Professor Max Geier


Curriculum Vitae

Current Office and Course Information

My decision to pursue a career in history followed much experimentation in other fields and experiences. History was not my first choice for a profession, but it was my last and wisest career decision. Students considering a change of careers or majors might learn from my experience that it is never too late to become a scholar. Like many Americans of my generation, I was raised in a family of displaced farmers who had to seek new opportunities in other professions and trades. As our family scattered from coast-to-coast, I spent much of my life moving from place-to-place seeking opportunity, community, and an education. At one time or another I was a farm laborer, construction worker, ranch hand, and dairy worker. I lived in five different western states and countless cities and towns. I handed out change and repaired slot machines in Nevada casinos, rented cars to harried travelers at Los Angeles International Airport, sold Thunderbird to midnight panhandlers at a beachfront 7-11 store, delivered the Wall Street Journal in high-rise office buildings with only night janitors for company, and stared down the wrong end of a gun muzzle during four armed robberies as a store clerk and banker.

These life experiences also paid for my education at seven different colleges and universities, and they influenced my decision to major in history and to specialize in social and environmental themes in the history of the North American West. I was a pre-med biology major at UCLA for two years before transferring to Humboldt State University, where I majored in forestry for two years. After a fire destroyed the Forestry Building at HSU, forest engineering courses moved to Founders Hall, where the history and geography departments were located, and I began to spend more time with faculty and students in those disciplines. Those people inspired me to change my major to history, but I transferred to California State University, Northridge to complete my undergraduate degree in a region where there were enough employment prospects to pay for my college expenses. In between, I spent several years picking up credits as a part-time student at other colleges while working full-time to put money in the kitty.

The history faculty at CSU Northridge opened my eyes to new career opportunities, and inspired me to become a teacher. After one year in the MAT program at UC Davis, however, I ran out of funding and jobs during the Reagan recession, and I returned to Los Angeles in search of employment. I completed an MA in History at CSUN while working full time as a bank operations supervisor. I next enrolled in the doctoral program at Washington State University, which offered an excellent package of graduate funding, health benefits, and professional training in Public History. My dissertation research was a comparative history of community development in two western regions of the United States and Canada. I am particularly interested in the community networks that link rural and urban people in the North American West. My undergraduate training in the natural and life sciences also prompted my interest in the environmental implications of community development. I particularly enjoy exploring these themes in discussion-oriented, upper-division courses, and it is the focus of my current research exploring the history of agrarian and urban development in the mid-Willamette Valley.

I enjoy working with students who are just discovering their interest in historical research, and I encourage history majors to consider advanced studies in graduate school. I encourage undergraduate students to seek out quality graduate programs that offer teaching assistantships and other funding. Toward that end, I encourage students to build professional relationships with faculty advisors, so that we can more effectively support academic and professional goals beyond Western Oregon University.

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