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Caitlin Carenen - Professor, History

Ph.D., Emory University


Caitlin Carenen

What brought you to Eastern?

“I came to Eastern straight from finishing my Ph.D. and I was delighted to come to a public liberal arts university. Eastern’s mission then, and now, speaks to all of the reasons I became a professor — teaching students the value of liberal arts, teaching them to think critically about the world around them, and helping them prepare for life after graduation as informed, thoughtful citizens.

What is your favorite course to teach?

“I have two favorites, actually! I love teaching about the Arab-Israeli Conflict because it is a subject that is not well understood in the United States, yet is one of the most intractable conflicts in the world today. Students leave that class, which is rigorous, with a deeper appreciation for a history different from their own, and the complexity of conflict.

“My other favorite is The History of the United States in the Middle East. I’m so passionate about that subject that I wrote a book about it! Again, students don’t often know very much about the history of U.S. involvement in that part of the world and yet most of them have grown up in a time when most of their childhoods were spent with the United States at war in the Middle East. Again, understanding the complexity of that history is important and students leave that class with appreciate for that and as informed citizens of a global world.”

What is the focus of your research?

“I have written extensively on subjects including the United States-Israeli relationship, the role of religion in foreign policy, American religious history, and U.S. foreign policy. How our nation has interacted with the rest of the world never gets boring for me. I’m now working on a project involving studying how, exactly, students learn. When does that happen, with what assignments? Knowing this will help improve teaching practices.”

Watching my students visit a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank and visit Israel’s Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem reminds me of why I teach what I teach.

Caitlin Carenen working with students during class

What do you enjoy most about teaching at Eastern?

“The students are the best thing about teaching here. I’m delighted by their intellectual curiosity, their willingness to learn ‘hard things,’ and their overall eagerness to learn new skills and apply them in real-world situations.”

What is your teaching philosophy? 

“My general philosophy is best summed up as ‘inspire the converted, convert the skeptic.’ By that I mean some students have a reluctance to take history classes because they believe it’s boring memorization of facts. It’s my job to make the story exciting and relevant and convince students that history is absolutely worth studying!”

Memorable moments at Eastern?

“I never get tired of watching my students present their work at conferences. The work and diligence that goes into their preparations and the success they experience after presenting their ideas to an audience continues to inspire me. I also remember all my study abroad students — watching them visit a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank and visit Israel’s Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem reminds me of why I teach what I teach.”

Career advice to students?

“History offers diverse career opportunities — there is no one career track. Skills that students learn studying history that are transferable to life after Eastern include critical thinking, analytical writing, exploring evidence and being able to make a persuasive argument. These skills are all helpful for lots of career choices, whether working in the private sector, corporations, NGOs, law school, policy work or graduate school in history.”

Life advice to graduates.

“Start preparing now! Take advantage of the amazing opportunities Eastern has to offer, especially the ability to develop close working relationships with professors who are actively engaged in their own work and can mentor you through the next steps after graduation.”

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Thank you so much for being our mentor and supporting our field hockey team! Having someone in faculty on our side means so much to us and you went above and beyond to let us know your support.
Student Quote
History is one of my favorite subjects and she made the class very enjoyable for a general education requirement. She is extremely smart and well spoken and created a very engaging environment in the classroom. I was always very interested on the topics we were learning and I really enjoyed the class. You can tell when a professor loves their job and what they teach, and she definitely does.
Student Quote
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