Western Carolina University graduate student Tonya Carroll is among a prestigious group of scholars chosen to participate in the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts’ (MESDA) summer institute in Winston-Salem this July.
“I am excited to attend the program and have been told that it is very demanding but also rewarding,” said Carroll, daughter of Janet Smith and the late Kermit Carroll, both of Cherokee. Carroll is a 2003 graduate of Swain County High School and completed her undergraduate history studies at WCU.
MESDA is one of four museums at Old Salem Museums and Gardens. Its unique collection of decorative arts represents the South from the 17th to the mid-19th centuries.
Each summer the MESDA institute focuses on one region of the early South, rotating its concentration from the Chesapeake to the Carolina lowcountry to the Southern backcountry. This year the institute will emphasize the early Southern backcountry, including the piedmont and Western regions of Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, as well as Tennessee and Kentucky. Curriculum includes lectures, discussions, workshops, artifact studies, research projects and study trips.
“This is a very competitive program,” said Scott Philyaw, history professor and director of the Mountain Heritage Center at WCU, where Carroll previously has interned. “Most of the graduate students who attend are from programs such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Virginia, William and Mary, and Harvard University.” Because of the program’s prestige, history professionals rather than students most often are selected to attend, said Philyaw, who was the scholar in residence at MESDA in 2003.
Carroll will receive three hours of academic credit for her participation in the institute, which she is attending on a full scholarship.
“I hope to work for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, but the MESDA summer institute may open up new doors for me to travel and represent the Eastern Band in the public history field,” said Carroll, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band.