Publication Date

July 25, 2023

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

AHA Topic

Career Paths, Professional Life



Anna Booker is a senior instructor at Whatcom Community College. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, and has been a member since 2017.

Headshot of Anna Booker

Anna Booker

Alma maters: BA, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1992; MA, University of Montana, 1996

Fields of interest: environmental, American West

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I did two internships when I was in graduate school: one for the Nature Conservancy and the other for a research firm that specialized in cultural resource management. That experience led to a position as a research associate at an environmental consulting firm in San Francisco. I worked downtown long enough to realize that my heart was in the classroom, conversing with students, not sitting at a computer. I taught at several Bay Area community colleges until I moved with my family to Bellingham, Washington, in 2003. I have been teaching at Whatcom Community College (with a few years at Western Washington University) ever since. Along the way I have made it a point to integrate my consulting work by creating project-based assignments that get students excited and curious about researching in local archives and libraries.

What do you like the most about where you live and work?

I am walking distance to the Salish Sea, a mile from running trails, and a bike ride (albeit a long one) to the North Cascades. Whatcom County has four higher ed institutions, including the only tribal college in the northwest United States, and I am collaborating with colleagues at three of them. The inter-campus exchange with two- and four-year colleges is energizing for me and a great opportunity for student-to-student mentorship.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on a five-year grant funded by the National Science Foundation to teach an interdisciplinary course sequence, titled Engineering, Math, and Society, that blurs discipline boundaries, emphasizes relevance, and integrates experiential learning. The grant supports a team-teaching approach to learning the social context of engineering and its effect on land, water, and the natural resources of the region.

I am also collaborating with elders on a community-based participatory research project about the history of Lummi Aquaculture, which led to the founding of Northwest Indian College. Some of this collaboration is a continuation of the National Endowment for the Humanities work that we began in 2020 with the creation of the Salish Sea Curriculum Repository.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?

I think my interest in environmental history has not changed, but I have become clearer about where and how I choose to do the work I love. Being a community college instructor has given me the freedom to focus on teaching and learning about our local landscapes and built environment while inspiring my students to do the same, or at least that is the hope.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?

I found a photograph of swimmers at Squalicum Beach in the 1920s in a community member’s private collection. It is a wonderful representation of an accessible waterfront being used for recreational purposes at a time when the shoreline was being lost to industrial development.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?

The podcast All My Relations with Makita Wilbur and Adrienne Keene and Homewaters by David Williams.

What do you value most about the history discipline?

Storytelling and analysis are what originally drew me to the discipline. Working with colleagues and students who are curious about why things are the way they are is what keeps me engaged. To quote one of my favorite historians, “To study the past is to unlock the prison of the present” (Jill Lepore, These Truths, 2018).

Why is membership in the AHA important to you?

I joined the AHA when I was asked to serve on the Nominating Committee of the Pacific Coast Branch of the AHA. It proved to be a great opportunity to connect with scholars from around the country, and it also motivated me to chair and organize several panels. I like supporting an organization that advocates for historians and keeps me up to date with the progress of the field.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

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