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History Department Sees Major Changes

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Roanoke College is starting to see some big changes to its history department. Currently, the department has hired a new professor, lost one professor due to resignation, and is starting a new Public History initiative. 

  History is usually the 2nd or 3rd largest major on campus most years, only second to business and switching places for the second place spot with psychology. There are approximately 100 history majors and about 11-12 history professors full time faculty teaching. History also encapsulates a European and American history minor. Also, many International Relations majors take modern history classes as part of their major requirements.

 Over the last several weeks, the department has been busy interviewing a few candidates to teach classics history at RC for a tenure track position. This requires that candidates teach classes and be evaluated by professors in the history department and students who listen to the professor give the lecture. In addition, faculty members will interview the candidate individually and evaluate their scholarly work.

The new professor chosen for history will be Jason Hawke, from the University of Washington and has also taught at the University of Illinois, Furman. His academic work has been on understanding how ancient people understood numbers and legal history.

 Students appeared to react well to Hawke’s lectures. Some even found his nerdy pop culture references to be gripping.

“He likes Battlestar Galactica and we’ll be best friends,” said Bridget Carey ‘13 a history major.

 The history department also lost professor Ann Genova, who taught African history and was the advisor for the African Studies Concentration, who resigned on Sun., Feb. 6. 

 “She was not fired, it was her decision,” said Rob Willingham, a history professor.

  Willingham, and many others, were surprised by Genova’s resignation and also say that she will be missed here at RC. After Genova’s surprise resignation, instructions were emailed to the history faculty about the situation. She taught three classes, two humanities and one African history class. The two humanities classes were divided between two history professors, and her Africa class is currently being taught one day a week by Daren Ray, a doctorate candidate in Virginia. 

   Replacing Genova will be another task for the history department. According to Willingham, there are two different options the department is exploring. One is to hire a professor for a one year position. The other is to bring in a graduate student to teach on an adjunct basis.The decision will be made partly by student interest in African history and whether those courses will be continued to be offered at RC.

  The RC history department is also working on a new program called the Public History Initiative. Its goal is to give students an experience of presenting history to the public. 

 “We have a responsibility to provide practical, employable skills for our majors,” Willingham said.

 This means offering courses in archives work and museum management. It also means the department will work with the state office of historical preservation to set up internships for those who are interested. At some point, the history department might even offer a Public History major. All of this is necessary to help students go beyond the classroom and see that history is more than an academic pursuit.