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Fall 2017 Assistantship Summary for History Department graduate student Madeleine Ware:

My graduate assistantship was a defining component of my first semester in the History M.A. program and continues to enhance my experience at the University of Charleston.  I serve as an assistant to the Women’s Health Research Team. This team offers a unique perspective for history students, as it involves interdisciplinary cooperation between undergraduates, graduates, and faculty members. Last semester, I worked closely with Dr. Cara Delay to identify hidden narratives on reproductive control in oral histories from South Carolina women. This work not only sparked my interest in women’s health history, but also introduced specific topics that I will pursue for my thesis project next year.

My assistantship also provides practical advantages, which have, thus far, proven invaluable in my classes and personal research. Last semester, I learned to assimilate copious primary and secondary sources to a workable format for composing potential publications. This task entailed combing through South Carolina newspapers, oral narratives, and early twentieth century reproductive health manuals. In doing so, I gained exposure to new methodologies and source material as well as confidence in my own research capabilities.

This semester, I am working to present research from my assistantship at an interdisciplinary conference. I look forward to sharing my findings and am grateful to for the opportunity to continue working closely with the history department faculty members. They are a tremendous resource for the University of Charleston, and I am thankful that my assistantship provides invaluable access to their current projects and advice. 


History Department graduate students Colby Causey, Ashley Hollinshead, and Tayler Sargent have summarized their experiences at the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative for the Fall 2017 semester in the paragraphs below. They helped make the semester a productive one for LDHI, and from their summaries below, you’ll discover what sort of experience and skills they’ve gained from working on our digital public history project!

Ashley Hollinshead

As a History Department funded graduate assistant for the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI), I have had to the opportunity to assist with several different projects. The major project I worked on this semester was Las Voces del Lowcountry, LDHI’s first bilingual exhibit. Through thirteen oral histories, the exhibit explores the varying experiences of Latinos in the Charleston area. With this project, I drafted captions for exhibit images, collaborated with the exhibit authors on image research and text translations, and prepared the layout for the text and images in Omeka, the web-publishing platform used by LDHI. I have also had the opportunity to assist with image research for two upcoming exhibits: one focusing on Islamic history in the Lowcountry and the other map-based history of one of Charleston’s historically black neighborhoods. In addition to hands-on experience working with these specific projects, I have received training in web-publishing tools used in digital humanities projects, as well as training in metadata, image research, and copyright laws.

Tayler Sargent

My first semester as a History Department funded graduate assistant for the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI) has already taught me many new skills. I have attended training sessions in copyright laws and creating/organizing metadata. I've also learned how to conduct image research to find photos, documents, art, and other primary sources that will accompany exhibit text. While image researching, I gained experience in both finding images from scratch and sourcing author’s suggested images. I also assisted with copyediting exhibit text and captions before an exhibit is published. I have worked on many of the projects currently in progress at LDHI, and each one has shown me something new, from how to navigate exhibit layout when there’s a challenging balance between text and image content to how to find the best image to match a particular idea in the text; and with the LDHI project coordinator’s assistance, I have learned to navigate obstacles and begin laying out exhibits on my own. I look forward to seeing the exhibits I've assisted with published in the next few months.

Colby Causey

While working as a History Department funded graduate assistant for the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative (LDHI), I have become increasingly connected to the local history of Charleston while learning new public history project skills. I have assisted with exhibits that document many often-overlooked elements of Charleston’s past while improving my editorial and exhibition layout skills. While conducting image and text research, I’ve worked with other graduate students to organized and track project progress by setting up and maintaining Google Docs spreadsheets. I have also helped redesign exhibit layouts as the web-designing tools are updated. Training also provided me with the skills to navigate the complex world of copyright laws and efficiently carry out image research for public history exhibits. The skills and knowledge gained with LDHI have already helped me out in my graduate courses, and I look forward to continuing my work with the LDHI.


"Thoughts on the Master’s Program from a Recent Graduate" (2017) - West Watson

The joint history program between the College of Charleston and the Citadel afforded me a unique opportunity. The dichotomy of attending a liberal arts school and a military school, both deeply rooted in history, provided one of the best environments for historical study in America. The abundant resources of both schools' archives, the public archives in the city and the physical history of a city as old and well preserved as Charleston offered an invaluable opportunity for research.

