IMS Administrative Assistant Kayla M. Pittman will soon be leaving UConn to pursue her Ph.D. in history at William & Mary, one of the oldest educational institutions in the United States. Kayla has been awarded the William M. Kelso Graduate Fellowship in Early American Studies. The competitive fellowship provides $4,000 per year for the first two years of graduate study, plus $500 in research expenses for the same period, in addition to the standard financial package offered with admission to the graduate program. The fellowship is awarded to only one graduate student each academic year.
Kayla was gracious to answer a few questions for IMS News:
You have decided to return to the classroom in pursuit of your Ph.D. What motivated you to take that step?
Coming out of my master’s program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I knew I wanted to use our shared past to engage diverse populations. I worked in various museum settings and with local schools to not only make history accessible, but also use it as a mechanism to unpack long-held understandings and provide new perspectives. The perennial sentiment that history is boring is a failure by the history community to provide opportunities to engage with the past and to present it in such a way that represents all audiences. I maintained strong ties to the academic and museum communities during my time at UConn. I found that my desire to effect positive change in my field pulled me towards a Ph.D. program. Simply put, it is time to go home.
You have been accepted into the graduate program at William & Mary and been honored with a prestigious fellowship. What was your initial reaction to the news of being selected for the William M. Kelso Graduate Fellowship in Early American Studies?
I am deeply honored to receive the William M. Kelso Graduate Fellowship in Early American Studies. In 2011, I attended the Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School as an undergraduate. Standing in the blazing summer sun over a quadrat at Jamestown, we listened to Kelso explain that his team believed they were on the cusp of discovering the 1608 church in which Pocahontas and John Rolfe married. I was in awe then and am in awe now as I prepare to begin a Ph.D. program at William & Mary. Any one of William & Mary’s top-notch students in the history program are qualified to receive this award. I find myself in a state of humble disbelief that I am the 2019 recipient.
Though it is down the road a bit, how do you hope to apply your future research for real-world impact.
I hope my future research will add to the conversation surrounding slavery’s lasting legacy on America. Traditionally, slavery is taught along black and white lines. However, it effected and continues to effect diverse populations including Native Americans, women, immigrants, etc. Until we better understand how moments in time were navigated and manipulated by historical figures, we will never be able to truly have the breath of understanding needed to tackle present issues our nation faces.
You have been a joy to work with. How will you remember your time at IMS and UConn?
I truly enjoyed being a part of the IMS community and all the wonderful people here who work hard every day to promote research and support students. I also especially enjoyed my time assisting IMS Director, Dr. Steven Suib and working with the IMS administrative team. I wish my successor, Ms. Kaitlyn Cullen all the best in her new role and look forward to keeping up with IMS news in the future.
Everyone at IMS is extremely proud of Kayla and we wish her all the best as she begins her journey at William & Mary.