I recently received the student evaluation I had always secretly desired: “I hate history, but I loved this class.” While not all students have the same enthusiasm for my teaching, my aim is to show them that history can be interesting. After all, it’s about people. Below, I’ve described my classes, all of which have that same goal in mind.

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

HIST 490 Environmental History Research Seminar: Wisconsin Places This class will be offered in Spring 2013. In it, students will write a senior research paper on the changing landscape of a local place. In addition to archival work, our methods will include rephotography, map reading, and oral history. No background in environmental history is necessary, although an interest in landscape and culture is a must.

HIST 389 Food and Environment This course began as a special topics course in Fall 2011. Students looked at food in the American past from three angles: agriculture; cultures of eating; and food justice. Our readings and discussions ranged from 1890s populism to the marketing of Lean Cuisine to the politics behind 1980s food banks. In Fall 2013, I will be offering this interdisciplinary course with Dr. Brad Mapes-Martins of the Political Science Department.

HIST 380 U.S. Environmental Politics since 1900 This upper-level course investigates the history of the conservation, preservation, and environmental movements. Although case studies examine the historical ecology of key places, the semester’s content is really about the cultural ideas, social organization, and political conflicts of these movements. Three classic texts anchor the course: Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac; Rachel Carson, Silent Spring; and John McPhee, Conversations with the Archdruid. In contextualizing these important works within history, the course delves into important questions about power and social justice. The course includes some lecture, but is mostly discussion. As a Writing Emphasis class, we pay special attention to the crafting of essays.

HIST 280 U.S. Environmental History This course is a broad look at the landscape transformations of British America, New Spain, and the United States. The course is a hybrid lecture-and-discussion. Key topics include colonial encounters, biotic exchange, enclosure of commons, commodification of natural resources, emergence of conservation, creation of the mass market, suburbanization, and environmentalism. In this class, students also become familiar with reading a research monograph. Each semester, a new one is chosen that explores a different place–a focus that fosters deep thinking about the lessons a place can teach. The final paper in this class asks students to see an everyday place through the eyes of an environmental historian.

HIST 177 U.S. History since 1877 A survey of American history, this course asks one basic question: What does freedom mean? The answer is a complex, semester-long essay into the culture, politics, and economics of the American past. I teach this course in the lecture format, using a variety of historic film, popular music, and photography. In addition to learning about the past, students are also expected to become more comfortable with college writing via exam essays and two short essay assignments.

University of Arizona

Origin, Ruin, and Restoration: Senior Research Seminar The course asked students to pick a place within a day’s drive of Tucson as their subject. In their research and writing, they examined how this place had been the subject of people framing its creation, demise, and renewal.  Students chose a compelling set of locations, from decommissioned Cold War missile silos to the Tombstone tourist district.  Our classroom conversations found common ground in discussing how narrative plots allowed historical actors to imbue a place with meaning, and how that act could lead to conflict.

Tucson and the Santa Cruz River: Environmental History and  Political Ecology The course took students to the city’s river, a body of water just as often fought over as it has been forgotten.  This three-week intensive course drew from riparian ecology, urban history, ethnic studies, and public health to ask the question “What does it mean to be a citizen of the river?”

Global Environmental History  This online, continuous enrollment course introduces students to key environmental history concepts, showing how they improve our understanding of world history.  From the emergence of agriculture to the rise of cities and disease, and from the biotic exchanges of modern imperialism to the social politics of conservation and the state, this course provides a framework for understanding some of the most significant changes in world history.

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