Professor John Rector


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Curriculum Vitae

Current Office and Course Information

My father was a history major and always viewed issues through a historical viewpoint. He loved to talk about the history books he read. Obviously he communicated his love to his children because all three of his sons were history majors, though I was the only one to make history a career.

Three years in the Peace Corps from 1965-68 awoke my interest in understanding the history and culture of Latin America . Later in graduate school I learned about the economic development concerns of social scientists. I was converted to the belief that "social engineering" could modernize Latin America .

Living in Chile during the Salvador Allende government made me much more skeptical about the role of social scientists in the modernization process. Not only did the "experts" disagree, but society as a whole was violently divided. The tragic end of democracy in Chile , followed by economic shock treatment caused enormous suffering. Unfortunately, social scientists often contributed to Chile 's problems while believing they were solving them.

In my research I studied a period when Chile had been more successful in solving its economic and political problems. I offer insight into how government policies had shaped an environment which encouraged development with less social cost. Some of results of my finding have been published in Chilean historical journals and incorporated into Chilean literature on nineteenth-century economic development. Greenwood Press published my History of Chile in 2003 and Palgrave Macmillian brought out a paperback edition in 2005.

I feel fortunate to have taught both in the United States and in Latin America . For ten years I was a member of the faculty of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico (1977-1987). I also was a Fulbright Professor in Chile during the 1983-84 academic year. Both of these experiences have given me an opportunity experience how students learn in other cultures as well as to develop close ties with Puerto Rican and Chilean faculty. Also, in 2006 I taught in the Rosario, Argentina study abroad program sponsored by WOU and the NCSA consortium. 

Western Oregon University offers the greatest curricular freedom I have ever experienced. I am able to teach a wide variety of courses with very little oversight. This is the meaning of academic freedom. I also have had the opportunity at Western to see students use their history education in their careers and to enrich their lives.

I am particularly gratified to have outstanding colleagues in the Western History Department and Social Science Division. Few people outside the university appreciate the creativity and dedication of these scholars. The History faculty has been particularly innovative in curriculum in new geographical and ethnic areas. These courses have greatly strengthened our program. Also, the increased emphasis on research, both for the students and the faculty, has enriched the creative process. Our history majors' seminar papers are the most concrete indication of the high quality of work being done in the Department.

I like the responsibility for education to be with the student when possible. I love discussion classes...when students prepare adequately. Also, I enjoy integrating literature in my Latin American history courses. Authors help students approach the living culture and awaken their historical sensibility. In the end, the classroom is the best opportunity we have to develop the historical imagination.

For more information contact Professor Rector at rectorj@wou.edu.



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