Faculty Spotlight: Andrew Kellett

A passion for history, a desire to teach, and a talent for writing led Andrew Kellett to the perfect career – and Harford has been fortunate to be the place he's pursued it. As an Associate Professor of History in the Arts and Humanities division, he is doing what he does best: relaying the history of the world by way of stories, humor and other creative approaches that have made even the most reluctant students engaged and interested.

Andrew earned his master's in Irish history from University College Dublin in 2003 and his doctorate in modern European history in 2008 from the University of Maryland. And, as they say, the rest is history.

It was a combination of influential high school teachers and a robust family history with years of interesting stories that brought Andrew to the point of wanting to not only study history, but to also teach and write. He sees history simply as the study and telling of human personal interest stories. Great historical figures, while often iconic, were just regular people who at times made grave mistakes (or, in some cases, did something great). Andrew's goal is for students to not get caught up in memorizing dates and facts, but to listen to and understand the stories—and hopefully remember some of them.

One of Andrew's favorite quotes and one that he lives by comes from Oscar Wilde: "Life is far too important to be talked about seriously." This philosophy has led to some unique teaching strategies Andrew has used to engage students. As some level of humor can be found in most historical events, a little stand-up comedy with an accent thrown in to make it interesting can hopefully get students laughing, but at a minimum, at least engaged. Likewise, using movie clips to bring history to life usually gets a lively discussion going, effectively engaging the students. For example, how is what they see portrayed in a movie different from the historical account in a textbook? A third method is the use of computer games whereby a "team approach" (Egyptians vs. Romans, for example) gives students the opportunity to make the kinds of decisions historical figures once faced. The goal is to get them to be entertained to a certain degree and, more importantly, to be engaged. Says Andrew to his students, "You're not going to remember much of this years from now, but the stories—those you just might remember." He considers it a success if something sticks!

Andrew is also involved in the campus community through his participation in the Curriculum Workgroup, which he chaired for two years. In a typical year this involved reviewing changes to classes or programs and giving feedback and recommendations to the ELT, but in certain years they were tasked with reviewing general education goals and looking at every class required of students to make sure the requirements were current and relevant. They also worked on getting all programs under 60 credit hours, as well as researched curriculum software programs. To ensure the College's programs remain student-centered with students' needs as top priority was a challenge that Andrew took very seriously.

Andrew also played a major role in building the College's LGBTQ program. He helped to create the two existing levels of training (Sensitivity training and SafeZone training) and trained students and staff, as well as the trainers themselves, since the program's inception in 2013.This committee fueled his passion to ensure social justice by being inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Andrew further pursued his passion for history by writing his first book, British Blues Network: Adoption, Emulation and Creativity, which was developed from his dissertation. The book traces a group of influential British musicians who admired and were inspired by traditional African American blues artists. These same musicians became some of the most famous British bands, such as the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Led Zeppelin. Andrew marvels at the fact that his book is actually published and out there on library shelves, at book stores, and, of course, online at Amazon!

An exhibit at the Hays-Heighe House was a natural extension of Andrew's passion for history. An incredible exhibit entitled "World War I's Long Shadow" was both emotional and thought-provoking as it illustrated a dark time in history whose repercussions continue to influence society to this day. It gave Andrew great satisfaction to see his work larger than life on beautifully designed panels and accompanying photographs, impacting both students and the outside community.

What does Andrew hope his students come away with after they've taken one of his classes? That history isn't boring (contrary to pre-conceived notions). He would like students to understand that history and today's society and culture are all connected, and he wants students to appreciate these connections by hearing the stories he has to tell. He wants students to understand that so much of the negativity in history has stemmed from intolerance and misunderstanding, whether based on religion, race, class, sex, or gender. There's a lot of that out there in today's world, too, and maybe if students understand and learn from the mistakes people have made in the past, they can be better equipped to work toward a better world for the future.

Andrew hopes his future includes continued teaching and influencing young people by relaying the stories of history through his unique teaching methods. He firmly believes there is so much more to learn—not only about history, but also about effective ways to teach it. He hopes to continually freshen and update his approach and methods to reach his students, because it's always beneficial to find new ways to tell that story.