This piece is part of a series called Faculty Friday that focuses on staff at McKendree University. Each Friday, the Review team will highlight a faculty or staff member.
Emma Scott, Contributing Writer
Featured image from McKendree University, Other image from Emma Scott
Dr. Lauren Thompson, fondly referred to as LT by her students and coworkers, has a way of making a lasting impact in and out of the classroom. Though this is only her third year at McKendree, she is already a fan favorite among her students because she is able to take history, a subject dreaded by many, and turn it into something that everyone can relate to through modern culture and personal experience.
After completing her PhD at Florida State University, LT gravitated toward McKendree because she attended Marietta College, a small liberal arts school in Ohio, for her undergraduate degree. “I loved my small college experience, and when I got my PhD I hoped to get back to a school like Marietta… I was pretty much open to go anywhere, but I knew I could relate to the students because I had a similar education and the demographics were similar, with both schools being in the Midwest.”
LT has always known that she wanted to teach. As an undergraduate, she majored in history education not just because she loved history, but also because she believed at the time that the only thing she could do with a history degree was teach. After she started taking classes, she realized how much material there was to learn. She debated whether she wanted to become a teacher or go to law school after graduation. She had always pictured herself becoming a high school history teacher; her parents were both high school teachers, so she had a glimpse of what expectations and difficulties came with the job. But, after beginning her master’s degree in history, she became more geared toward teaching college classes. “There are three tracks that people put you on when you start grad school: the academic route (publishing), the teaching route, or public history. I always stayed on that teaching route, and in grad school I would always jump at how to teach college history trainings and seminars.” While her classmates aimed to be on fellowship so they could research or teach small classes, LT was eager to teach larger classes, and to also teach online and during summers because she enjoyed it so much and wanted to gain more experience.
Teaching history comes with some adversity. Not everyone who comes into her classroom agrees with her teachings, and she largely credits the discrepancy to a student’s upbringing and past experiences in a classroom. “You can’t change the way someone is raised, and you only have four months to attempt to teach them what you want them to know, and most of the time that isn’t anywhere near enough.” In her classes, LT focuses on elements that have been stifled throughout the course of history. She highlights the nuances among race, gender, and social class that are not highlighted in high school textbooks, and most students have never heard of when they enter her classroom. She concentrates deeply on the “whole truth” that we must be aware of in order to become informed members of society and begin to overcome the adversity that history has left us with.