Meet Your Professors

Dr. Patricia Kelleher - american social history
  • Q: What inspired you to become a professor?

    “I was really interested in history and back then, people taught if they wanted history as their profession. Now, there is a much wider range of professions for people with history degrees. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my PhD and I was able to do a lot of research which was really fun. Once I started teaching as an adjunct, I found that I love to teach.”

  • Q: How did you end up teaching at Kutztown?

    “I stayed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for over 20 years. I was an adjunct professor for the women studies program, and then I went back to teaching history. After that, I went to the University of New Hampshire for a three-year job. Then, I saw an ad for Kutztown University and it became my first tenure job.”

  • Q: What made you choose history?

    “My parents, but especially my father was interested in history. My house was full of books, and I loved to read. My parents really tried to help me find my talent. I tried ballet, swimming, piano lessons, but I was much more interested in reading. I found that the more I read about history, the more I wanted to learn about history. By 7th or 8th grade, I was extremely fascinated with history.”

  • Q: What is your favorite area?

    “It changes all the time. Right now, I am most interested in gender studies. I love teaching all of my classes because they are so different from one another. However, I am really drawn to my Families and Personal Lives in American History course at the moment because it is only my second time teaching this course. It’s a new challenge that I am really enjoying.”

  • Q: Do you have a teaching philosophy?

    “I think that my philosophy of teaching is centered around students thinking for themselves. I want students to work on their own views by basing their analyses on creditable evidence. I want students to respect themselves by coming up with their own answers to inquiries.”

  • Q: What is your favorite part about being a history professor at KU?

    “My favorite part is definitely the teaching aspect. This year in particular, I have found that I also enjoy learning about new courses for the university. I am on the Liberal Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee, and so I see the course proposals that are generated in this college’s departments. It is fun to see professors put together courses in ways that I wouldn’t have thought of. I have really grown in respect for what goes on across the college. There are some truly thoughtful and amazing course proposals. We have fantastic faculty members that are putting together remarkable courses.”

Dr. Derr in regalia with a female and male graduate - all smiling
Dr. Patricia norred Derr - american colonial studies
  • Q: What led you to teach?

    “Actually, history is a second career for me. My original degree is in journalism and I did university relations for a technical school. Then, I went back to school to get my master’s and my PhD in history. I started teaching in grad school and I discovered that I loved it. I found that I have the most fun when I am in teaching a class.”

  • Q: Why is history your field?

    “I had always liked history and I had always been good in history, but I never thought I could make a career out of teaching history. I knew I didn’t want to teach high school. Frankly, I didn’t think I was smart enough to get a doctorate degree. Fortunately, I proved myself wrong.” 

  • Q: What brought you from Texas to Kutztown?

    “My doctorate is from the University of Missouri and when I was on the east coast doing research for my dissertation, I met my future husband. It was my now husband that saw an ad that Kutztown was looking for temporary faculty. I was in Canada on my Fulbright at the time, and I applied for the position. I started as temporary faculty in 1994. I never expected to stay at Kutztown. I figured I would finish my dissertation and go someplace else. However, my husband’s career took off here and Kutztown grew on me. I liked the students and I liked the town, so we settled down here.”

  • Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

    “I tend to lecture a lot as opposed to doing a lot of group work. My philosophy of teaching involves convincing students that they can do this work. A lot of times students particularly coming out of the public-school system of this era of standardized tests are really afraid to advance an argument. I try to encourage students not to see history in terms of black and white, and not to try to find “the” answer. I encourage students to look for “an” answer, and to make an argument about the past. When I am able to do that, and when students trust me as well as themselves, that is when students really grow. I also encourage students to think and differently than me, and to dig into sources so they can develop their own world views.”

  • Q: What is your favorite part about being a history professor at KU?

    “Easily, the students. There are a lot of special people here that I am going to miss and the vast majority of them are the students. I have so enjoyed getting to know the students, and watching them do things that they thought they couldn’t do. I am really going to miss that.”

  • Q: What are your favorite areas of history to study?

    “By training, I am an American Colonial Historian and that is my central focus. I also have a field in religious history and I am looking forward to reading more books about it. I have taught other classes while here, so I have my foot in more modern history. I teach a popular culture course at the moment.”

  • Q: What are your plans for after teaching?

    “My mother left me with archival boxes of family letters, so my first project is to go through the letters and hopefully turn them into a book. I am looking forward to reading a lot. My husband and I am looking forward to traveling. Our goal to try to see as many UNESCO World Heritage sites as much as a possible.”

