Ask Our Alumni!
~ what recent alums say about the program ~
Claire White (2011)
I am the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Nantucket Historical Association in Massachusetts. I first began working for the Nantucket Historical Association as my internship in the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina. I became a seasonal employee there after I finished my degree, and I was promoted to my current position a year later.
I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii and Las Vegas, Nevada. I chose to attend the University of South Carolina for its reputation, its location on the East Coast, and the assistantship opportunities. I wanted a school that provided funding for assistantships that were consistent with my future employment aspirations. I completed my bachelor's degree in both history and secondary education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and I took a year off before pursuing graduate school (which I highly recommend as a way to refine your career goals). During college, I worked at the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas as a tour guide and archivist's assistant, and I also had experience in digital archiving.
Some of my most useful public history experiences at South Carolina included serving on a project team charged with reinterpreting one of Historic Columbia Foundation's properties developing my own interpretive text panels for an exhibit at the McKissick Museum and writing a series of different labels for the same objects every week as part of a museums course (a classroom exercise that taught me a lot about material culture and historical interpretation). I also had a very valuable assistantship during my second year in the program, working with public school teachers through the "Teaching American History" project at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
Anjuli Grantham (2011)
After majoring in history, Spanish and international studies at the University of Oregon, I worked for several years as an English language teacher in South Korea and in nonprofit development before returning to graduate school. I decided to attend the University of South Carolina for several reasons, including the opportunity to participate in the England Field School, the possibility for an assistantship with a public history institution, the certificate programs, and the reputation of the program. Finally, as a person who had lived in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, I figured it was a good chance for me to experience life in the South.
I completed both an M.A. in Public History (with a concentration in historic preservation) and the Certificate in Museum Management. During my two years at the University of South Carolina, I prepared a report on Georgian garden conservatories during England Field School, designed interpretive panels for an old jail in Charleston, got my hands dirty volunteering at an archaeological excavation, and prepared chapters for a historic furnishings plan for the National Park Service, among many other activities. I also spent hours and hours reading, writing, and researching alongside the Ph.D. students, being trained as a historian. I found the public history and museum communities in South Carolina to be very warm and eager to involve students. Moreover, it was due to the History Department's support of conference travel that I was able to attend a conference in Alaska and meet my future employers.
Now I am the Curator of Collections at the Baranov Museum in Kodiak, Alaska. I am responsible for collections care, research, and exhibition development. The Baranov Museum is in the oldest Russian-built structure in the nation, and is the oldest log structure on the West Coast, meaning that I get to combine both my historic preservation background with the knowledge gained through the Certificate in Museum Management. I am also on the board of directors for the Alaska Historical Society. I am still engaged in projects that I started while at the University of South Carolina, including Exhibiting Local Enterprise. It brings me great joy to know that my classmates and professors at South Carolina are now colleagues with whom I can continue to collaborate.
Evan Kutzler (2012)
I grew up in Franklin, Tennessee and studied history at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. As I researched Ph.D. programs in American history, the University of South Carolina appealed to me because it allowed Ph.D. students to focus on public history. After being admitted, I chose to pursue the M.A. in Public History, with a concentration in historic preservation, because I wanted to receive as broad an education as possible. Some of my most valuable public history experience included researching and writing three nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and a digital history project: helping to create a website about slavery and the origins of the University of South Carolina. Each of these projects was based in solid academic scholarship translated into tangible and useful "products" for local communities and the general public. I am interested in the new field of "sensory history" and wrote my M.A. thesis on the nonvisual sensory experiences of prisoners during the American Civil War. I am currently continuing my studies in the Ph.D. program, working on a dissertation on captivity and the senses.
Morgen Young (2009)
I graduated from Furman University with a degree in history and a concentration in Latin American studies. I planned to attend graduate school but wanted some working experience before committing to additional education, so I spent a year in Anchorage working for an Alaska Native Corporation. During that year, I recorded oral histories related to traditional subsistence practices of communities in Prince William Sound. I also worked with language preservation and other cultural history projects.
I loved the work in Alaska, working with different communities and decided to apply for graduate programs in history. I chose the University of South Carolina in large part because of its strong program in public history. I was accepted into the M.A./Ph.D. program and thought I would study public history while pursuing traditional history. One semester into the program, I switched directions entirely, choosing to earn an M.A. in Public History with a focus on historic preservation. I knew I did not want to teach history in a classroom setting, and once I became more familiar with public history, I realized that was a better fit.
