled and excited to support Ms. O’Neal-Roberts work and advocacy at Cal State East Bay, and we are deeply honored she has chosen to pursue her studies in the History major. Congratulations, Sophia, on all of your wonderful accomplishments!