Biography

Earned and Honorary Degrees

PhD Modern European History, University of California, Irvine
MA Modern European History, Pennsylvania State University
BA Major in History, Minor in Mathematics, Macalester College

Background

I was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the son, grandson, and great-grandson of academics, so I must have been destined to become a professor myself. My fascination with history started in elementary school, when I found history books on World War II to be mesmerizing. That interest continued through high school and college, though it was only after college (and a stint working in a box factory) that I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in history and make it my life’s work.

At various points in my life, I have worked as a waiter, a bartender, a printer in a box factory, a flower deliveryman, a computer technician, a carpenter, a math tutor, a stir-fry cook in a Chinese restaurant, and a short-order cook in a greasy spoon. I have managed to live on both coasts of the United States and to explore Europe, but I have much travel left to do. In particular, I would like to travel to several parts of Asia before I die.

Research

I am currently working on a book on the history of the mind/body split in Western civilization. Most people are aware of René Descartes’ mind/body split, but few realize just how much this idea has shaped our culture from voting rights to gender roles to the criminal justice system to the relationship of science and religion. In recent decades, however, scientists in biology, psychology, medicine, and computer science have questioned the separation of mind and body, and as a result, our culture is slowly shifting toward the view that there is only a brain, which is fundamentally part of the body. If we truly abandon this idea of our “minds” as being separate from our bodies, there will be amazing cultural, legal, and religious shifts to follow.

Before this project, my research focused on the interactions of gender roles and political ideologies like fascism and communism in the first half of the Twentieth Century. I investigated the ways that French journalists and novelists during the Spanish Civil War interpreted that war, and how their own ideological leanings, perceptions of gender and culture, as well as their fears and hopes for society shaped how they saw the war, especially as a symbol and symptom of the stresses of modernity itself.

My work has appeared in academic journals such as French Historical Studies, the Intellectual History Review, Patterns of Prejudice, the History Teacher, and National Identities, as well as in various academic books on gender in politics and war.

Why Northland?

I have loved Lake Superior since I first stood on its shores as a child and tried to wrap my brain around the vast expanse of water before me. I love its moods, its power, and its beauty. I love the powerful waves in the fall on the North Shore and the way it looks blanketed in ice.

Northland College, sitting on the shores of that lake, is absolutely perfectly situated for me. Beyond the simple geography of it, though, I love the sense of open, welcoming community here. The people who work here and the students who come are all passionate about changing the world, protecting the natural world, and making things better. I want to be a part of that.

Courses

I teach the History of World Civilizations, Medieval Europe, the History of the Middle East, the Holocaust, Gender in Modern Europe, the French Revolution, the Enlightenment, Gender in Total War, European Environmental History, and Twentieth Century Ideologies.

There are several courses I really like teaching, for very different reasons. I love to teach the Holocaust, because I get to really ask students tough questions about morality, and the personal and the historical collide in amazing ways. I love to teach the world history survey because the scope of the class allows us to explore really big questions: why do some civilizations grow and thrive, and others don’t, or how do changes like the invention of agriculture or the industrial revolution cause social change, or what is love, and is it the same in all cultures? I love to teach the History of the Middle East because it is so much in the news, and students can really see how events in history are still shaping what is happening today.

Student Involvement

Leslie Poles Hartley said that, "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” I study history because I love the excitement of discovery of other worlds, other ways of thinking and working and acting, and I invite students to join me in that discovery.

Each of my courses is an exploration of another world, so I like to use lots of primary sources, to let the people in the past speak for themselves. I also focus on helping students develop the skills of reading like detectives: finding clues to cultural ideas, religious views, political ideologies, assumptions about class, race, gender, worldviews, and external influences in every document, every cultural artifact. I think skills such as this not only help students to understand history better, but also to "read" the world they live in, and to understand their own lives, culture and worldviews better.

Personal Interests

I live in Ashland with my wife and our four children. I love woodworking (furniture, in particular) and writing fiction, as well as walking, running, biking, and swimming. I have practiced karate since 2008, and am constantly discovering things about myself from that. I like working on houses, which is good, because I like old houses that need work. I also love cooking: Chinese and Thai food, Italian and German, and, of course, good old American comfort food.