History Department recognized at WCC

By on December 20, 2013

SUGAR GROVE—From Waubonsee’s inception, the instruction of history has helped to define the college.

As the study of history has evolved in the decades since, the college’s History Department has evolved, as well, rising to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities offered by new technology, expanded historical perspectives and new methods of teaching.

And now Waubonsee is pleased to honor the History Department as part of its “Placing Learning First: Faculty and Program Recognition.”

The academic exploration of history appeared in Waubonsee’s very first college catalog, as the college offered five courses, including the stalwarts of American History I and II, Western Civilization I and II, and a course titled “American Heritage.”

From 1969 to 1986, Waubonsee offered students the chance to pursue Associate in Arts degrees in history. After 1986, the college no longer awarded degrees in any specific majors.

While specific degrees in history are no longer awarded, the college’s emphasis on historical instruction has only increased in the years since.

In 2013-14, Waubonsee offered 15 history courses, including 13 courses granted Illinois Articulation Initiative (IAI) approval. Further, nine of those 13 courses offer students credit in the IAI General Education Core curriculum.

Since 2000, Waubonsee History Department courses have expanded to offer a broad range of historical perspectives, including many new additions to the World History sequence that explore history among non-Western peoples and set themes in a global context.

Such courses include instruction on the History of Africa, the History of the Middle East, and the History of China and Japan, all of which are taught at the 200-level, requiring students to build upon mastery of freshman-level historical understanding.

Led by Associate Professor of History Dr. Timothy Dean Draper and Assistant Professor of History Dr. Amy Powers, the Waubonsee History Department has continued to evolve to, as Draper states, “bring the high ideals of academic history to the undergraduate students at our institution.”

“In the classroom, I tell students that, to the best of our ability, we are going to examine narratives of the past doing what historians do: reading history, writing history and talking about history,” Draper said.

Draper, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Ball State University and who earned a doctorate in history from Northern Illinois University in 2007, has helped set the pace and tone for scholarship in the Waubonsee History Department for more than 13 years.

When he joined the Waubonsee team, Draper said he sought to be “the pre-eminent community college historian in the state of Illinois.”

While he admits he may not have attained that height, he said that he believes he has “made a game effort to try to do so to the benefit of the college, community and state.”

Draper has served on the advisory board and board of directors for the Illinois State History Society; the founder, board member and editor of H-Illinois, a listserv on state history and culture, affiliated with Michigan State University’s H-Net for the Humanities; and book review editor for the “Journal of the Illinois State History Society.”

“My reputation has been one of the most demanding professors at this institution, but I continually have students thank me for expecting them to learn and behave as college students,” Draper said.

Powers has served at Waubonsee for more than a decade. She also earned a Ph.D. in history from NIU in 2007, in addition to a master’s degree in history from John Carroll University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Grove City College.

“People often ask me why I decided to become a history professor,” Powers said. “I respond by simply telling them that teaching history provides me with an opportunity to learn something new every day.”

Powers has received several distinctions, including recognition as the 2013 Illinois Community College Faculty Association Instructor of the Year.

“Whether I am teaching Early American History, Western Civilization, World History, or the History of the Middle East, I am constantly learning. My goal is to impart this love of learning—and love of history—to my students,” Powers said.

In addition to updating and modernizing course offerings, the History Department has also adapted current technology, pioneering the incorporation of distance learning options in curriculum. All but two of the department’s courses are available online, and the two most popular courses—American History and Western Civilization—remain in the self-paced open enrollment format.

At the same time, Draper and Powers have worked to improve history education beyond Waubonsee, as well. The professors represented Waubonsee as one of only 12 community college teams to participate in the American Historical Association’s Bridging Cultures Project. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the program, in which Waubonsee has participated since 2012, seeks to boost historical scholarship among cultures across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Powers said the Bridging Cultures project has allowed her to “introduce new scholarship and cutting-edge methodologies” to Waubonsee students, which can, in turn, spur students to uncover insights of their own.

“I am delighted when students read a text or analyze a primary source and come up with a fresh perspective that I had not considered,” Powers said. “Whether the students are 18-year-olds fresh out of high school or middle aged adults pursuing a new career, each one brings unique insight into our study of the past.”

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