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Alice Admire Outstanding Teaching Award: Dr. Jennifer Stollman

Dr. Jennifer Stollman is an Assistant Professor of History.

Dr. Jennifer Stollman is an Assistant Professor of History.

One of the best tests of a great teacher is to ask what they find most rewarding about their jobs. The answers may vary, but they will invariably shift the focus from the teacher to the student. The best educators revel in the successes of their students, as is the case with Assistant Professor of History Dr. Jennifer Stollman.

“It is my greatest pleasure when I see a student at the beginning of the semester and then I see how they have advanced at the end of the semester,” she remarks, “and a student at the beginning of their college career and when they’re graduating. They’re fundamentally different people with advanced minds.”

To effect that kind of change in students is no small feat and those professors who can both change their students’ lives and motivate their students to change the world are a rare breed. Fortunately, Dr. Stollman is that kind of teacher and she has chosen to teach here.

Born and raised in Michigan, Dr. Stollman’s life experiences have taken her into many different fields and around the world. For example, she worked for a nature society in Israel, as well as spending some time working in the finance industry with Merrill Lynch. She leans on these experiences in her present career as an educator.

“I believe that having a diversity of experiences enables one to be a better educator,” she says. “I have experienced and participated in many worlds. This is especially useful at Fort Lewis because in my history surveys, students arrive with different disciplinary interests.”

When it became clear to her that education was to be her life’s work, Dr. Stollman was drawn to history. Many think that studying history means the robotic memorization and recitation of facts and dates, but that’s not the way Dr. Stollman sees it.

“History isn’t just about names or dates or events,” she says. “It’s about getting people to challenge their own assumptions about power, about race, about sex, about gender, about anything that categorizes, divides or ranks people.”

“I have always loved history and I have always been an activist so I decided that history would be a great way to not only open people’s minds up, but knowing history, the students would have a good sense of how they could be effective activists and productive citizens.”

Dr. Stollman states: “It’s important for good activists and good citizens to understand the work that has already been done by people who have come before them. Today we have the ability to pick up a cause and work to change the world largely because of the activists of yesterday who have paved the way. It’s also much more effective to build off of what others have already done rather than try to start anew and go it alone.”

“I believe we stand on the shoulders of giants,” she explains. “So anything that I am able to do or anything that students accomplish when it comes to achieving freedom or advancing civil rights is because other people have come before us and really started the heavy lifting.”

Truly, Dr. Stollman has become a giant in her own right. Her heavy lifting in the classroom is translating to her students, helping to shape their minds and their lives, regardless of whether or not they choose to pursue a degree in history. What Dr. Stollman teaches and how she teaches is designed to help her students become more insightful, thoughtful and informed, tools they will need if they are to change the world.

“I don’t think I would be the kind of teacher I am without the students and without the faculty,” she explains, “and obviously without the support of the College that allows me to do this every day.”

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