History student completes summer internship at Mount Vernon | Judson College
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History student completes summer internship at Mount Vernon

Marianna Nichols, a junior at Judson College and Iuka, Miss., native, is completing her summer internship with the George Washington Entrepreneur Internship program this month.

Nichols and Mount VernonPhoto: Nichols poses in front of her summer workplace, Mount Vernon (Photo permission: Marianna Nichols)

Ask Marianna Nichols, a junior at Judson College, how she feels about her summer job, and you’ll hear words like, “excited”, “awesome”, and “surreal”. That’s because she’s fulfilling a childhood dream as a Historic Trades intern at George Washington’s estate in Virginia.

Nichols, the daughter of Tommy and Carol Nichols of Iuka, says this dream began with frequent family visits to Colonial Williamsburg, where she was fascinated by the site’s staff. “I remember being enraptured with the wonderful interpreters. It’s always been a dream of mine to do historical interpretation, and it’s kind of surreal that I’m now getting to fulfill that childhood fantasy.”

Nichols and parentsPhoto: Nichols, in period dress, with her parents, Tommy and Carol Nichols of Iuka. Photo permission: Marianna Nichols.

Nichols has spent the months of June and July as a historic interpreter on Mount Vernon’s Pioneer Farm, a four-acre site on the banks of the Potomac River that represents the over 3,000 acres that the nation’s first president cultivated in the latter half of the 18th century. The farm’s main sites include a pole shelter, a sixteen-sided barn used for treading wheat, and a slave cabin.

Nichols and the six other Historic Trades interns in the George Washington Entrepreneur Internship program dress in period clothing and perform demonstrations at each of the farm’s sites, pausing to speak with visitors about the farm’s history and present operation. Nichols says this labor isn’t just for show, though–her afternoon field rotation might consist of hoeing wheat fields, weeding raised beds, or cultivating compost piles, which, in addition to maintaining a sense of authenticity for visitors, aids in the maintenance of the farm. “No day is ever exactly the same,” she says.

Nichols seems right at home in her summer setting: “My favorite spot is the pole shelter. It’s located near the river, so on stifling hot days you can get a nice breeze off the Potomac. What’s more, at the shelter we have what’s called a ‘shaving bench,’ and I can just sit and work with wood all day. It’s like meditating, and once I get in ‘the zone’, I can go for hours!”

Interns at Pole BarnPhoto: Nichols (third from right, in red) and other historic trades interns pose in front of the pole barn on the Pioneer Farm on the Mount Vernon estate.
(Photo credit: Allison Kraft)

In her free time, Nichols is also volunteering with Mount Vernon’s Archaeology Department on a project at a slave cemetery dig site. “This opportunity is particularly significant for me because I want to go into archaeology/anthropology for my graduate work,” she adds.

Nichols, a double History and Religious Studies major at Judson, attributes her knowledge of the Mount Vernon internship opportunity to her advisor, Dr. Joe Jackson Frazer, Jr., History Department Head. “It is thanks to Dr. Frazer and the amazing professor-student relationships that Judson is so good at facilitating that I am here in Virginia.” Frazer answers, “Miss Nichols has from the very beginning brought a unique blend of talent, perseverance, knowledge, and discipline to her history studies. It is pleasure to work with Marianna, to answer her questions, to direct her research, and to guide her readings in the Department of History.”

Her Mount Vernon internship isn’t Nichols’s first time to seize opportunities she has encountered during her time at Judson. Earlier this spring, her paper “Pompeii: Archaeology and the Life of a City” won the award for best undergraduate conference paper at the regional Phi Alpha Theta Alabama Regional Conference at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Dr. Scott Bullard, Judson Senior Vice President and Academic Dean, believes Nichols’s experiences are indicative of the “deep learning” opportunities that Judson students regularly encounter through their College. “We are so proud that Marianna has secured this internship at Mount Vernon – not only because she was successful in competing for it against an impressive group of peers from all over the country, but also because of the outstanding learning that will take place as she experiences being a student and an educator at Mount Vernon. Studies continue to indicate that participation in these kinds of internships and other forms of hands-on learning leads to what educators and educational psychologists call “deep learning” – the kind of learning that leads to enhanced retention of knowledge and an ability to apply the things we learn inside of the classroom in the world. This internship will serve Marianna well as a future student, but also as a future leader in her field.”