Meet the Department: History

Critical Thought and Inquiry (CTI) classes allow students to learn subjects outside of their major and get to know professors in other departments. However, you take only one class in each of the CTI categories, so there are some faculty you may not know. This is the sixth part of a series of articles highlighting different departments on campus in order for you to become familiar with some of the faculty at William Jewell College.

Dr. Christopher Wilkins

Dr. Wilkins is not only an associate professor of history at William Jewell College and the coordinator for the Power and Justice section of the Core Curriculum but also serves as the faculty advisor for Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society and the William Jewell Historical Review.

As an undergraduate, Wilkins studied U.S. history, political science and classics at Duke University. He earned his doctorate and masters in history at Stanford University with a focus on U.S. history in a global context. Wilkins believes studying history enhances our ability to see the world for what it was, what it is and what it might become in the future election year has only reassured him of that sentiment.

“If we lack accurate knowledge of the past, I think it becomes more likely that we, as a society, will fail to resist the temptations of charlatans and demagogues and suffer as a result. I am in no way arguing that understanding history guarantees wise decisions, but I think it helps,” said Wilkins.

Wilkins enjoys having a small number of students in his classes, particularly when compared to other large universities. He finds that students oftentimes rise to the high standards he sets for the class, and enjoys investing time into students and helping them improve academically. He enjoys teaching the history course “Slavery and Abolition” which is also cross listed as a Power and Justice CTI, giving Wilkins the opportunity to instruct students from other disciplines.

“Those students bring thought-provoking, interdisciplinary approaches to the issues we discuss,” said Wilkins. “I am grateful to them because I have learned a great deal from their views each time I have taught the course.”

In addition to teaching, Wilkins continues to research and write. Early next year, an essay he wrote on the United States’ emergence as a great power in the late 19th century will be published by Cambridge University Press in a collection entitled Decades of Reconstruction: Postwar Societies, Economies, and International Relations from the 18th to the 20th century. Additionally, he is writing an essay focusing on how, in the two decades after the U.S. Civil War, the U.S. government and American abolitionists sought to use American diplomatic influence to help ensure the abolition of slavery in Cuba and Brazil. He hopes to eventually turn this essay into a book because he believes it can teach us about promoting an anti-human trafficking agenda today.

Dr. Jane Woodruff

Dr. Woodruff earned her bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University in biology and Latin. She received her masters with a Classics major and a minor in ancient history from the University of South Dakota. Her masters thesis focused on Roman comic drama. Woodruff received her doctorate from the University of Nebraska Lincoln with a major in Ancient History and Classics with a minor in Medieval History. “

“My dissertation connects with all three of these areas; it is a translation of a seventh century C.E. historical work, with a historical analysis of its content and a literary analysis of its forms,” said Woodruff.

In addition to teaching courses in ancient, medieval and world history, Woodruff also teaches all levels of the Greek and Latin languages and literatures. Woodruff enjoys the small numbers of students she has in class as well as her status as an interdisciplinary professor. Her favorite courses to teach are the introductory classes.

“I try to share my academic passions with beginning-level students who, if
they ‘catch fire,’ can continue into additional classes and/or projects with me, working on things that we now both care about,” said Woodruff. “And, last, at Jewell I get to work closely with special people like Sarah Crosley, who next year begins her graduate study in Classics.”

With her interdisciplinary training and interests, Woodruff’s research varies. Currently, she is working on a conference presentation about textual transmission, considering why it was that the medieval chronicle of Fredegar, although written in and for Burgundy, survived because it somehow traveled to and was preserved far to the northeast in Frankia.

Dr. Thomas Howell

Dr. Thomas Howell associate professor of history and serves as the Chair of the National Eligibility Committee of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Howell received his bachelors in English and history from Louisiana College. He received his
doctorate from Louisiana State University in recent American history. During that time “recent” meant up to the 1960’s. His interest in history originated from considering it to be the best way to understand how the world we live in came to be.

Howell enjoys teaching history of the Middle East because of its the Middle East because of its intricate and hyperactive that timeline. He also finds his new course on the Great War to be a great experience. However, Howell appreciates all the content at all of his classes.

“Being old and cranky, I don’t teach anything I don’t enjoy anymore. World War II has been and remains a lifetime interest. There’s a family circumstance that made me curious from a very early age and there are so many aspects to it that the way it shaped our world is an inexhaustible subject,” said Howell.

An article of Howell’s entitled “Kansas City’s Crusader” on a man named Leon Birkhead will be published in the July issue of the Missouri Historical Review. He is also working on a final draft of a proposed book on the Writers’ War Board, a World War II propaganda organization.

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