Public History Home at The University of West Georgia

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Student Testimonials

Read some of our student accounts about the program and learn how their classes and work experience have helped them in their jobs!  These students were showcased in an article in a 2005 article in History News, a publication of the American Association of State and Local History, that illustrated how our West Georgia program has prepared them for the tasks they would undertake in their professional careers. 

Please check back for more testimonials in the coming year, as we continue to update this page.  If you are an alumni of our program and want to share your story, please contact Dr. Ann McCleary at 678-839-6041.

Nikki Patterson Cantrell, M.A. in History and Museum Studies Certificate, May 2005

Archives Collections Manager, Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center
Graduate Research Assistant, Center for Public History, 2003-5

The two years I spent working in the Center for Public History provided the hands-on training I needed to work in the cultural non-profit field. Hours spent working in the CPH archives helped me to develop the organizational, reference, and patron assistant skills I needed to work as an effective archivist in research institutions. At the Atlanta History Center's Archives, the Kenan Research Center, I utilize my Center for Public History training in archival procedure and patron assistance each day. Also, because the CPH directors assigned me to individual projects as a Project Assistant and then a Project Director, I gained an understanding of managing a successful grant-funded project from the bottom up. Responsibility for a project in all its capacities required I learn P.R. skills, marketing skills, how to manage a budget, a professional proficiency in conducting and collecting oral histories, and web design skills. Instead of merely reading it in an article or stiffly written textbook or manual, I learned through my own experience the basic complexities behind identifying a public need, developing an outreach project, and then seeking and maintaining grant-funding. At best, students hoping to compete in today's museum and archives job market should offer an area of specialty as well as a working knowledge of several arenas. Learning the intricacies of the field in a functioning archives with active projects underway taught me to be a jack-of-all-trades, and someone who understands that entering a museum or archival position guarantees, anything but your typical cut and dry job description. Each staff member pulls his or her weight and a little bit more for the good of the institution, especially small museums like Chieftains Museum Major Ridge Home in Rome, Georgia, where I worked for over a year as Registrar. Students who work in the Center for Public History develop a traditional, scholarly background in historic research and archival management while simultaneously nurturing an uncanny ability to find exciting and unique ways to bring history to the public.



Teresa "Trey" Beyer, M.A. in History and Museum Studies Certificate, May 2004

Main Street Manager, Laramie, Wyoming, 2010-present and Curator of the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site , 2004-2010
Graduate Research Assistant, Center for Public History, 2002-4


I worked in the Center for Public History for two years as a GRA. During that time, I was the project director for Banning Mill, a pre-Civil War textile mill in West Georgia. I gathered research and prepared photographs for the Park Service's National Registrar of Historic Places nomination form. I also scheduled and conducted oral histories with former mill employees, maintained the project's archives, and developed an on-line exhibit about Banning Mill and the surrounding community. I came to the Center with no former training, just a passion for history. From the start, my professors entrusted me with a huge amount of responsibilities, coordinating the project's budget, scheduling interviews, arranging research materials, etc.
Over the next two years, I gained a greater appreciation and knowledge of the Public History procession. My hands-on experience helped me land the job as Curator of the Wyoming Territorial prison State Historic Site a little under a month after graduation. During my six-month review, my boss mentioned how impressed he was with my education and training. Commenting that "most graduate students come fresh with book-knowledge," he was amazed that the Center provided its students with both educational instruction and practical application. I had, in essence, worked for two years in a public history institution, while attending graduate school. This gave me a huge advantage over other candidates for the job, as they were fresh out of school and had never worked in a museum/archive.
Soon after my review, I reflected to some colleagues from West Georgia how confidant and prepared I felt accepting my current position. Making the transition from school to "real world" can be difficult, but I believe the skills I learned in the Center for Public History laid the groundwork for my success. Not only was the training broad, I feel comfortable filling the role of curator, educator, exhibit designer, etc. on the job, but it was true-to-life. Amazingly, there were no surprises, I felt prepared for it all. (What do you mean the board doesn't understand the meaning of "historical integrity"? You mean the curator works in the gift shop, gives school tours, and cleans the bathroom? Yep, I was ready for all that!)
Working at the Center for Public History was the most influential and educational component of my graduate training. For those interested in the field, I would strongly recommend looking into a tenure at the Center. Not only will you receive valuable training, you'll enjoy yourself along the way.
Thank you fellow students and faculty for your encouragement, partnership, compassion, knowledge, and support!



