Meet the faculty of the Department of History! We are comprised of a faculty who has in-depth expertise covering diverse aspects of our discipline. Not only do our faculty excel in their own academic scholarship, but they also excel in imparting that knowledge to students.

Edie Sparks: Department Chair and Associate Professor


I believe that good teaching is about creating opportunities for discovery.  It is about pushing students to explore themselves, their beliefs, their ideas, and their capacities while investigating a particular subject.

Many students are uncomfortable with the destabilizing idea that history is interpretation and that they should be able to form an opinion about history when they feel they know so little.  I overcome these obstacles by engaging students’ imaginations, putting them “in the shoes” of the people we are studying.

Andreas Agocs: Visiting Assistant Professor

andreas-agocs-blogIn my teaching I strive to explain the often complex problems and conflicted histories of European countries while at the same time reinforcing or even awakening the students’ interests in the material.

History is not about memorizing dates and events, but centers on the interpretation of historical processes and the creation of narratives based on the historical records. The University of the Pacific, with its small class settings and friendly atmosphere, provides an ideal learning environment for this approach.

Kris Alexanderson: Assistant Professor


I show students how the study of history can help us understand current events and contemporary situations and people around us. I show students how to use critical thinking to make sense of the past, to identify and differentiate historical events and themes, and unravel their importance through the use of primary and secondary sources.

The ability to not only teach students, but also mentor and give them personalized attention is a great benefit of working at a school like the University of the Pacific.

Ken Albala: Professor

ken-albalaI think the classroom should be fun and exciting and since I love telling stories, much of our time is spent doing just that, as well as discussing important events, individuals and long-term historical processes.

By getting our hands dirty with primary documents, we learn how to write history well, how to support an argument, and ultimately how to tell a good story. I also think that the skills one learns in my classes make students better researchers, thinkers and writers in whatever professions they decide to pursue.

Gesine Gerhard: Professor


Europe has a rich and often painful history.  Learning about European history exemplifies how human behavior and cultural values differ according to time and place.  Understanding history is exciting in itself, but it also helps us to understand the present.  Most of all, I want to instill in students an appreciation and an enthusiasm for learning about the past and its legacies.



Laura Gutierrez: Assistant Professor

rs63717_20160922-lauragutierrez-0006-lprBeyond focusing on facts and events, I love to center class discussions on the actual sources. We analyze newspaper articles, artwork, letters, maps and other documents to understand how history is written and remembered. We also learn about the culture of the places we study and students pick cultural works to analyze in the context of the class topic.



Jennifer Helgren: Associate Professor


I want students to wonder about the antecedents of all kinds of political and cultural debates, including reproductive rights, immigration reform, and the war on terror. So often we hear that some issue is unprecedented when, in fact, we just don’t know its history.

History opens our ideas to possibilities. History- telling stories about the past- is also fun. My classes examine the production of history, the construction of the past through interpretation and its political implications.

Greg Rohlf: Associate Professor


How do you learn about the past?  In all of my classes, we try to let the past speak to us directly by reading primary documents.

If we judge our society by their standards, we’ll find that we are cultural incompetents unable to appreciate or write the poetry that so defined their lives and sensibilities.  But we’re great with a spreadsheet or a text message. History- even the kind that doesn’t solve problems or prevent wars- connects us with people across time, place and culture and helps us see our common humanity.

Bill Swagerty: Professor


My primary goal is mentoring students in researching important questions in the social and environmental sciences. Students in my classes learn to use library resources and gain valuable analytical skills in formulating and evaluating research questions.

My teaching is student-centered. Students learn from each other by sharing research, get to know each other, and form lasting collegiate friendships.  At Pacific this is possible with our small classes and the one-on-one contact between professor and student.