The high-quality teaching and personability of the faculty at both institutions made it easy to develop friendships and professional bonds with professors. The joint program offered a wide variety of courses which allowed students to focus on whatever area they pleased. I focused on the Atlantic World and the slave trade and was able to take classes in the Caribbean, African, European and American History. In my public history class, professor Donaldson connected our final project with the local preservation society which gave us real world experience and added value to our work. In lieu of a thesis, I chose to do comprehensive exams. I worked with Dr. Jestice at the College of Charleston on medievalism and Dr. Neulander at the Citadel on Gender in Modern Europe.


“Thoughts from a Recent Graduate (2017) on the Joint Master’s Program” - Jamie Mansbridge

"Without a shadow of a doubt, I have no regrets about studying for my history masters at the College of Charleston. Of course, there is much which the College of Charleston - The Citadel's program shares with other excellent programs - dedicated faculty, fascinating classes and excellent colleagues in the program, but there are a few areas where the College of Charleston's program really stands out. The first, of course, is the outstanding research opportunities available in the Charleston area. To pick just one example of the archival opportunities here, I was able to write my thesis using a body of sources which has only received one other incidence of scholarly attention - the Charleston Orphan House - and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of collections in Charleston archives which are crying out to be perused and explored in scholarly work. The second is the opportunities to work and gain experience in the history field outside of the academic environment - I interned with Historic Charleston Foundation during the summer between my first and second year, and following graduation I was able to secure employment with the Foundation, using the skills and knowledge which I had acquired during my two years studying for a masters in my new job. Without the skills, knowledge, and experiences which I had acquired during my two years in the College of Charleston - The Citadel MA program, I doubt I would have such a rewarding, and enjoyable job, as I do now."


“Some Tips from a Recent Graduate (2017) on Applying for Ph.D. Programs” - Kristin Brig

"The doctorate has become a frightening prospect in a world increasingly moving away from tenure and traditional research. Before you even open an application, you have to consider what a doctorate means and what occupational opportunities you have with one. You’ll face six to nine years of classes, grueling criticism, and heavy research. After that, you have to find a way to use such a specific degree in a job market looking for flexible applicants. Most students go into doctoral programs to gain tenure-track positions; however, many postgrads end up working in other capacities. It’s all about how you exploit your degree and what you like to do. For example, my PhD will be in the history of medicine, which means I can work in medical or other research archives, research institutions like the NIH, public history, or even editing and publishing. There was even a PhD in Chemistry who taught at my Catholic high school; he enjoyed teaching advanced classes to burgeoning minds more than to university students. As with any higher-education degree, navigating the contemporary job market means expounding on your skills and manipulating those skills to fit what an occupation requires. Doctorates don’t just work at universities - they’re found almost anywhere in society these days.

After considering your prospects, and you’re still gung-ho about this thing, there’s the application process. Last April, College of Charleston alumnus Levi Vonk wrote a blog post with some great advice about the process. For history specifically, I can make a few recommendations. First, figure out how what you want to study, where you want to study it, and, most importantly, with whom you want to study. You can apply to the top school, be the greatest applicant they had that year, but still not get in because there are no faculty with whom you can work. In September or early October before you start applications, email at least one faculty member at each institution to which you apply. This is possibly the most important piece of advice because if you find someone willing to work with you, they will likely become your advocate in the department, even if they’re not on its admissions committee. As for standardized testing, aim for at least a 160 on your GRE verbal section and at least a 4.5 on writing. There are two rounds to every graduate admissions, the graduate school generally and the department specifically. Without those scores, you probably will not make it through the first round of top 25 graduate admissions otherwise. Finally - and I wish someone had told me this the first time I applied to schools - do something with your research. You need to go to conferences, publish papers, win prizes, whatever you have to do to fill out your CV. Programs want students who are already taking their research places, literally and figuratively. Even one conference presentation will make you stand out from the rest."

Note from the Director: For additional perspectives on becoming a professional historian and the job market, consult the following useful short pamphlets which can be obtained by way of the official website of the American Historical Association:

Melanie Gustafson, Becoming a Historian: A Survival Manual (American Historical Association Publication)

Dana M. Polanichka, Getting an Academic Job in History (American Historical Association Publication)