Three Years a Fellow

By Ryan Bilger ’19 and Olivia Ortman ’19

Our two senior fellows sit down to reflect on their three years in the program and what it has meant to them. 

Ryan – I have had a very busy, enjoyable, and rewarding three years as a Civil War Institute Fellow. My first project involved collaborating on a wayside marker for the Gettysburg battlefield that tells the story of Richard Ewell and his decision not to attack the Union position on Cemetery Hill on the evening of July 1, and from there on forward I knew that I had found a great place to express my academic and personal interests to a wider audience. In the Killed at Gettysburg project, I found an initiative with which I felt a great personal connection, and I am extremely honored to have been granted the opportunity to follow the lives, deaths, and legacies of seven soldiers who died here in Pennsylvania.

My time as a CWI Fellow has greatly assisted in developing the skills I hope to use every day in my future career. I have conducted original research using a variety of sources, forming the proverbial bedrock of my projects. I have learned how to craft interpretive texts to achieve the best possible clarity and force of narrative, both in short and long forms. Additionally, I have learned how to use social media in order to engage wider audiences, and hopefully you have enjoyed the Civil War Institute’s content this year. Overall, I am grateful to the Civil War Institute for all they have given me over the past three years, and I am looking forward to everything that is to come!

(photo via Civil War Institute)

Olivia – Lately, as I prepare to graduate and head off into the world, I’ve been taking time to reflect on my time at Gettysburg College. My three years with the CWI Fellows program has been a defining part of that time. During the past three years I have written articles about aspects of history that fascinated me, collaborated with a peer to design a new interpretive wayside for the Virginia monument here on the Gettysburg battlefield, and served as editor-in-chief for the Compiler. Throughout each of these experiences, I’ve learned a lot about writing. Trying to fit 100 years of history about the Virginia monument into 230 words showed me the beauty of language. Although it was frustrating to keep going through the draft of the wayside with the intention of cutting out what I thought were crucial pieces, my partner and I were always inevitably able to condense without losing any ideas by simply choosing better wording. As a writer and editor, I also came to appreciate the value of individual voice. Each one of us who writes for the Compiler has a unique way of telling each of these stories and these differences in storytelling are what brings the pieces to life.

Like Ryan, I know that all the skills and lessons I have learned as a Fellow will carry into my future. I intend to keep telling stories about history, and the encouragement I have received as a fellow (from peers and from readers’ comments) has given me confidence to draw upon. Working with the other Fellows has taught me so much about the Civil War, scholarship, and myself and I can’t wait to channel all of this into my future pursuits.

(photo via Civil War Institute)

2 thoughts on “Three Years a Fellow”

  1. Congratulations, Olivia and Ryan, I have greatly enjoyed reading all of your works this past year, and I have gone back to search out your earlier efforts. Your enthusiasm reveals your passion for what you are doing, and I am sure you will succeed in whatever you choose to do. You are teachers already…

  2. Congratulations! I’ve enjoyed your posts and have enjoyed seeing your writing, and that of the others fellows, develop and grow. May 19 will always be a big day for the two of you but I’m sure it will be just one of many. Good luck with the rest of your journey!

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