Featured Career: History Professor

Here are the last five careers I’ve featured and you can find ALL my career features HERE!

Also, my bank of featured careers I had built up is starting to run low and I’m looking for more people to feature in December and January! If you’re interested in being featured please email me (amber@girlwiththeredhair.com) or leave a comment on this blog post! Thanks 🙂

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RAQUELITA

1. What is your official job title and what exactly does your job entail?

My official job title is “Visiting Assistant Professor of History.” I teach European history classes (lower level, upper level, and MA level) at a university in the Midwest. My job entails teaching classes, holding office hours, serving on committees that help my department and the university to function, advising a student organization, doing research, and presenting my research at conferences and publishing in academic journals. I’m also working on my first book.

2. How did you get into your field of work?

When I was in my second year of university, I knew that I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to get a degree in English or Creative Writing. I found history fascinating, and I ended up majoring in it. I had a number of brilliant and enthusiastic professors when I was an undergrad, and I found myself wanting to do what they did. So I decided to go on to graduate school. I got my MA in American History and then my PhD in Early Modern European History with a focus on Spain and its empire. I got lucky and landed a position during the year that I was finishing my dissertation.

3. What is your favourite thing to teach students about?

I really love teaching in general so it’s hard to pick just one thing. There really is almost nothing more rewarding for me than for a class to go well and for the discussion to be animated yet respectful. The best class that I ever taught was a course on Colonial Latin America, but I also tremendously enjoy teaching about Golden Age Spain and the Renaissance and Reformation. One of the favorite things that I have done in the past year is have my class read some court documents from sixteenth-century and create skits based on the historical sources that they have read.

Raquelita bike commuting to work:

RAQUELITA BIKING TO WORK
4. Describe a typical day in your work life?

My schedule varies a lot from day to day and from semester to semester. Currently, I teach one class on Mondays and Wednesdays and two classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays and Wednesdays I work on my research in the mornings, and then I usually hold office hours, grade papers, and work on my lectures until I teach in the afternoon. I teach from 4-6pm and then head home. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach from 8-10am, hold office hours, and then teach again from 12-2pm. I usually have committee meetings or the student organization that I advise meets later in the afternoons on those days. When I don’t have meetings, in the afternoon I work on class prep and writing lectures either in my office on campus or I try to devote Fridays entirely to research and writing, but sometimes I have meetings or need to write lectures on Friday in order to stay ahead.

5. What’s your least favourite thing about your job?

Without a doubt, grading. Every now and then I read a paper that is so good that I want to have a dance party in my office, but I also read papers that make me want to weep. I don’t expect every essay to be a masterpiece, but it is really frustrating to receive work at the college level that is so poorly written that I can’t even make sense of it.

6. What is something about your job that surprises people?
I don’t know about people in general, but I think sometimes it surprises students that professors have lives. We are real people.  We go to the gym, walk our dogs, go on dates, shop for groceries, have a drink at the bar. Students often seem startled to see me somewhere besides campus.

RAQUELITA THREE

7. If you could describe your career in one word, what would that word be?

Scholarly — it is all about trying to balance the elements of participating in a community of scholars.

8. Anything else you’d like to add?

Unfortunately, I think academics have a pretty bad public image, and it can be hard to combat that. Sure I only spend 12 hours in the classroom a week, but once I hold office hours, do class prep, go to any committee meetings that I need to, and grade any work that I’ve assigned, I’ve usually clocked close to 40 hours. In order to advance in my career, I still have to research and publish. While not every week is so hectic, a lot of them are during the school year, and I often end up working closer to 50 or 60 hours a week.  I can’t tell you the number of Saturdays and Sundays that I’ve spent the entire day working. Most of the time I don’t mind because I love what I do, but I do resent it when people think that professors are lazy. My job is awesome, but it is not easy!

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Thank you for this great interview Raquelita. I loved my history classes in college and found it fascinating!

Question of the day: What was your favourite class in college?

I took a pop culture literature class my second year of college and found it so, so interesting. I often wish that I could have just majored in general studies because I loved, loved, loved taking a mix of history, political science, english etc. my first and second years before getting into my journalism program.

23 Responses

  1. eemusings says:

    Man oh man I was so pumped for my pop culture paper in first year: but what a letdown. The content and teaching was such a disappointment. I LOVED my political history paper as it blended sociology, politics and history – every new topic each week was equally fascinating. (and no, I’m not a political person at all)

  2. abbi says:

    Great feature on Raquelita! My favorite course in college was copyright law. I got very interested in intellectual property law and seriously considered law school…but I probably wouldn’t have done anything with it, just like I didn’t do anything with that music business degree I have!

  3. Kelly says:

    I liked my history classes too and most of my education ones. Although I dreaded taking them I ended up really liking my theology and philosophy courses- so interesting.

    This was a great one to read as I often think about teaching a class or two at the college level. I don’t know if I ever want to get my doctorate though! I do think it’s hilarious that college kids don’t expect their teachers to have lives- I mean my 5 year olds are that way but you’d think by college it would become more clear!

    I think just like teaching in the younger grades, there are some lazy professors that have given everyone a bad name (just like some lazy teachers). Also our vacations don’t help us much 🙂 But it’s definitely an intense job once you are doing it, it’s all the behind the scenes work people don’t know about!

