Summer Student Series – Olivia Williams, M.A. in History

Ever wonder what the summer looks like for graduate students? For each program, the summer semester looks a little different, with students taking summer courses, participating in internships, conducting research, among other activities. This summer, we will be inviting current graduate students to share their experiences in their own words. Our next guest blogger is Olivia Williams, a student in the M.A. in History program with a concentration in Public History.

Olivia Williams

Hi! My name is Olivia Williams and I am a Class of 2015 graduate of the College of Charleston with a double major in History and African American Studies. I just recently finished the first year of my MA in History with a concentration in Public History. With this being the first year of the Public History concentration, I am honored to be a part of this inaugural class. In the 4 years since graduating I went back and forth about attending graduate school, mostly unsure of what I wanted to do, but once I learned the Public History concentration was being added to the MA program, I figured it was time to apply.

Although I am not taking any classes this summer, I am working at McLeod Plantation Historic Site, located on James Island. I have been working there as a Cultural History Interpreter since 2016. Working at McLeod has given me a better idea of what I’d like to do once graduating with my Master’s. McLeod is only one of two plantation historic sites in the United States that focuses the narrative on the enslaved people. Gaining experience interpreting difficult history aided in my decision to enroll in the History MA, and I realized I wanted to learn more about the field and how to better tell this history. Dr. Rachel Donaldson is the director of the Public History program and she has been the best. Upon taking her intro to Public History course, it helped me learn about the various kinds of public history and opened my eyes to what public history exactly entails. Dr. Donaldson has also been instrumental in helping my cohort connect with historic sites, museums, and various institutions around Charleston for internships. The program has already provided me with much experience and I still have another year! While being enrolled in this program, I have also had the opportunity to be a Graduate Assistant at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture.

Once I graduate, I’d like to continue working in the museum/historic site field, but I’ve also been heavily considering law school. With my vast knowledge of African American history and culture, I feel that would coincide well with being a civil rights or human rights attorney. If I don’t go the law school route, my dream job has always been to work at the Smithsonian, specifically the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Not only do I enjoy being a cultural history interpreter, but I also have a love for Archival work. I have been fortunate enough to work with Tessa Updike, the Archivist at the Citadel, for a couple of years now. The work I’ve done with her has been rewarding and also has me considering applying to a Library Science MA program. As you can probably tell, I have a lot of goals, and I hope to go on from this MA program and put all the skills I have and will gain to good use.

Williams giving a tour at McLeod Plantation. Photo Credit: The BBC

To learn more about the M.A. in History program, visit To learn more about the McLeod Plantation, visit To learn more about the Avery Research Center, visit

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