Foundation Award for Teaching

John Chuchiak

Dr. John Chuchiak

College of Humanities and Public Affairs

I. Philosophy of Teaching

Philosophically, I believe that the study of the human past offers students the opportunity to explore, understand, and respect the legitimacy of difference.  The trajectory of the Latin American past offers U.S. students an example of a past linked to but so very different from the U.S. and European pasts.  The social dimension of cultures in which the extended family, rather than individuals, remains the primary social unit offers students an understanding of different social values.  Exploring and examining the legitimacy of these differences, and others, across time and space inform my classroom teaching, my lectures, and my research.

I believe that students are curious, hungry for knowledge and understanding, and willing to participate actively in their individual education.  Consequently, I am committed to engaging students actively in the pursuit of their education by requiring significant oral participation in class, substantial reading assignments, and regular written work.  In my courses, students hone their oral communication, critical analysis, and writing skills; ask and answer their own questions; and interact with one another in a cooperative and collaborative learning process.  

With a student-centered pedagogy, I expose students to multiple “voices” and interpretations of the past through the active and critical examination of primary source document materials.  In the classroom, I try to use a variety of pedagogical approaches that combine active and engaging lectures with guided and moderated discussion sessions, student controlled oral presentations, and debates.  I also believe in integrating the use of new technology and audio-visual resources to enrich the study of history and give the students a “total view” of the history of cultural aspects under examination in any specific course.

II. Examples of Courses/Topics

Undergraduate courses

  • Freshman Honors Seminar
  • World History to 1600
  • US History to 1877
  • Writing II: Historical Inquiry
  • Latin American Civilization
  • History of Pre-Columbian México
  • History of the Inquisition in Spain & Spanish America
  • History of Piracy in the Americas
  • Comparative Colonialism - European Empires in the Americas, 1492-1800

Graduate courses

  • Mexico from Colony to Nation
  • History of Piracy in the Americas
  • Historiography and Historical Method
  • Graduate Proseminar: Mesoamerican Ethnohistory
  • Graduate Proseminar: Conquest & Colonization in Latin America
  • Graduate Seminar: The Inquisition in Spain & Spanish America
  • Readings: Classical Nahuatl
  • Readings: Spanish Colonial Paleography
  • Readings: Classical Yucatec Maya

III. Future Projects

In conjunction with one of my graduate students, Justin Duncan, we are currently in the development stages for a creation of a curriculum and teaching tool project in the Digital Humanities.  The Mexican Auto de Fe of 1601 project is an attempt to develop several teaching tools and a virtual reality platform using Unity3D gaming design for a virtual re-creation of Mexico City in 1601.  By creating an accurate virtual recreation of the capital city of the Kingdom of New Spain, the project and the planned curricular units on the history of the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico, will open up a whole new world of virtual historical simulations that can be used in the classroom and in future historical research.  

I am also currently completing my second textbook on World History, and similarly am also in the final stages of editing a primary source document reader on the history of Piracy in the Americas for classroom use.

I also hope to become more involved in the use of digital technologies and materials in the digital humanities in both my seated and online courses in order to help make the humanities, and specifically the field of history, more pertinent for our students. By means of exciting, visually stimulating and accurate content based 3-D historical simulations; I hope to be able to bring the past to life for our students of the future.

I also plan to remain active in my mentoring of both undergraduate and graduate research.

IV. Topics related to teaching and of interest to the University Community, for which you are available for presentations and/or consultations (e.g., presentation tools, special topics, technology, public affairs).

  • The Potentials of Digital Simulations in the field of History
  • Strategies for the Creation of Digital Projects for the Humanities
  • Using historical simulations and games in intensive research undergraduate courses
  • Mentoring Active Undergraduate Research
  • Editing and Publishing of Primary Sources in Translation for Classroom Use