From three schools to 100 majors

Anna 02cAre you a history major?

“Yes.”

What has been your favorite class that you’ve taken?

“Well, right now for the Capstone Seminar I’m taking is about the French Revolution, which is fascinating because I briefly studied it in middle school and high school, but it was very brief. So now, taking it as an upper-level history course, I’m learning quite a bit about it, which to me, has just been fascinating.”

What has the history of the school meant to you and your time here?

“I want to say everything, honestly. That’s why I came here. I didn’t come here for the sports – I came here for the academics and definitely for the history of the school. Nowhere else are you going to find a school that’s so prideful about its history. And the Wren Building is just so grand, and when you enter campus and see the Sunken Gardens, and the Ancient and Old Campuses, that’s definitely its selling point to me.”

Have you always known that you wanted to be a history major?

“Yeah, pretty much. My dad was a history major, not here, but we went to a lot of historic sites when I was a kid, so then deciding to be a history major wasn’t exactly much of a surprise.”

Do you visit the surrounding colonial areas, like Yorktown?

“I’ve been to Jamestown and Yorktown, Yorktown when I was younger on a field trip. I haven’t had the time to go to the new museum. I went to Jamestown as a celebration of the end of the semester last spring – I just spent the day in Jamestown. I dragged my sister and my mom along. And I try to go to Colonial Williamsburg at least once or twice a week. Usually I just walk around or go inside some of the houses.”

So do you talk to the Colonial actors who work there?

“Some of them actually come onto campus. I met one of the interpreters near my dorm once – he is an alum here.”

How do you want history to shape your life?

“Well, in addition to history, I’m studying economics. I just love learning about history. Majoring in history, it’s a lot of reading and writing and researching. So I would like to apply that to my future job hopefully. If I did work within the field, I’ll stay on the researching side of it.”

So you like to do research?

“Yeah I do. I’m not doing an independent study or anything right now. I don’t have a lot of time for it quite yet.”

What’s your favorite history course you’ve taken so far?

“Last semester, I took Gender History of Slavery and Emancipation with Professor Rosen. That was probably one of the best courses I’ve taken because I didn’t know much about slavery, the Civil War, or Reconstruction. It’s very well documented but they cut it short when teaching it in at least Virginia public schools in middle and high school. So when you actually take a college course on the subject you get so much more. It was definitely eye-opening. And we read so much in that class. We read a lot of narratives written by slaves. It was really fascinating. And in terms of Virginia and William and Mary, it was all very interesting. William and Mary has its own past with slavery, which is in no way excuses the practice but in a way marks the school as a product of its time. Although William and Mary wasn’t the only Colonial College involved with slavery. Many of the Ivies and William and Mary were financed from donations from slave owners and traders. I know now, William and Mary has the Lemon Project, a project dedicated in researching the College’s past involvement in slavery and racial discrimination.”

What would be your dream historical place to visit?

“It’s pretty close, I just haven’t been there. Colonial Williamsburg is very unique; they call it a living history museum. There are only a handful the United States that are similar to that, and I know Plymouth has their own living history museum. And I really want to visit Roanoke in North Carolina because I’ve always been fascinated by that story and the mystery behind it. I’m from Virginia so it’s not too far away, I just haven’t been there yet.”

So what does the Charter specifically mean to you?

“The Charter obviously created William and Mary, the second oldest college, and also the oldest in the south. They started off with three schools: the school of grammar, the school of divinity, and the school of philosophy. Those are the original three, and it’s interesting how much we’ve branched out. Now we have about 100 majors and minors and obviously we don’t have the religious affiliation anymore, being a public university, but just the fact that we’ve branched out is a big deal to me. And because they didn’t have very many American colleges, students had to go abroad which was usually a very big deal for the planters’ class in Virginia. They had to go to England or Continental Europe, and going overseas was already kind of risky, so having an American university here, even just a school in the mid-Atlantic, that was a pretty big breakthrough.”

Have you studied the Charter in any of your classes or in your research?

“In addition to being a tour guide of the Wren Building for the Spotswood Society, I also work in Special Collections in Swem, so I’ve actually seen the Charter. For either Parents Weekend or Alumni Weekend, they had a William and Mary-themed exhibit in special collections, so they had all things William and Mary all laid out, including the Charter. It was really cool. It’s actually pretty small, and there are multiple copies of it.”

Did you see the original or one of the copies?

“There are multiple copies of the Charter. When issuing a Charter, an important document like that, had multiple copies of it sent to Virginia and some kept in England. The Wren Building was actually where the library was for a number of years, at least during the Colonial period. But the Wren Building has also burned down three times, so that’s a problem. They saved the original Charter the school was given after the first fire, but I don’t think they were able to save it after the second or third. They still have a Charter since they made so many printings of it from the 18th-century, and I believe there is also a Latin version of the Charter. I know they have one in a different language, which I would imagine would be Latin.”

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