Publication Date

December 9, 2016

Kris Cornelis is a full-time history instructor in the extended learning division at Spokane Community College. She lives in Newport, Washington, and has been a member since 2014.cornelis_picAlma maters: BAE, Eastern Washington University, 1996; MA, Eastern Washington University, 2006

Fields of interest: local and regional history specific to Eastern Washington and North Idaho, World War II, American Indian history and culture

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I started out with the plan of teaching high school history for a small high school in northeast Washington but the problem with this plan was that there are more history teachers for high school than there are high schools, especially in rural areas. So, I decided to go back to school for my master’s degree because of the chance to teach at the community-college level at the very least. After I completed my degree in 2006, I was fortunate to find an adjunct position within months for Community Colleges of Spokane at one of their satellite campuses. This satellite campus just happened to be in my hometown, and was connected with four other satellite campuses in northeast Washington. I have been able to work my way up from adjunct faculty to annualized, and will have my tenure in the spring of 2017.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? What I like the most about where I live and work is that I am back in my hometown giving back to my community. We have trees, mountains, lakes, and a number of rivers that make this one of the most beautiful places in Washington state. I teach for a relatively small college and I have the ability to pretty much operate as my own department. But I think even better than the work environment is that I am giving back to the community that I was raised in.

What projects are you currently working on? At the moment I have been working on the resettlement of the settlers in the Tacoma Creek Basin in Pend Oreille, Washington. I have also been working on a story based on my grandmother and her family during the Great Depression, but I have been working on that for about two years.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? How so? If they have evolved, it really has not been in the way of what I like to research and dig into. Those interests have pretty much stayed the course since I graduated. I think what has changed is how I approach the topics in that not only am I looking to see how to teach these things to my students but how should the story be told and how can that story be told using all of the new technology that is around us.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? That there were German and Italian prisoner-of-war camps in northeast Washington and northern Idaho during World War II. Of course, they called some of them internment camps, but there was a large camp across the road from Camp Farragut (near what is now Athol, Idaho).

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? The blog that I check-in with the most is Northwest History ( by Larry Cebula. This blog covers many of the topics that I find the most interesting and fascinating about the little corner of the world that I live in. This is also one of the blogs that I point my students toward when I teach Pacific Northwest History.

What do you value most about the history discipline? I think what I value the most about the history discipline is that we, as historians, bring the past back to life. There are so many things that the past can teach us, as long as we are paying attention and this is what we as historians can do for society in general. Perhaps equally important (for me anyway) is that being involved in the discipline of history allows me to tell the stories about the past and the things that interest me.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you? It allows me to feel connected to the larger historical community that being in a rural area I really do not have access to on the larger campus. I have gotten a great deal of inspiration for changing things in my courses to make them more rigorous through the ideas and examples of many historians in the AHA. For these things, I am grateful.

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, AHA Todayfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.



This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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Matthew Keough
Matthew Keough

American Historical Association