I had many great experiences at the University of South Carolina, both with classes and internships. Memorable projects include researching and documenting African-American land ownership in lower Richland County, interviewing Civilian Conservation Corps veterans, archiving the largest personal collection of civil rights photographs in the state, and working with the Catawba Reservation. The University of South Carolina's program gave me a great foundation in academic history, while providing me with the necessary tools in public history.
When I finished graduate school I decided to move to the West Coast and try historical consulting in Portland, Oregon. My former employer in Anchorage was my first client for my new business: Alder, LLC. It took a couple years for me to have a steady stream of work, but now I have a growing consulting business. I curate museum exhibits, write National Register of Historic Places nominations and other commissioned histories for both companies and individuals. My clients have included Oregon History Museum, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland State University, The Salvation Army, Oregon Medical Association, and others.
Elizabeth Almlie (2010)
I came to South Carolina from colder northern climes: I grew up in the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota and received my undergraduate degree in history at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As an undergraduate, two key internships - with a local museum and with the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage - showed me the possibilities for history to engage people outside the classroom and that an M.A. degree would help me develop the specialized knowledge I needed in the field. I dreamed of a cultural resource job with the National Park Service, but I loved (and still love) academic research and writing. So, I chose the University of South Carolina because its Public History Program was located within a history department, and it had an historic preservation track, in-the-field graduate assistantships, and a cross-disciplinary Certificate in Historical Archaeology and Cultural Resource Management (which was well worth the extra semester). At South Carolina, the experiences that stand out for me were the public engagement and team work in the historic preservation practicum where we uncovered a forgotten chapter of African-American history, my internship with Congaree National Park where I examined the relationship between nature and history, and my assistantship at the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, as well as being a part of the social and intellectual community of the history department. After graduating, I went home to Minnesota to begin my job search. I was hired as a regional Historic Preservation Specialist for the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office in Pierre, where I work with the National Register of Historic Places and rehabilitation grant programs. I provide technical assistance to property owners, serve as liaison to city preservation programs, and enjoy the vast horizon of the plains when traveling to projects around the state.
JoAnn Zeise (2012)
I entered the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina straight out of my undergraduate studies. South Carolina was where I also did my undergraduate work majoring in history and English. I applied to the Public History Program for many reasons but especially because I could focus on historic preservation while also pursuing a Certificate in Museum Management. I wanted to make myself as marketable as possible while pursuing my interest in studying all kinds of material culture, from objects to buildings. Also, the program's emphasis on training its students in research and to be skilled historians was a major factor in my decision. I had little professional experience working in public history prior to graduate school. Two of my most important projects as an M.A. student were working on a class project to create a website examining the history of slavery at the university and designing wayside panels for the Mitchelville Freedom Park near Hilton Head. Both were real-world projects that created professional products useful to public audiences. As I was finishing up my degree and certificate, I was offered - and accepted - the position of Curator of History at the South Carolina State Museum.
Nathan Johnson (2009)
I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a double major in history and Spanish. Shortly after my college graduation I accepted a year-long internship with the National Park Service at Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston, South Carolina. While working at this historic site, one of my co-workers suggested I apply to the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina. From my short time at Fort Sumter I had already come to learn that I wanted to pursue a career in public history. What impressed me about the University of South Carolina program were three things: the practical experience it offered through assistantships, its strong academic foundation within the history department, and the specialized courses taught by museum professionals and public historians. Upon graduating with my M.A. in Public History, I became a full-time park guide at Fort Sumter. With my concentration in the museums track of the program, I was also able to take on collateral duties curating the park collections for Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and the Charles Pinckney National Historical Site. In the summer of 2012, I moved from Charleston to Washington, D.C. to accept another position with the National Park Service, at the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Sarah Scripps (2011)
As a Twin Cities native, I opted to stay close to home for undergraduate studies by attending the University of Minnesota. Although I knew I wanted to major in history, I did not discover my passion for public history until I took an upper-level course that introduced students to the field. After installing my first exhibit through an internship with a local historical society, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in museums.
