One lesson historians like to impart is that few things in human affairs are predetermined or inevitable. That is especially true on the personal level. There was little about me at age 20 to indicate that in 1998, at age 40, I would accept this position at APU.
I didn’t even take history classes as an undergraduate, instead double-majoring in biology and philosophy. That was in Iowa, where I’d grown up in a blue-collar family in a rural setting. I was always a bookworm, my imagination filled with romantic images of adventure in far-away locales. While still in college I began working summers for the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Wyoming, and then stayed in wilderness education full time after graduation.
That supplied the adventure, spending time in splendid wild settings, and gave me teaching experience of the applied kind. In ’82 it also brought me to Alaska for the first of many summers. But as that decade closed I began to consider what I might do for a more conventional life.
March of ’89 found me driving a pickup truck to Alaska with a wife and the first of two daughters, rolling the dice on the opportunities in the Last Frontier. Two years later I had a staff position at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and began a master’s degree. Then another dice roll, on an academic career, so back south to get a doctorate in U.S. history.
Obviously those gambles paid off. Teaching in the Liberal Studies department has been continually refreshing because I have the opportunity to follow my varied intellectual interests and help students pursue theirs. Sometimes I develop courses based on student suggestions, such as “U.S. History at the Movies” or “Pirates in Fact and Fiction.” Teaching off-campus is better yet, whether leading a group overseas or studying Alaska history by car-camping around the state. To top it off, I also work with graduate students in our Master of Arts program.
I see myself in our Liberal Studies majors who find the world so interesting that it’s hard to choose one aspect only. I help students see the humanities as I’ve come to know them – a field that embraces the human condition while laying a solid foundation for many different professions.
• Ph.D. American History, University of Oregon
• M.A. Northern Studies, University of Alaska Fairbanks
• B.A. Biology and Philosophy, Luther College