Published Date

June 10, 2016

Resource Type

AHA Resource, Essay


Teaching Methods

AHA Topics

Teaching & Learning, Undergraduate Education

This resource was developed as part of the AHA’s Globalizing the US History Survey project.


By Sarah Grunder

Institution: Suffolk County Community College

Location: Brookhaven, NY

Year: 2016

I think the BC program was important for helping me clarify—in teaching outside of my area of expertise (I’m a 20th century cultural historian)—new approaches and ways to incorporate recent scholarship in my courses. I was already teaching from an Atlantic World perspective, but I’ve really tried to beef up the Pacific perspective. In fact, on the first day of class (in the first half of the survey) I start with the Google Earth image of the Pacific Ocean. I’ve also worked to lecture material and assignments throughout the semester—even when we’re in the heart of British North America—that acknowledge and use the Pacific. I don’t want students to forget it is there at any point during the semester. I would say, given the constraints of a 15 week semester and the increasingly specific demands for assessment and learning outcomes from the state/SUNY, what I’ve tried to do is less single lectures on the Pacific World, and more incorporation of it into the story and narrative that I’m trying to get students to grasp.

In fact, one of the areas that I really hate to discuss in higher education is the increasing reliance on “assessment” by the state and university officials. One area that we’ve repeatedly been ordered to assess and improve on is the students understanding of the role of the U.S. in the world. The BC seminar fit right into this and I’ve been able to use it not only in really concrete ways in the classroom, but also to satisfy accreditation officials, assessment officials, etc. that we are addressing (“closing the loop”, so to speak) areas where our students do not appear to be performing as well as the state would like.

In addition, I’ve reworked my syllabi in subtle ways to spend more time on the Pacific world and other empires. In several semesters, as I discussed during our panel at AHA, I did elaborate written assignments where students used primary and secondary sources to write a paper about commodities, peoples, and ideas flowing around the Atlantic and/or Pacific worlds. I’ve also tried to use really local history (Long Island students really love and care about Long Island—as an outsider this has been something I’ve struggled to understand) to get them interested in global ideas and concepts. As part of these assignments students completed a map exercise demonstrating the movements, did worksheets on each primary and secondary source they used, and completed a 5-6 page paper based out of the material.