Charles Evans is an assistant dean and professor of history at Northern Virginia Community College. He lives in Reston, Virginia, and has been a member since 1986.
Alma mater/s: BS, BA, University of Notre Dame, 1982; MA, University of Virginia, 1986; PhD, University of Virginia, 1991
Fields of interest: Russian, digital, Lehigh County
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I was lucky enough to start at Northern Virginia Community College as an adjunct. That gave me a lot of teaching experience, and when a full-time position opened up at the college, I was ready. I have had a lot of opportunities over the years to direct major NEH grant projects and to also develop my survey courses in the digital world.
What do you like the most about where you live and work? I love teaching at the community college because the classroom is such a diverse mix of students, different backgrounds, different ages, all kinds of learning styles and skills. It can be really challenging teaching in that environment and preparing students to be successful in their academic careers.
What projects are you currently working on? Currently I am working on a translation of a French memoir of World War I; this will be my second translation of a French work. I am also researching the history of the town of Slatington, Pennsylvania.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? Teaching largely history survey courses for many years, I have increasingly focused on the use of technology in my teaching and also on how technology applications are changing the nature of the work done by historians. And so I am always interested now in experimenting with new digital projects, such as online digital archives. I would also say that I do a lot more work now with local history and historic preservation concerns than I ever did before. So many students know so little about the history of the area in which they live.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? As I read materials about life in late 19th-century American towns, some things bear a striking resemblance to contemporary issues: concerns about the commercialization of Christmas, the prevalence of suicide, the existence of anti-alcohol movements, traffic accidents, etc.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? I love using film when I teach a face-to-face class. I would say that you cannot teach the Middle Ages without showing excerpts from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
What do you value most about the history discipline? The challenge to understand the human past.
Why is membership in the AHA important to you? The AHA is a professional organization that can address larger issues that affect the profession such as AP exams, funding for national archives, supporting history as a requirement of degree programs. The AHA also has great resources, like the pamphlet series, for instructors.
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.