Professor of History
View Jan’s faculty profile
What drew you to want to teach at GC?
Goshen is a place where I can integrate the many parts of who I am and find a home for them all in teaching. I have researched and written about Africa, spent many years working as a community development worker in Ethiopia and Tanzania and living on a farm in the Four Corners, and I am committed to the church.
What do you love most about teaching GC students?
Goshen students are passionate about doing something good in the world and learning about other cultures. We discuss some of the most significant issues that face our world today as we explore their historical roots. What could be better?
What excites you about history?
Although I teach World History more broadly, my specialty is in African History. I love bringing alive a part of the world that is not well known for students and which suffers from dangerous stereotypes. I am also excited about the fields of environmental history and gender history for their obvious connections to current issues.
What do you enjoy doing outside of your academic work?
I enjoy traveling and exploring new places and new environments, often to visit the many friends and family we have made all around the world. Reading, walking, good conversation and good food are also my ways to relax.
How does the college’s vision (international, intercultural, interdisciplinary and integrative) connect or shape your teaching and work?
My classes are all about other world cultures, and history is by nature an interdisciplinary subject – one has to look at the economics, politics, sociology and anthropology, to name a few. In every class I try to get students to integrate this knowledge into their other learning and make it relevant to real world issues.
How do you strive to make peace through your work and life?
I don’t think we can find ways to bring an end to conflict without asking why and how it started or what theories we can use to understand it. I teach my students to empathize with others who are culturally different and to understand other perspectives. I try to practice a lifestyle of compassion in my own life.