  4. Ris says:

    This is a great feature! My parents are professors and while they might not have “traditional” schedules, they are ALWAYS working! They travel (often on their own dime) to go to conferences, give papers, and learn more about their fields. My mom looks forward to vacation so that she can work on her latest book. My dad goes down to school every. single. day. Profs work hard!

    My favorite class that I took in college was History of Rock & Roll. It was such a fun class and I learned so much!

  5. Abby says:

    Very interesting! I have “career envy” for her. That is so true about students getting a misconception about professors not having lives. Especially earlier on in college — and I think it is expecially common in the bigger classes.

    My favorite classes were a tie between Anatomy lab (human cadavers were an incredible learning tool), Chemsitry, and Ballroom dancing!

  6. paige says:

    I LOVED my European history classes. And a great prof makes all the difference.

    I’d love to ‘apply’ for a job interview :), however, I’m really hoping that I’ll be changing careers soon (fingers crossed)!

    • paige says:

      PS. I have to say, Raquelita has one of the tidiest offices I’ve ever seen on a campus!

      • Raquelita says:

        Paige, I have to tell you that my office goes through cycles of compete messiness and disarray – especially when I have lots of different assignments to grade at the same time. I do try to spend about 20 minutes cleaning it up every Thursday or Friday, though.

  7. Holly says:

    I took a couple of anthropology courses in my last year of university – a pretty random selection for an economics major but they fit into my schedule, so I signed up. I LOVED both courses – I think if I had taken intro to anthropology in my first year, I would have majored in that instead of economics 🙂 I also really enjoyed Children’s Lit (we read Harry Potter!) and I took a Jane Austen course that was awesome as well … If I had the money, I’d go to school all the time 🙂

  8. Nora says:

    I LOVED my history classes I took in college; most of mine were of the history ilk in fact based upon my major and I just enjoyed every single one. I had some of hte best history teachers too (at least in my opinion/at my university!). I have always thought it would be rather cool to teach and work for a university and I definitely give professors credit for all the hard work they put forth. Great interview and awesome feature as always, Amber 🙂

  9. Rose-Anne says:

    I’m a big fan of Raquelita’s, so this interview was a treat. Also, I love the balance-ball-as-chair. Hilarious and functional!

    I loved many, many classes I took in college. I think my favorite three subjects outside of my major were neuroscience, philosophy, and history. Since I can’t take any history classes from Raquelita, I’m just going to have to wait until her book comes out 🙂

  10. Stephany says:

    This was such a interesting feature to read! I took a few general studies history courses and had one pretty fantastic history professor that I absolutely loved.

    I think my favorite course was probably a psychology course I took during my general studies phase. SO interesting and my professor was so exciting and fun! I really think the professor makes all the difference in a class.

  11. This was so fun to read! When you told me you’d be doing a career feature about Raquelita I was so excited because I have always been fascinated and intrigued by what it would be like to be a professor. At one point of my life, I thought I might be one. It has been interesting to learn more about what her life is like. I have to say, I always held professors sort of up on a pedastal and found some of them very hard to approach, so it was hard to think of them as doing normal things like going out to dinner or running or something like that… because they just seemed, I don’t know how to describe it, almost above the common things that others do? I know, I am weird to think this way. 😉

    My favorite class in college was actually Linear Algebra. I know, I know… that is weird, but the professor was super duper passionate about it. he was like the mad professor who would dash across the chalkboard, filling it with numbers and equations, talking a mile a minute – but I got him and I got the material and it was certainly not easy, but it was fun to work through the problems! They made my head hurt though!! In grad school, my favorite class was my Debt Markets class, which is what led me to my current career. Once again, the professor was super duper passionate about it, and that made all the difference. When I started my job in January, I actually emailed him. It had been 5 years since i had taken his class, I think, but i wanted him to know that he played a part in me figuring out my career – and he wrote back and said he was thrilled to hear from a former student and excited that I ended up in the bond industry. Kind of cool.

    • Raquelita says:

      I think I probably felt the same way about my professors as an undergrad until my last year when one of my favorite professors was my neighbor. I would see her out and about all the time, or mowing her lawn, or walking to campus. That sort of demystified things for me, and then grad school definitely did. One of professors who served on my PhD committee is a runner and sometimes I would see him out on a run when I was running, and we would stop and chat for a few minutes.

  12. I have so many favourite university classes – but neuro-psych. and research methods are two that stick out in my mind. I am finishing my masters in the next few months, and then plan on doing a PhD and becoming a professor too 🙂

  13. I loved my literature, psych, poli sci, law and social work classes.

  14. Running and history- two of my great loves!

  15. Sarah S says:

    Great interview! I actually almost finished a BA in history with the intent of being a professor, but I switched to Biology at the last minute and now I’m finishing a PhD in that instead.

  16. I’m taking a history course next semester and I’m really excited! For my middle school endorsement it’s all content area classes!

    The course I’m taking is in American History.

  17. Kyria says:

    It’s great to get to know Raquelita a little bit more! What a great feature. I have to admit, in High School, history seemed a little bit boring. I think I had a bad professor. However I got into college and learned that history has a lot of scandal and all of a sudden I was hooked! Plus traveling and history go hand in hand. How could I not like it now?!

    My favorite class was probably Biology. We got to dissect pigs and other things! I loved it!

  18. I already pink sparkle heart Raquelita so it was fun to learn more about her!