Historian Ian Stacy: A fresh face on campus

By: Max Singer

History professor Ian Stacy, 38, began teaching at Whatcom this fall quarter. Prior to that he taught at Central Washington University. Photo by Max Singer.

Whatcom Community College welcomed new history instructor Ian Stacy last fall quarter. Stacy, who teaches Western Civilization and U.S. History, said he is primarily an environmental historian, which means he studies the way humans have interacted with the environment throughout history.

Stacy said it is imperative to “take advantage of every single opportunity that comes your way. For success in the academics you have to apply for every scholarship, every fellowship, and all other program opportunities.”

Stacy, 38, got his master’s degree in history at Central Washington University in 2008. Eager to keep up with the latest information and research, Stacy said he studies as a student in his free time, and has taken classes at Skagit Valley College and Olympic College over the past two years. Last year he earned his Ph.D. in History at the University of Montana.

Western Civilization and U.S. History which are broken into six separate classes. Stacy is currently teaching Western Civilization I and II as well as US History III this spring quarter. Stacy said he enjoys the freedom Whatcom allows to construct a more personalized curriculum.

“I am a historian of bureaucracy,” he said. “Presidents come and go, politicians and policy-makers move through office, but bureaucrats stick around for a long time.”

Stacy said he found he was interested in teaching due to his early instructor experience while he was in the U.S. Navy. During his time there he said he realized he wanted to become a teacher. After becoming an instructor, he later went on to serve as a nuclear power plant operator, he said. During his training as a technician he was stationed in New York City.

He said he has been married for 16 years to his wife, Laurie Stacy. He said his wife has been a tremendous help to him, through the bigger challenges and “raising our son when I was out at sea or doing research.”

Whatcom’s Western Civilization sequence consists of three succeeding classes, which span from 3,000 B.C.E. to the modern day world. The second type of course is the U.S. History sequence which is another three part class that starts from Native American times extending to the present day. Stacy said roughly one-third to one-half of his class periods are spent on group work, typically in a four person cluster.

Stacy has been teaching for a total of four years now, previously instructing as an adjunct history professor at Central Washington University. Commenting on experiences at CWU, Stacy said the student body is roughly the same.

He said the main difference is “there’s no history major here” at Whatcom. In fact, he continued, “90% of students will take only a solitary history course during their entire college experience.” The history classes have a lower amount of returning students compared to other curriculum courses, he said.

He said the hardest part about completing his master’s degree at CWU was trying to balance his family life with his education. Sometimes Stacy said he finds himself “hyper focused” on a historical problem no one cares about but him.

“My Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (G.I.) Bill paid for all of my graduate school,” he said, adding that he knew he wouldn’t have been able to finish his higher education as quickly without it. Stacy said the whole experience really helped his time management skills, especially with long-term planning, whether it’s “six quarters from now, or a decade.”

Stacy said he enjoys interacting with students on a personal level, to try and “spark” something in them. He said it leads to more intriguing conversations when the student is committed.

In his off time, Stacy said he enjoys bicycling around town which in turn also helps him keep fit. Previously a seasonal ranger at the Olympics National Park in Port Angeles, WA he said he enjoys hiking just about anywhere—especially during summer. More often than not, Stacy said he can be found working on his cars in the garage during weekends; his current project includes restoring an older 936 Geo Metro which he wants to tune up to get 50/mpg.

Stacy’s favorite book of late is Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” and he said he enjoys listening to comedy standup that incorporates a degree of intelligence such as comedians Louis C.K. and Jerry Seinfeld.

Stacy said he motivates students by understanding there simply is no singular way to motivate them. He said that he realizes there are many factors that can contribute to a student’s success or lack thereof, including “how I teach, or personal issues, even just [being] overwhelmed.” Knowing their professor cares may be all they need he said, and then it is simply a matter of identifying students that need adjustments.

What is truly important is “is understanding how the world works,” he said. “I see sometimes in graduate school people who are unsure of that ‘next step,’ they end up spending time in the work force before realizing they want to do something else.” Stacy said that is not something he wants for himself or the students he teaches.

He said if you keep on waiting for that dream job, you will not be as successful. “I found most of my success came from something I wasn’t aiming for initially,” he said, adding that doors can be opened that people did not even know existed.

Stacy said he is excited to see the possible inclusion of a History of Africa course program during the fall of next school year.


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