Doctoral Student & Husband Endow Support Fund

Dawn Wiley and Cody Brown in front of the UA president's mansion.
Dawn Wiley and Cody Brown

The White House Historical Association (WHHA) was founded in 1961 by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to protect and preserve the history of the Executive Mansion. In more recent years, The University of Alabama’s Department of History has formed a strong partnership with the WHHA through the creation of a summer internship program founded by the association’s president, Stewart McLaurin, who is a 1981 graduate of the department.

In 2023, Dawn Wiley, a doctoral student studying with Dr. Joshua Rothman, was selected to participate in the summer intern program, an experience that led Wiley and her husband, Cody Brown, to establish the support fund. Wiley says that during the internship she worked closely with the association’s historical staff, conducting research at the National Archives that contributed significantly to her article on First Lady Eliza McCardle Johnson, which is featured on the WHHA’s website. Wiley’s work is part of the WHHA’s largest current initiative, Slavery in the President’s Neighborhood, which explores the complicated and paradoxical relationship between our nation’s capital and American slavery.

Wiley says that her time working with the association was rewarding for several reasons. First, the internship allowed her to learn more about the field of public history and writing for a public audience. It also afforded Wiley the opportunity to conduct independent dissertation research at the National Archives and network with UA graduates and other historians from across the country. As an added bonus, Wiley was treated to a private tour of the White House and an invitation for her husband and self to attend the arrival ceremony of India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

After completing the internship, Wiley’s intense gratitude for the experience compelled her to give back to both the WHHA and the Department of History in a meaningful way. After several meetings with UA Public Historian Dr. Julia Brock and Lyndsay Cumberland at Student Development, as well as UA professors, Drs. Kari Frederickson and Rothman, Brown and Wiley found that creating an endowed support fund would align well with Stewart McLaurin’s effort to give back to the Department of History, while also continuing the great work of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Wiley says that while she and her husband were fortunate enough to afford such a wonderful opportunity, she realized such was not the case for many other graduate students, an obstacle that could lead future students to decline the internship offer. Wiley and Brown hope that this support fund results in equitable participation and leads to even higher quality scholarship.

Wiley says that both she and Brown want this endowment to encourage future student interns to “pay it forward” once they enter careers and mentor students of their own. “We hope that they can draw upon their experiences in Washington and become inspired to influence the next generation of aspiring scholars to seek opportunities that will advance the field of American history,” Wiley says, “whether that be helping to create other support funds for historical research purposes or assisting graduate students in securing financial assistance to afford internships, fellowships, and other travel related research funding for their projects and dissertations, we hope that this endowment will instill long-lasting and positive changes for future WHHA interns and UA graduates for generations to come.”

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