A Chat with Prof. David Perry
History Professor David Perry was gracious enough to have a conversation about his five years thus far in our beloved institution. The following is an accumulation of notable moments.
Q: What is it about Dominican that intrigues you?
A: What I find interesting about Dominican is that for both students and faculty-- Dominican really asks us to commit to an institution as a whole people-- that’s different for a student, faculty member or staff member. We are a healthy institution; we don't serve it as a fragmentary people, we really commit to it. And there is a reward for that-- that is the essence of what Dominican really is. I find this very intriguing, compelling and hard.
Q: What are your thoughts on the faculty-to-student ratio?
A: I would always have more faculty members to students, because the one-on-one conversations are just wonderful. I come from a big state university. My first teaching experiences as a graduate student were in 300-person classes, with a professor in front, with each of us (my fellow teaching assistants and myself) dealing with 35 students or so. We are blessed here. Students, I hope you know that you are blessed here. The faculty is all about collaborating and communicating with undergraduate students like you.
Q: How about the student body in general?
A: What I like is how many different paths Dominican Students took to get to this point, whether it’s the 18 year-old fresh out of a Chicago public high school, or the 50 year-old grandmother who is coming back to school. There are people who went through the local Catholic school system, who know the neighborhood well and are living at home. Then there are those who come from far away, who have come here to Chicago and have not only to experience Dominican for the first time, but the whole Midwest.
Q: When did you first discover your passion for history?
A: When I went to college as an undergraduate I was convinced that I would not be a history or theatre major. I graduated as a history and theatre major. So somewhere along the line I must have tried to talk myself out of my path. My parents are history professors; I grew up in academia and I knew a lot about both its charms and its perils. In high school and college I found my history classes very rewarding. I became gradually drawn into the medieval past, a place that was a once foreign, but also familiar. I am an Irish-Jew from Tennessee with eastern European, English and New England roots; a very American past. It's only in America that someone like me exists. Western Civilization is my heritage. Once I got into a classroom I couldn't get out.
Q: What can a student look forward to as a history major?
A: To survive as a history major- to flourish- you have to be very good at interrogating data. You learn how to draw information for your purposes to then articulate your findings that are coherent, certainly in writing, preferably as well in speech. Those are skills that prepare you for just about anything. Any field that requires research, history gives you the skills. We have lots of students who go on to law or business school and government work. It's good if you have nice thoughts inside your head but if you can't share them, then you won't flourish as a history major and you won't flourish in the business world.
Q: Are there any majors, minors, or programs you would like to comment on?
A: I am directing the Catholic Studies minor while also developing and supporting the Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor. Both of these are new and approved within the past year. I am very excited about them. They ask and support students in crossing disciplinary boundaries to think about big topics. An undergraduate education is about building links between all of the things we learn. How do we combine the breadth and depth? I think these interdisciplinary minors are how students will really take a firm hold of their education outside of the work they do toward completing their majors.