How did you get interested in your field?
I hated history in high school. Then, I took this incredible professor named Dr. Sciaccatano during my second semester in college. I fell in love with the subject matter! I had never thought about history as a career since I had never had a female as a history teacher. Up until that moment, I didn’t imagine history as something for me. Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to be like Dr. Sciaccatano. We still keep in touch with one another after all these years.
What are your favorite courses to teach and why?
My favorite courses all have a civic engagement component. I prefer these courses because we get to take what we are learning in the classroom into “real world” situations. Students engage with the material more intensely when they see how it matters in the world. These courses also give us to work together as a class for something that is bigger than any one of us alone. Serving the community gives us a shared sense of purpose.
What would you share with your colleagues about service-learning?
Faculty should know how dynamic a classroom becomes when you introduce a service-learning component. Students are more willing to engage with me and each other when they have a shared project or purpose. It is a big payoff. Students want to come to class. They want to discuss the material and think about how to apply it in the community. Overall student performance gets a huge boost from this level of engagement.
Over the course of your time here at UTSA, how have you seen service-learning change across campus?
When I started civic engagement projects 20 years ago, I didn’t know there was name for what I was doing! I started offering service-learning and civic engagement in order to assist students in engaging with issues in history that seemed like abstractions or something that was important “over there” (wherever that was). The Honors College offered me support whenever it was possible. But I was left to develop my contacts and my course assessments alone. Today, we have this wonderful office to provide support and community partners that understand what we are trying to achieve. There are faculty members who are willing to share their expertise on service learning. It is really exciting to think about how much more civic engagement is possible with these resources.
What advice do you give students about civic or community engagement?
Big changes always begin with small efforts. There is a power of ONE–one person who engages, one class that partners in the community, one semester where you take your learning outside of the classroom. Your ONE is part of something bigger. To change the world, you start by making change locally.
What did you wish you knew as a student about community engagement that you know now as an educator?
It can help you as much as it helps others. Students are often in search of a career path or a way to do something meaningful with their lives. Getting out in the community and applying what you learn is a critical step to helping them find that direction that they seek.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
Above all, I hope they develop an better understanding of themselves and their own power.
Beyond the UTSA campus, I like to…
… travel. Travel helps me to think and act creatively.
There are so many. I could never pick just one. I adore French and Italian films and love fiction. I would need a library or two to contain all my favorites.
Kolleen Guy, Ph.D.,is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and currently holds the position of Ricardo Romo Distinguished Professor in the Honors College at UTSA.