Teaching Portfolio

My course work at Princeton and my studies in Cambridge qualify me to teach American history from Contact through Reconstruction as well as early modern European history from 1500 to 1800.   I was an Assistant in Instruction for John Murrin’s lecture course, Revolutionary America, during my final year at Princeton.  I am interested in developing courses on the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the history of education, and the history of immigration all from a transatlantic perspective.

As my dissertation and publications suggest, I am particularly fascinated by the role of European religious institutions in bringing people to North America and in influencing their identities upon arrival, including the overlapping categories of religion, ethnicity, and race.  These themes played a central role in my teaching at Valparaiso University.  My departmental responsibilities included teaching the introductory course “America to 1877.”  I taught a two part series of upper-level courses in Colonial and Revolutionary America.  I feel particularly gratified that two of the students from the 300 level series are now pursuing graduate work in the field.  I advised history majors from the Class of 2004 and students applying for Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright fellowships for the duration of my tenure at Valparaiso. In addition to my teaching responsibilities in the history department, I taught in the University’s Freshman CORE program and served on the 2001-2002 curriculum committee.  The CORE is an interdisciplinary, writing-intensive seminar, which replaced Valparaiso’s 100 level classes in English, Theology and History.

In my first year at VU, I served as liaison between the library and the department in arranging to purchase two large collections of early American documents for use in my courses.  My involvement with the writing seminars and focus on primary document collections provide insight into my pedagogical approach.  As a result of my undergraduate tutelage at Northwestern and my subsequent education at Cambridge and Princeton, I am a staunch believer in the value of weekly essays to hone students’ critical thinking and writing skills.  I also encourage the heavy use of primary documentation from the earliest stages of university education.  At Valparaiso, the librarians saw students enrolled in my classes more frequently than others, because they invariably had writing projects that demanded engagement with primary sources.  Although some balked at having to stretch beyond textbook and secondary source learning, all of them became better thinkers and writers as a result of their efforts.

At Northwestern, I have taught a seminar on the the political thought that influenced the US Constitution in two formats:  an upper-level American Studies seminar and a Freshman History seminar.  The American Studies seminar required students to give weekly feedback on political theory documents via Blackboard, take turns leading discussion in class, and conduct a quarter long independent research project based upon the Readex America’s Historical Newspapers collection and the assigned documents.  To my delight, two students went on to win a Marshall Scholarship to Oxford and a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.  I used the same 1492-1792 time frame for the Freshman Seminar, which omitted the independent research paper, but required Oxbridge style weekly response papers.  I taught an American Studies seminar on reading and writing biography in Winter 2010.

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