Dr. Eric Johnson - Early Modern Studies
  • Q: What led you to teach?

    “There was a major turning point when I was twenty where I had one of those epiphany moments. I had always wanted to get into law enforcement, but travel actually led me to teaching. My grandmother on my mother’s side was French, and she was also a French professor at a school in California. She kept insisting that I should visit her summer house in France. I was reluctant to visit and to step outside of my comfort bubble, but I eventually visited. I experienced so much while in France, and I wanted to learn more about it, and I wanted to go back. Ultimately, my travels led me to academia and teaching.”

  • Q: Why did you choose history as your field?

    “I always had plans to eventually get a bachelor’s degree. Even wanting to get a career in law enforcement, my intention was to have a bachelor’s degree for it. That being said, I have always been interested in the past. As a kid, I thought I wanted to be an archeologist. I was most interested in European archeology, the European past, and especially the middle ages. I remember as a really small kid, my parents took me to the King Tutankhamun exhibit, and I was always obsessed with mummies, Egypt, and just old things in general. I realized that the best way for me to work with the material that I wanted to work with was to do history.”

  • Q: Did you have a previous career?

    “My first job was in retail. I worked for a record store, and I was a manager there for almost a year. I didn’t like it because there wasn’t any reciprocity. It was a good lesson for me. I also volunteered as a Boy Scouts camp counselor and leader for six years. There were a lot of responsibilities. I helped run the camp. I guess that is what kind of formulated me at the time. I could’ve stayed home and worked at a retail job to make actual money, but instead I spent two months of every summer teaching the Boy Scouts. Being a park ranger for the city of Anaheim was my longest career before being a professor. I thought it would be a good experience before going into law enforcement. I really enjoyed that job because it was very flexible. I was able to work as a park ranger while also completing my school work. The job allowed me to stop working during my Fulbright year. I liked the job because it was a challenge, and I was often the first person on the scene to help others. I liked being able to help people when they needed help the most.”

  • Q: What is your favorite part about being a history professor at KU?

    “That is an easy one. Being part of the incredible accomplishments of my students is my favorite part. This past summer, I had a birthday party in town, and among the attendees were some of my former students. The cards that they wrote to me were very heartfelt. I have been teaching long enough to develop a cohort of alumni, and they attribute their success to what I have done for them. I have students that attribute their confidence to me because I encouraged and supported them. It is very rewarding to encourage and support students and tell them that they are doing well because a lot of students do not realize their potential. I actually flunked out of community college. I can relate to students who are first-generation college students, and I can relate to students who struggle with the transition from high school to college because I was one of them. It is rewarding to watch students self-reflect, and it's amazing to be a part of that because I know that I can give back to students and help them self-reflect. Ultimately, watching students succeed is my favorite part of being a professor. I’ve been very fortunate and I use that good fortune to be what I could’ve used when I was their age.”

  • Q: Tell us about your study abroad adventures in Ireland.

    “I know that our study abroad program is the best that Kutztown University has to offer, and I can support that position. The vast majority of the students that go on our study abroad trips are traveling abroad for the first time. I can relate to how these students feel, and I am grateful to be able to pass along the experience of traveling abroad because they never come back the same. I do the trip with Dr. Vogel from the English Department and Dr. Lanter from the Psychology Department. We typically have about seven students each. My trip is a study of the transition from prehistoric Ireland to Christian Ireland. We study the culture during this transition and how people make sense of religion. While a new religion enters, that does not mean that everything from before it goes away.”

  • Q: Your family joined you in the U.K. after your study abroad class ended. Tell us about that.

    “My wife and kids met us in Dublin for almost a week. When the students went back to the states, we flew to Edinburgh, and we spent the next month traveling up and down Scotland. It was my children’s first time abroad. They had an eye-opening experience and had a great time. I am grateful that I was able to provide that experience for them at such a young age. I also took our son to London, and my wife took our daughter to Rome. Overall, it is not relaxing traveling with family, but it was a very enriching experience."

  • Q: Is there another country you would like to visit?

    “I would like to go places that have a rich, classical, and ancient history. In particular, I would like to go to Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. I would also like to visit Central Asia and some of the Silk Road places. You can’t do European history without understanding North Africa, the Silk Road, and the Middle East. You cannot study European history in isolation from the world.”

Dr. Johnson holding an owl