RBC history professor connects students to the present
PRINCE GEORGE — Known for his proclivity for blasting everything from hard rock to classical music in his office, Assistant Professor of History Dr. Adam Zucconi looks for his students to finish his classes having gained a more global perspective.
“Usually when students think of history, they think it’s one fact after another — but it’s not,” explained Zucconi.
Instead of imploring his students to memorize dates, Zucconi wants them to connect what they learn in the classroom to the world around them.
“I want students to realize that education is a layering process,” said Zucconi, who RBC students voted as their favorite professor last year. “Students often feel like they have to cram everything they learn into a short period of time, but that becomes a distraction. I want students to develop a connection from class to their own historical knowledge. I like to emphasize cause and effect.”
Zucconi, who grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, spent his undergraduate years at Bridgewater College. He initially thought of majoring in the physical sciences, specifically astronomy, but he never felt like the sciences could fully capture the human experience.
“While I was an undergraduate student at Bridgewater, I found myself drawn to not only history, but government, and how combined they capture human agency.”
He decided to follow his passion, and in 2009 he graduated from Bridgewater with a degree in History and Political Science, with the goal of becoming a history professor.
He continued his education at Clemson University where he graduated with his master’s degree in 2011. He joined Richard Bland College in 2016 after earning his Ph.D. at West Virginia University where he completed his dissertation on West Virginia during the American Civil War.
It’s no coincidence that Zucconi’s favorite class to teach is the American Civil War and Reconstruction course.
“Helping students understand why these debates over the Civil War continually resurface is a significant goal for that class,” said Zucconi.
In his classes, Zucconi strives to deepen students’ understanding of history by connecting the ideas and practices of the past to the issues of today.
“As a teacher, you have to go beyond the typical narrative and delve into complex issues students have become familiar with over time,” he explained. “I’m interested in the questions that students ask because that provides insight into how students are thinking about the subject matter and the connections they are creating. It’s my job as a historian to encourage students to think critically.”
Though his classes are lecture-based, Zucconi also tries to make them interactive.
“I try my best to find what will make students more absorbed in the material,” he says. This often leads to engaging students in a thoughtful discussion about the material being covered, and ultimately permitting students’ inquiries to direct the class. “The less I lecture, the better the class is,” he says. “For students to be engaged, my teaching style is ever-changing to accommodate the atmosphere of the class, and the individual student.”
This article was provided by the Richard Bland College of William & Mary Communications Department.
Richard Bland College of William & Mary Assistant Professor of History Dr. Adam Zucconi looks for his students to finish his classes having gained a more global perspective.