Professor

Dr. James Oppby Dr. James Opp, submitted 2011

“I turned a talk about my journey into a reflection on a curriculum of breadth that I had here and how those particular elements have then transformed my research paths and career path afterwards – how breadth requirements offered a very different grounding in education

What I did at Augustana was a whole bunch of everything – a BA History, I was in a small mixed jazz choir for all four years, did the Scandinavian choir tour, I was an RA for three years, on residence council, did sound tech for on-campus events, president of the pretty active history club – taking student papers, refereed by profs and published in their journal

Between practicing and time in choir – singing 15 hours a week on top of course load

The course work I did back then was pretty Western-focused, some interdisciplinary and economics – the cultural approach to history was of great benefit to me professionally – still required an actual math and science lab credits: breadth requirements were pretty strict, forced me into well-roundedness and it kept you from closing doors – if you don’t have these, it lets students close doors too early before they really decided where they want to go

The experience of small classes – one fourth-year class was me, my brother and one professor. It was an intense seminar that was great preparation for grad school

The reason Aug was so good for me is that I wouldn’t have been doing all the stuff that you get pulled into doing just by being at Augustana – because of the size, because of the sense of community – the sense of being part of college life is what makes it special

Went to U Calgary to do an MA in History – when I started at Aug, within a year or two, I decided this was what I wanted: I wanted to be on a university campus for the rest of my career – the way to make that happen was to go to grad school, keep pursuing grad studies, the intellectual and social life

Did a PhD at Carleton – six years and ended up before the degree was done, offered a term full-time job at Lethbridge; hired over the phone because I had more breadth in my transcript than most – teaching areas way outside my field, but throughout my career I had so much breadth that it set me up perfectly for my first job

Two years at Lethbridge, one year as a sessional and one term at Carleton, and then tenure track

My research interests have moved – I started off very interested in religious history and I still like the field, but after 15 years, I wanted to bridge religious history with photographic history in interesting ways – photographic history has led me into questions of the history of archives, memory and place – which fit into the public history program at Carleton; at times I wonder if I’m too broad but that’s what keeps it exciting, new and fresh

Teaching at Carleton, with its strong advisor program, one big advantage in my eight years – supervised, co-supervised or supervising 17 grad students; had a heavy load, but they’re doing their own research in a number of different areas – be a mentor to them in the same kind of way that Aug was for me

Don’t know I would consider myself a generalist – I have many different specializations, which are sometimes closely related. It’s more about finding research strengths that are distinct from one another and yet build on each other.

My wife was a philosophy major here – transferred to Calgary one year before I did. Aug combined love and lifelong learning.”