Macon State College MVPs is a web feature that profiles notable students, alumni, faculty and staff.
Full Name: Matthew Jennings.
Originally From: Born in a suburb outside of Atlanta, raised in a suburb outside of Chicago (DeKalb County and Evanston, Ill.).
Family: Wife, Susan; children, Henry and Oliver.
Job Title: Assistant professor of history.
Degrees: Bachelor’s degrees in history and art history; master’s degree in history; and Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois.
Year he joined the Macon State faculty: 2007.
Some of his teaching career highlights are … “Teaching the first course in Native American history at Macon State was quite an honor. I also really enjoyed supervising senior research projects. All of the students did good work, but two competed with each other for a statewide award, and one of them ended up winning it. My first book (New Worlds of Violence) will come out in June 2011, which is pretty exciting, though I hope the next ones don’t end up taking quite as long to finish.”
He enjoys teaching at Macon State College because … “We have such a great mix of students, from wet-behind-the-ears 18-year-olds to senior citizens. The diverse student population drives classroom discussion in fascinating directions, and students from all different backgrounds have a lot to offer each other.”
His favorite course to teach is … “That’s a tough one. Our bread and butter is the American history survey, and for some folks that’s the only exposure to history they get, so I try to be as energetic and passionate about the material as possible in History 2111 and 2112. As I mentioned above, I particularly enjoyed the Native American history course and the senior research seminar. But I’ve had great times in African American history and a course I teach on colonialism as well.”
One thing people don’t know about Macon State is … “We’ve assembled a history faculty here (apart from my meager contributions) that rivals many larger departments at more prestigious institutions when it comes to combining teaching and scholarship.”
One thing people don’t know about him is … “I’m a failed singer-songwriter. I made a few albums of original songs back in the day, and was in a couple of bands that recorded some of the more obscene folk rock to come out of Central Illinois in the past decade.”
In his spare time he likes to … “I don’t have that much spare time, but I like to wrestle with my kids, watch movies or Mad Men with my wife, go out downtown, read, listen to music, play the guitar, relax with friends, and barbecue. I try to use the grill or smoker a couple of times every week, but I can’t always find the time.”
The one person he’d most like to meet is … “That’s a brutal question to ask a student of history. I guess I’d have to say Frederick Douglass, Fanny Wright, or John Brown. I’ve been on a serious nineteenth-century kick recently, and I appreciate how each of these individuals crossed seemingly impermeable borders to fight for equality. More recently, Paul Robeson would have to be on the list, too, because he stood up for human dignity and peace even when doing so wrecked his career.”
If he wasn’t a college professor he would be a … “To paraphrase Parker Posey’s character in Waiting for Guffman, I’d like to think there will always be a place for me at the Dairy Queen. I worked there between jobs cutting down trees and delivering pizzas before I became a full-time academic. I can’t imagine doing anything else besides teaching history, and since I have no skills which anyone outside of academia values, that’s a good thing.”