Falling into history

dr. tiffany zieglerDr. Tiffany Ziegler ’03, Assistant Professor of History at Minot State University, didn’t come to Hastings College in 1999 expecting to graduate with a major in history.  She arrived on campus with a music scholarship and a vague notion of becoming a teacher. 

“I came in and kind of tested the waters of music and decided it really wasn’t for me,” Tiffany said. “I headed straight into elementary education and, after a field experience, decided against that.”

However, when she took a western civilization course with Dr. Rob Babcock, Professor of History and Chair of the History Department, she began registering for additional history courses.

“The exploration of peoples and places that I hadn’t really heard of in some cases or studied in others—it just kind of sparked an interest and I found it fascinating,” Tiffany said.

The history department at Hastings is accustomed to students switching majors. In fact, the majority of students who graduate with a history degree didn’t plan on it; they simply fell into the major.

“I think that there are very few high school students who come to college planning to major in history,” Dr. Babcock said. “A lot of that has to do with the way that [people] teach history in high school. History becomes this stuff about memorization and this stuff about facts. In actuality, the practice of history is very creative and very imaginative, and I think that students who take one of the required history courses at Hastings find out that it’s not what their [teacher] told them in high school.  It’s not this standardized, testable thing.”

The Hastings College course requirements are set in place to give students a well-rounded education and the opportunity to discover their strengths and interests. Dr. Babcock uses that to his advantage and teaches incoming students that history is more than dates and names.

“I tell my students that when we do it right, history is a bunch of people sitting around with cups of coffee talking intelligently about the past. It’s not an emphasis on dates and events but much more an imagination of what life was like in another time and then trying to come up with the evidence to support that imagination. I think Tiffany bought into that; she was jazzed by that.”

Even after switching her major, Tiffany was able to complete her degree in four years. She also applied and was accepted to the University of Missouri’s graduate program.

“Most of the time I talk about how it was the preparation that I had as an undergrad that prepared me for the master’s and the Ph.D. so that I could be a success,” Tiffany said. “Hastings College offers a wonderful student to teacher ratio, and so I had better relationships with my professors that I could lean on when it came to choosing a school or getting letters of recommendation. The department was just wonderful for that.”

Tiffany credits Dr. Babcock with sparking her love of history and especially her specialization in medieval history. She also follows his example in her own teaching style, especially when it comes to revitalizing old programs and groups and creating new ones.

“With Rob, I got kind of a mentor and a guide of how to do it and do it effectively,” Tiffany said. “I work very closely with the student programs here; I’m the adviser to the history club and I’m the adviser for Phi Alpha Theta [the national history honorary]. I do that kind of interaction and it’s created an atmosphere where we’re more of a cohesive unit and our students feel more comfortable coming to us.”

Tiffany is always working to create new programs at Minot State. 

“There seems to be an interest in the Mongols in general here, and developing a course that would be pleasing to the students seemed like a good idea,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany’s success, however influenced by Hastings College, is the product of a deep love of learning and history, and a drive to pass that learning on to her students.

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