Friday, March 27, 2009

My Career as a Historian - Part Three

In order to keep these posts to a manageable length, I am going to break down my college and grad school years into a few posts. So here we go with Freshman year.

When I arrived at UNCW, I registered as an Education major since I planned on being a high school teacher. So I got an advisor in the Watson School of Education. In our first advising session he explained to me that since I wanted to teach high school I would have to change my major to History, and take the Ed courses needed to receive certification (basically, there was no degree in Secondary Ed at that time at UNCW; one simply majored in their subject area and got certification through the Watson School). I would also have to take a certain number of courses in collateral areas (i.e. geography, political science, economics, etc.) as well to receive Social Studies certification.

One of the first people I met when I moved into the dorm was Carl Williams, a friend to me still today. Carl was from Kinston (ironic, huh?) and was a history major. There were also a few other history majors living on my hall and I immediately began picking their brains about which professors to take. They all told me something different and that's when I realized I was going to have to experience the faculty for myself. Carl also introduced me to the student group Fellowship of Christian University Students. I became very active in that group, served as an officer, and maintained my membership throughout college. The campus minister Bob Haywood and his assistant Jim Sims were both very influential to me and I met more friends than I could ever count in that group.

First semester freshman year my advisor signed me up for Western Civ I with Dr. Larry Usilton. The class was Monday and Wednesday at 6 p.m. Two factors combined to make this a difficult class. I am of the opinion that no advisor should ever have a first semester freshman take Western Civ I. Most high school students don't get a whole lot of exposure to that particular area of history, making it somewhat difficult. That, combined with the time of the class made it very difficult for me. I had never taken night classes and this class was hard. I did my best, but at semester's end I was a few points short of a B. However, I was given a gift. When I went to the professor's office to find out how I had done on the final exam he looked over my grade, and noticed that I had missed no classes. He asked if I was a history major and I said I was. He said getting a C in my first history class wasn't a good way to start out and gave me the points needed to push me up to a B. I was eternally grateful, and though I never took another class with Dr. Usilton he was always one of my favorite people in the department.

Dr. Usilton was the faculty advisor for the History Club my freshman year. The History Club was a student organization for history majors. We had a monthly meeting where a faculty member would give a brief presentation and as a university sponsored group we were given a small budget for projects. That year the group decided to take a late fall semester trip to Washington DC. In mid-November a bunch of us piled into a university owned 15 passenger van and embarked for DC for a weekend. I was the only freshman on the trip and I realized how naive I really was. The only thing I really remember about that weekend is getting drunk in the hotel bar with a couple of the older students. The History Club would play a major role in my college career from that point forward, and never again did it involve alcohol.

Second semester I had two history courses, Western Civ II with Dr. Michael Seidman and Intro to Globabl History with Dr. Ravi Kalia. Western Civ II was much easier than the first half of the class had been and I really liked Dr. Seidman. I was really starting to feel more comfortable. Dr. Kalia's class was more difficult. The class focused on Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Dr. Kalia was from India, but he wasn't one of those dumpy looking professors that I had seen in the math department. Ravi was a playboy; convertible sports car, Armani suits, etc. He loved food, drink, and women, not necessarily in that order. He was also my new advisor since I had officially become a history major. Though I liked him and he had a big influence on me, I still got a C in his class. It was also in his class that I met one of my best friends, who I still communicate with to today, Jeffrey Baynes. Jeff and I struggled through that class together. He was a few years older than me, but a little delayed in his college career. Jeff and I became study partners and friends, and would take other classes together in later semesters.

That second semester I also took my first political science class, American National Government with Dr. Earl Sheridan. Dr. Sheridan was an excellent professor and active in the community, holding office in the local NAACP. This was during the administration of the first President Bush and I remember fondly Dr. Sheridan referring to the Pres and VP as "Brother Bush and Brother Quayle." I thoroughly enjoyed this class and would return to take more political science classes in the future.

I took no education classes my first year, so I was still on track to be a high school history teacher. It wasn't until my Sophomore year that I would start to think about changing my career path.


chris said...

OMG the suspense is killing me. What did you turn out to be?????

Jessica said...

Hhhmmmm, i'm racking my brain, but I think I may have had Dr. Usilton for Western Civ, but it was summer and i'm just not sure. I really liked that class actually... mostly b/c i'd never experienced a lot of that kind of history. Can't wait to read the next chapter of memory lane......