WELCOME, Dr. Mann!


Maegan Fitzpatrick, Editor

Why did you first come to Bancroft?

Well, in a very very literal sense, I came here in order to be a teacher of history because I love students, and I love history, and I wanted a chance to have a positive impact, transform students’ lives, and give them an opportunity to learn history and experience how cool it can be. And then why Bancroft in particular… this school is really just so great. When I had the opportunity to apply and go through the interview process for admission, I did some research about the school and I really love the school’s philosophy. I really agree with the idea of school being an open laboratory and a workshop where you can ask questions, where you can grow, where you can discover, where you can be independent, and where you can build a strong community. All of those values I agree with, and so I knew it would be a good fit for me.

I know you’ve had interesting travels and careers. Could you tell me more about that?

Sure! Gosh, there’s so much to tell; I don’t even know where to start! I guess I’ll just give kind of the rundown, which is that I myself went to a small school; it was a charter school rather than an independent school. But it had a very strong influence on me because I had really great history and literature teachers and I also got to do a lot of theater, dance, and photography, and I got to mix all of those different things together. So my high school education really shaped my love of learning, and it gave me confidence that I could pursue what I wanted.

So then I went to Smith college for two years and at the end of two years I won a prize for a paper that I wrote and it came with this big cash prize. So I actually paused my university education, and I went backpacking in Europe. That was really fun, and when I was there I fell even more in love with history. European History felt so concrete; I was looking at these Roman ruins, old buildings, and museums, and I just got so fascinated with it that I wanted to go to grad school.

So I left Smith College and I came back and I went to Boston University and I got a scholarship there, and I got another grant and did more history research — you get the idea. And then I eventually did a Masters in American history at Brandeis and a PhD in modern world history at Brandeis as well, so in terms of my education I have had many many opportunities to travel. I’ve been to a bunch of different places in Europe, mostly in different parts of France, and then I’ve also got to go to North Africa. I got to go to Algeria a couple times and I got to go to Morocco as well. I got my degree in 2017 and my first full-time job after that was at Washington State University teaching big classes there, so once again that’s why I was so excited to come to Bancroft. That’s sort of a brief overview of my education and travels.

What’s your favorite thing about history or teaching history?

Okay — so my favorite thing about history itself is that you get to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. You are literally seeing how the whole world is connected, cultures and societies across the world, and people across time. We’re all human and we’ve all experienced life, and so what I love most about history is this opportunity to live through the eyes of other people and to see how they experience the world. And then what I love most about teaching history is that then you can take these stories that you’ve learned and you can pass on tradition and share those stories with other students and then you can empower students to go out and find those stories for themselves. And that whole thing keeps this processing going of us sharing stories about humanity across humanity.

What’s the most difficult aspect about joining so suddenly?

The technology. Dealing with the Zooms, and the Bancroft Portal, and the Google Docs, and just kinda troubleshooting all of those technical things. There are special passes I need to get into the doors of some of the buildings and all of that. At first I thought it’d be hard teaching with a mask, but actually everyone’s been so great about it, and we’ve all kind of just adapted and gotten used to it.

Where is your favorite place you’ve visited?

Oh, I have to pick one?! Ok…well, I love the Mediterranean in general. So any place that’s in the Mediterranean that I’ve been to, I automatically love. I think my favorite place has been Algeria because it took me a year to get a Visa to work there the first time and then it took me another year to get a Visa to go for the second time, so it’s a lot of effort to try to go to that country; it’s not an easy country to go to. But when you’re there the people are so amazing and so nice, and there’s so much history and culture and it’s just a beautiful society, a very beautiful country. I felt very grateful to have the opportunity to go there, and it’s definitely something that’s marked me and I just have all these great memories.

What’s a job you would be terrible at?

I guess making money for money’s sake, you know, like doing something where you make a lot of money but you’re doing something that’s ethically not good. So if I was working for a big company and using all my smarts; I couldn’t work for Amazon or Walmart or something like that. I just wouldn’t have the passion for it; it’s not really what drives me. I definitely couldn’t be one of those people who gives people parking tickets or an Immigration Enforcement Officer. I would be like, “everybody in!” Those are all jobs I would be terrible at.

What’s the one thing that you want to accomplish next?

I guess next on my list of things to do is I still want to get my book published. So when you do a phD, you do a dissertation and you normally get a chance to publish that and there’s been so much uncertainty with the academic market and expectations, that it doesn’t always get done, and I’ve kinda been procrastinating a bit. But I’d say one goal I’d really love to do for myself is get my dissertation published. 

What is it about?

It’s about assimilation of Islam in French Algeria. So it’s something I feel like I have something to say about it and it would just be great to get that out in print.