Erin Brasfield, M.A. in History with the Publc History Concentration, May 2004

Interpreter, Manzanar National Historic Site
Graduate Research Assistant, Center for Public History, 2002-4

By having the opportunity to work at the Center for Public History, I not only pursued my graduate degree, but had many great chances to gain experience in the "field." As the director of an oral history project, I learned the art of the interview and related oral history methodology, gained insight into first-person accounts, made many new friends (four times my age!), and was given an enormous amount of responsibility and leverage to decide the direction of the project. This experience deepened my knowledge and interest in pursuing my master's thesis (concentrating on oral histories) and project and documentation work at a national historic site.
Also, by coordinating community concerts and school programs, I was able to understand how to create curriculum-based materials and schedule programs with local teachers.
Later in the "real" world of public history, I've had the opportunity at many sites to not only conduct oral histories and primary source research but to provide curriculum-based interpretive programs. My work at the CPH assisted in attaining those jobs and fulfilling my job duties, which exceeded by supervisor's expectations. they have been amazed that "right out of school" that I had acquired to much experience in a variety of fields and disciplines and could apply them with high professional standards.



Mick Buck, M.A. in History with the Public History Concentration, May 2003

Curator of Collections, Country Music Hall of Fame, 2004-present 
Graduate Research Assistant, Center for Public History, 2001-3

My work at the Center for Public History provided me with the opportunity and resources to produce "Everybody's Tuned to the Radio: Rural Music Traditions in West Georgia, 1947-1979," the CD compilation that received a Certificate of Commendation from the American Association of State and Local Historians in 2003. The CD caught the attention of the Country Music Foundation who hired me for my current position. At the Center for Public History, I also gained experience in grant writing, oral history, audio preservation, and researching and documenting local music traditions that have proved invaluable in my professional career.



Laura Anderson, M.A. in History with the Public History Concentration, May 2003

Archivist, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 2003-present 
Graduate Research Assistant, Center for Public History, 2001-3

In the Archives of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, our small staff is charged with fulfillment of three interrelated tasks. One thing we do is maintain institutional records. Another is to maintain an on-going Oral History Project. Finally--and most directly related to my position as Assistant Archivist--we collect, process, and make available public history collections related to the Civil Rights Movement.
Fortunately, as a graduate assistant in the Center for Public History at West Georgia, I was responsible for projects that touched on all three of these aspects of my current museum archives position. As an employee of the Center, I created a database for management of collections information. Today, I maintain a similar database that interfaces with the BCRI web site in order to provide access to collections information to persons around the world. In the course of managing the University Oral History project in the CPH, I kept records of interviews, release forms, and correspondence and maintained an institutional record of just one of the many projects going on simultaneously in the CPH, while processing interview recordings and transcripts for public use. When former employees, alumni, or community friends of West Georgia donated materials related the stories they contributed to the Oral History project, I helped accession, arrange, and describe those treasures. All of this experience gives me confidence on the job as well as awareness of how to make good decisions when it comes to new challenges. In short, I call on a former co-worker or professor from the Center for Public History or one one of the many professionals out in the field and associated with the Center. The CPH is more than a location for development of practical skills and information-gathering on the culture and history of the West Georgia region; for me it represents a valuable network of people and resources.



Terri Lotti, M.A. in History with Public History Centration, August 2005

Archaeologist, Georgia Department of Transportation

As a graduate student, I was given the opportunity to work on the Interpretive/Management plan for the Williams-Mitchell Farm. This was a unique experience because the site is owned by a living descendant, Dr. William Mitchell, who still resides on the farm. The property also contains Camp Lucretia, a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp that was placed on the farm in 1935. I worked on mapping and recording features of both the farm and the camp, putting my twelve years as a professional archaeologist to good use. I have also assisted in the interpretation of all the features and their historic site potential. This experience has helped me in my career as an archaeologist and broadened my understanding and appreciation of historic resources and living history. I enjoyed my experience so much that I have agreed to be part of the administrative board for the Williams-Mitchell Farm.