I chose to attend the University of South Carolina because I wanted a program where I could both specialize in public history and continue for a Ph.D. in American history. The graduate history program at South Carolina has been a perfect match, as it has provided me with an intellectual foundation for a career in both museums and the academy. The courses I have taken, whether academic or public history focused, have directly influenced my work in the field. For instance, I took an oral history course where we learned the theories and best practices of conducting interviews. The following summer I was able to implement what I learned in a real-world project: collecting oral histories for an award-winning community history project with Historic Columbia Foundation.
The graduate program has also afforded me many opportunities to work with both local and national historical institutions. Under the direction of Dr. Allison Marsh, I co-curated an exhibit at the McKissick Museum entitled Imaging the Invisible that explored how technology has changed public understanding of the non-visible world. I am also involved with the Exhibiting Local Enterprise project, a collaboration between the University of South Carolina Public History Program and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. I am currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program and completing my dissertation. I encourage anyone who is seeking a department with both a strong curriculum in public history as well as a rigorous doctoral program to apply to the University of South Carolina.
Lauren Safranek (2010)
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., surrounded by wonderful museums. For college, I left Washington for Ohio, where I earned a B.A. in creative writing and history from Oberlin College. After graduation, I spent a year and a half working as a volunteer, an intern, and a temporary employee at museums and archives in Martha's Vineyard, Juneau, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. To work on my Spanish language skills, I lived in Mexico for six months.
All of this travel and work persuaded me to pursue a career in public history. On where to go for my graduate degree, I consulted the people I had come to know in the museum community. I learned that the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina enjoyed an excellent reputation, and it provided a good blend of academic and practical training. I was accepted into the program and offered on-the-job training through a graduate assistantship at the "Teaching American History" project at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
My time as a South Carolina graduate student started with a bang the summer before my first year. I attended the England Field School, which was a wonderful introduction to my professors, to my fellow students, and to the world of public history. During my last semester I took History and Theory of Museums. Dr. Allison Marsh encouraged us to use the readings and discussions to shape who we were going to be as public historians and to decide what we think a museum ought to be and what its place should be in the community. The thoughts that developed in that class affect me everyday as I work in the museum.
For my internship in the Public History Program, I spent a summer at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. That internship turned into a job for me after graduation from South Carolina. Shortly thereafter, I transitioned into the job I now have as Project Coordinator of Americans All: The Immigration/Migration Initiative at the Smithsonian Institution. Check out the Facebook page to keep up with our progress.
Jennifer Betsworth (2011)
I fell in love with public history before I even knew what it was. I worked as a historic interpreter, volunteered at a historical society, and participated in architectural and archaeological field schools - and in every setting I found and shared the living, breathing kind of history that felt conspicuously absent from my regular coursework. After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with dual majors in history and anthropology, I knew I wanted to find a program where I could pursue my interest in historic architecture without neglecting my knowledge of historical archaeology. The University of South Carolina provided a unique opportunity for me to do just that: I could earn both an M.A. in Public History and a Certificate in Historical Archaeology & Cultural Resource Management .
After a brief stint in Green AmeriCorps, I moved to South Carolina with expanded ideas about the connections between historic preservation and environmental sustainability. I pursued these ideas in my Charleston Field School project, examining two LEED historic restorations. Through two unusual assistantships - one documenting an historic rice plantation that had been transformed into a wildlife preserve in coastal South Carolina and another that documented a Depression-era aviation hangar targeted for an urban rehabilitation project - I learned how to intensively research a place through land records, maps, photographs, and historic newspapers. I also discovered the joys (and summertime challenges) of surveying historic neighborhood during an internship with the City of Columbia. This experience proved invaluable when I participated in a survey of the university's antebellum brick wall for the "Slavery at South Carolina College" website developed by the Historic Site Interpretation course. I rounded out my preservation experience with a second internship at Santanoni Preserve in upstate New York by doing historic interpretation and learning how to repair historic wood windows.
My diverse experiences helped me gain a better understanding of historic preservation as a field, and expanded my idea of the many different ways to be a historian. My coursework in public archaeology and CRM helped me become conversant in laws related to many of the projects I work on as the architectural historian in the cultural resources department at S&ME, Inc., an engineering firm in Columbia. The only historian among archaeologists, I enjoy working in the fast-paced environment while evaluating historic structures and writing historical reports for private companies.