May 16, 2016
Brian Sollenberger has been an adjunct instructor for five years with Southern New Hampshire University's College of Online and Continuing Education. He started as an adjunct at SNHU's Seacoast Center in Portsmouth, has taught online and on the university's main campus, and teaches the following online history courses: U.S. History I and II, along with Modern European History. We recently caught up with Sollenberger to learn more about his connection with history.
I grew up in the Annapolis, Maryland area, close to a wide range of historical sites from southern Pennsylvania to northern Virginia, and, of course Washington, D.C., so I grew up with a keen awareness of the past. The American Revolution, in particular, tapped into my sense of adventure, at least the Disney version of it in the Johnny Tremain series. I still find it fascinating to study the past and tap into the ideas and attitudes that led people to act, or not act, in certain ways.
The main thing that history continues to teach me is that there is more than one way to view the world. It's easy to think of the world, and how things "should be," in terms of how they are from within our own bubbles. When I started my graduate studies in history it opened up a whole new world of possible ways of thinking.
This is tied to the lessons history has taught me, but there is a great value in any organization, profession, family or nation in knowing the history of what or who has come before you. In most arenas, we're not the first people to confront a question or to try and solve a problem. As citizens, it is incredibly informative to be able to put the current debates and questions facing the nation into the larger context of American history. This kind of larger perspective can help to avoid extremes and make better-informed decisions in a form of government that calls for our participation.
What I find most meaningful as an adjunct at SNHU is the opportunity to help people improve their lives through education. The students who are balancing life with school in order to change their lives always impress me. From the older parent who wants to set an example for her children to the middle-aged professional who needs the degree to advance to the single mom who wants to change her family tree for her kids, I am always impressed by the determination of our students. So getting to be a part of these stories is meaningful to me.
Within the online history courses I teach, particularly U.S. History I and II, there is an emphasis on becoming familiar with types of historical sources and learning how to use proper sources to support a conclusion. While we certainly use a textbook to put specific events into the context of U.S. history, we give students the opportunity to focus in on various key events and engage with primary sources.
In a recent discussion post, a student communicated what I think is a unique benefit of this element within the courses when she commented that there was something awe-inspiring to get to read from a historical document from our past. Not only is this a key skill for any aspiring historian to master, it really is a rare opportunity for our students who may not be history majors.
This kind of access, utilizing databases from all over the world, is a unique feature in our classes that allows students to dig deeper, beyond the basic narrative of U.S. history. Again, students have the opportunity to walk away with a broader perspective on the nation's history.
If you have a fascination with the past and how it intersects with the present and future, consider an online history degree at the bachelor's or master's level with SNHU.
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