Ollie Carter | 2021 Black History in the Making Recipient

April 26, 2021

Ollie Carter smiles against a snowy backgroundOllie Carter will be completing their M.A. in English coursework in the Spring of 2021. They’ve spent time as an intern at a local non-profit, tutoring student athletes, working as a teaching assistant, and—most recently—supporting the East Marshall Street Well Project as a graduate assistant. The pandemic has thrown their post-grad plans into mild disarray, but they’re hopeful this year will bring about continued engagement in academia, lots of time for reading contemporary fiction, more cooking, and an abundance of cute animals to pet.

Congratulations, Ollie, on receiving the Black History in the Making Award this year! What does this award mean to you?

This award is such a tremendous honor. I’ve been shaped by many strong Black women, who’ve provided incredible personal and professional guidance. As such, I’ve tried to make conscious choices throughout my academic career to honor both the legacy I feel I’m carrying on by engaging with often marginalized elements of the academy, whether that be accessible pedagogy or overlooked authors. This award feels like a recognition of my work towards these goals, but also—and importantly—a recognition of the person I’m allowed to be as a result of those who have come before me.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a graduate degree in English?

I began my undergraduate degree at a community college and knew after my first required composition course I was interested in teaching at a collegiate level. After some quick investigation, I realized that required a graduate degree. Although my pursuit of an upper-level degree was initially pragmatic, my time as an upperclassman at VCU helped me understand academics as more than a route towards teaching. By the end of my junior year, after several excellent courses in the department, I knew my home would be in an English department both as a scholar and teacher.

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing further study in the Department of English?

It’s probably overstated, but—seriously—talk to your professors! We’re so fortunate to have an excellent collection of kind, brilliant, and helpful faculty; I’ve never known a door (both metaphorically but also literally, as I’m a big fan pre-COVID of randomly stopping in) to be closed to me for any manner of conversation. They’re a great resource to use whether you’re trying to feel out taking a course in the department or considering applying to Ph.D. programs.

You’re also completing a GSWS certificate. Can you tell us about how your experience in that program intersects with the M.A. program curriculum?

Sure. So, the GSWS program has always been an integral part of my education; as an undergraduate, I minored in the field and while looking towards graduate work it seemed apparent I would continue engaging with it. Although the English department offers many courses with a feminist and queer slant, I was eager to pursue a more specific and methodological GSWS education at a graduate level. I’ve been able to take about half my courses in the GSWS department, then utilize that coursework to inform and expand my more literary pursuits in the English department, and vice versa. The ability to “do both” has made my work so much stronger.

What would be your dream course to teach?

Oh wow...that’s a loaded question. I would be THRILLED to teach a course on Eliza Haywood’s The Distress’d Orphan and manufactured madness in 18th century England. It’s such a complex story yet an exciting read, and an accessible way to bring a hearty cultural studies slant into an English course. This is likely a suspected answer for anyone who knows me, though.
My perhaps surprising answer would be: WandaVision x Autotheory.

What are your goals for your future?

The pandemic has certainly changed everything, but broadly speaking...academia. I’m currently looking forward to a year (or more, its pandemic world!) “off” to focus on non-degree pursuing aspects of academia and a few passion articles which have been shelved for the last couple of years. Ultimately, I’d love to get my Ph.D. and find a related faculty position where I can teach.

Thank you so much for taking the time, Ollie!